Primary School Assessments: What to Expect

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ruth Benny from Top Schools sheds light on what your child may be expected to do during primary school assessments (updated January 2022)

Hundreds of four year olds are gathered in the school hall, holding onto their parents’ sweaty hands tightly. They are dressed in their Sunday best, listening to an adult waffle on and on. Then, all of a sudden, they are shuffled in the direction of another adult and ushered away with a bunch of other four year olds. At least one of the children starts to wail and refuses to go. 

Oh wait, that was then and this is now – the era of video assessments. Yes, congratulations. After having spent weeks drafting and revising your answers to essay questions you have now been promoted to video producer!

To be fair, the other way to conduct remote assessments for little ones is a live video call and the prepared video is surely a better option, even if it does require additional work. 

So, what do you include in the video? What on earth are they looking for? Through years of experience of these assessments in many schools, here is a summary of what your child may be expected to do during these assessments – live or on video. 

Gross Motor Skills

These are skills requiring whole body movement, which engage the large (core stabilising) muscles of the body to perform everyday functions.

 Your child should be able to:

  • run: start, stop, and turn; hop on one foot; gallop
  • walk in a straight line forwards, backwards and sideways
  • walk up and down stairs with ease
  • catch, throw, kick and bounce a ball easily 

Children may be invited to the playground to “play”. In fact, they are being assessed on their gross motor (physical) skills. Add at least one scene in your video showing gross motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor movements involve the coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers. Strong fine motor skills are essential to complete tasks such as writing, cutting, using a fork or spoon, threading beads, moving puzzle pieces, zipping, buttoning, and tying shoe laces.

Your child should be able to:

  • build blocks
  • trace or draw shapes
  • demonstrate proper pencil grip
  • trace or print some letters (they will likely be asked to write their whole name)
  • cut on straight lines and curvy lines using scissors

Add at least one scene in your video showing gross motor skills.

English Language and Thinking Development

  • describe a picture of a family/group of animals in a scene using relatively complex
  • sentences (“Mummy is shorter than Daddy but has longer hair.”)
  • identify objects in a group (i.e. all round/square objects or items of clothing, etc.)
  • identify colours, animals, shapes
  • make sounds associated with letters of the alphabet
  • read at least some of the first 100 high frequency words
  • use acceptable social formulae (e.g. please, thank you, excuse me)
  • use learnt formulae, well-rehearsed patterns and short simple utterances
  • give some basic personal information on request
  • follow simple instructions (relying on key words and context)
  • extend answers to questions beyond single word responses (i.e. phrases and simple sentences)
  • use simple adjectives to describe or add emphasis
  • use comprehensible pronunciation, stress and intonation when speaking
  • sustain concentration for a group story and be prepared to participate in answering questions and prediction activities demonstrating understanding of real/fantasy; past/present/future; cause and effect.
  • communicate with other children in the group (usually six to eight children) using English
  • indicate when they don’t understand and ask for repetition
  • use questions to elicit help
  • Children from non-native English speaking families will not be given any allowance. Most schools are looking for native proficiency.

Numeracy/ Maths

  • recognise numbers 1–10 and/or count to 10, possibly forwards and backwards
  • continue to write numbers 11–20
  • recognise shapes, copy basic shapes and identify the number of sides

Social and Emotional Development

  • can separate from parents easily
  • takes turns, shares, and cooperates
  • interacts comfortably with peers without adult intervention
  • follows instructions
  • perseveres on challenging tasks without becoming frustrated
  • waits patiently for an adult’s attention
  • shows empathy or compassion for others’ feelings Cooperation, flexibility, a “can do” approach are all highly regarded.

Dos and Don’ts For Prepared Videos

taking a video of a girl for her primary school assessment


  • Use a phone (held horizontally) – your child is used to being filmed and it is inconspicuous
  • Make it natural and not staged
  • Show your child doing a variety of activities
  • Have one of the parents in the video with your child playing naturally
  • Film at eye level, not from above
  • Vary the locations – indoor/outdoor and vary the scenes
  • Show your child being independent
  • Shoot more than you need and edit later
  • Shoot your child conversing in the language(s) required


  • Outsource to a video production company
  • Hover over your child/answer on their behalf or cajole them to answer
  • Make it forced and unnatural
  • Make it longer than the time stipulated

If your child is attending a reputable preschool, you should relax and trust that the preschool has a good track record of preparing their children for primary and that they are doing all of this in class.

Ruth is the founder of Top Schools and an expert on private and international schools’ admissions, marketing and recruitment. Originally from the UK, Ruth has been in Hong Kong for over 26 years and is the mother of two teenage children; both now at boarding school in the UK.

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