Phonics screening check: structure and content of the check

Updated 31 March 2022

Structure of the phonics screening check

The phonics screening check contains 40 words divided into two sections of 20 words. Both sections contain a mixture of real words and pseudo-words.

Section 1

  • Page 1 Four pseudo-words
  • Page 2 Four pseudo-words
  • Page 3 Four pseudo-words
  • Page 4 Four real words
  • Page 5 Four real words

Section 2

  • Page 6 Four pseudo-words
  • Page 7 Four pseudo-words
  • Page 8 Four real words
  • Page 9 Four real words
  • Page 10 Four real words

All pseudo-words in the check are accompanied by a picture of an imaginary creature. This provides a context for the child (naming the type of imaginary creature) to ensure that they are not trying to match the pseudo-word to a word in their vocabulary.

Content of the phonics screening check

Section 1

The words in section 1 will have a variety of simple word structures (for example CVC, VCC, CCVC and CVCC) using:

  • single letters (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, I, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q(u), r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z)
  • some consonant digraphs (ch, ck, ff, ll, ng, sh, ss, th, zz)
  • frequent and consistent vowel digraphs (ar, ee, oi, oo,or)

Section 2

The words in section 2 will have a variety of more complex word structures (for example CCVCC, CCCVC, CCCVCC, two syllable words etc) using the grapheme phoneme correspondences (GPCs) from section one as well as the GPCs listed below:

  • additional consonant digraphs (ph, wh)
  • less frequent and consistent vowel digraphs, including split digraphs (a-e, ai, au, aw, ay, ea, e-e, er, ew, i-e, ie, ir, oa, o-e, ou, ow, oy, ue, u-e, ur)
  • trigraphs (air, igh)
  • alternative pronunciations (a, c, ch, e, ea, er, g, I, ie, o, oo, ou, ow, s, u, ue, u-e)

Please see the Year 1 phonics screening check assessment framework for more details.