What’s the fuss about the controversial SPaG test?

The 2016 version of the Key Stage 2 Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar test, also known as SPaG test, has made the headlines in the UK again. Michael Rosen has often voiced his concerns about the test publically and did so again in an open letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in The Guardian. In this letter, Rosen describes the test as suffering from a “severe case of terminology-itis” and doubts the actual purpose of the test by stating the following:

“Though this test’s apparent purpose is to examine children’s knowledge of language, I think its main purpose is to grade children. That’s why some of the questions are based on stacked-up levels of abstraction and some are trick questions.”

What I find interesting in the discussion is the argument that the questions included in the SPaG test have “right and wrong answers”. Rosen, however, argues that going through the sample test, he was able to identify multiple correct answers to some questions.

The Independent reported the story and included ten sample questions in a quiz. These not only include matters of punctuation, such as correct comma placement or apostrophes, but the quiz also requires you to identify prepositions, past tense forms and passives. Announcing the article on Facebook, the Independent stated that “[a]nyone who gets more than 5/10 has our eternal respect”.  Take the quiz here and let us know what you think about the test in the comments below!

About Carmen Ebner

Carmen Ebner is a sociolinguist. In September 2017, she has obtained her PhD in Linguistics from Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) in the Netherlands, where she worked on a project on language attitudes and prescriptivism in British English. Carmen's research interests include all things sociolinguistics. In particular, she is interested in linguistic discrimination, attitude elicitation techniques, language variation and change, and historical sociolinguistics.
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2 Responses to What’s the fuss about the controversial SPaG test?

  1. I got 10/10 on the quiz. It didn’t seem that hard to me, and I didn’t notice any questions that had multiple possible right answers.

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