Six seconds a question: Year 4 pupils face quick-fire multiplication test

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The new multiplication tables check is to be introduced in year 4 and will see pupils answering 25 times tables questions in two-and-a-half minutes.

Schools minister Nick Gibb unveiled the test last month and invited schools to sign up ahead of plans for a national pilot this summer. The check itself is to become a requirement from June 2020.

However, responding to the announcement, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has said that schools already teach and assess times tables and that the new check would be “unnecessary”.

The test – like the government’s phonics check – is not a school accountability measure but is designed to ensure that children know their times tables up to 12 by heart by the time they reach year 6.

Schools can now sign up and access the test’s online system, which allows them to register pupils and try-out the test ahead of the pilot, which is voluntary and due to run from June 10 to 28.

The Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that the check will consist of 25 questions based on the two to 12 times tables and will be conducted using laptops, computers or tablets in class. Pupils will have six seconds to answer each question.

The DfE said that year 4 has been chosen for the test after consultation with teachers and the six-second time limit has been set after trials carried out earlier this year.

A DfE statement added: “There will be no pass mark and no expected standard threshold for the check. Results from the check will not be published at school level, and will not be used by Ofsted and others to force changes in schools.”

The NAHT is concerned, however, that the check will “add to the testing burden in schools”.

General secretary Paul Whiteman said they would be gathering evidence from NAHT members taking part in the June pilots to see what the impact on workload is as well as how the tests work for children with SEN.

He added: “We have significant concerns about this test as it won’t tell school leaders anything they don’t already know about their children and although school results won’t be published, the stakes of this test will be raised because Ofsted will have access to the results.”

However, the DfE said that the system had been “carefully produced in partnership with schools and has been developed to minimise any unnecessary burdens on school staff and pupils”. It also includes “ground-breaking accessibility arrangements” and the DfE said that “feedback from the pilot will be used to shape the final version of the check”.

Mr Gibb added: “Not only will this help (pupils) cope with the challenges of maths at secondary school, it will also stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Just as the phonics screening check has driven up literacy rates in primary schools, so this check will have a similar effect for basic maths.”

Further information

  • For details on the multiplication check, including details of the pilot and online system, visit

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