Multiplication tables check: development process

Information for primary schools about the development of an online check of times tables for year 4 pupils to be introduced at key stage 2 in 2020.


From June 2020, all pupils at the end of year 4 in England will take an online multiplication tables check (MTC).

The national curriculum specifies that pupils at this stage should be able to recall the multiplication tables up to and including 12x12.

The check aims to support pupils to master multiplication skills, which are essential for future success in mathematics. It will help to identify pupils who have not yet mastered this mathematical concept, so additional support can be provided.

Schools will have a window for administration, similar to the phonics screening check at the end of year 1. Teachers will have the flexibility to administer the check to individual pupils, small groups or the whole class at the same time.

Once the check is introduced, pupils’ check results will be available to schools via the MTC system and the Analyse School Performance (ASP) service. Assessment data will be published at national and local authority level only, not at school level.

MTC development process

As part of the development of the check the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) is undertaking extensive user research and conducting several trials of the MTC in schools until July 2018. This is to ensure the check is robust, accessible and minimises any additional burden on schools as a new assessment.

Our external supplier, SQA, is managing this stage of the trials process on behalf of STA. They will contact a number of schools, requesting a sample of their pupils participate in one of three trials as detailed below. Pupil requirement timings are per pupil and are approximate. Schools will need to allocate additional time to allow pupils to log into the system.

Trial dates Purpose of trial Pupil requirement
Trial 1: Beta - 26 February to 2 March 2018 To test the software, ensure it is recording data accurately and seek feedback from schools on the administration and pupil applications 25 questions in 4 minutes
Trial 2: Timing - 19 to 23 March 2018 To collect data on different timings of questions (how long a pupil has to answer) to set the standard timing of questions before national rollout 25 questions in 4 to 5 minutes
Trial 3: Technical pre-test (TPT) - 25 June to 6 July 2018 Item (question) level collection exercise to construct forms (collections of questions) before national rollout 25 questions in 4 to 5 minutes

A national voluntary pilot will take place in June 2019 to allow schools to become familiar with the check before it becomes statutory in June 2020.

What schools will do in MTC trials

We expect participating schools to use an application that they can access through NCA tools with their year 4 pupils. The online MTC system software will run on a variety of different IT devices and browsers in primary schools.

Each check will only take each pupil a few minutes and can be run individually, or within small groups.

Taking part in this year’s trial will allow schools to experience the MTC ahead of its implementation in 2020. It will provide schools with the opportunity to influence the design and functionality of the MTC system and give pupils the chance to experience an online test.

How trial results will be used

The trials will test the functionality, reliability and performance of the MTC system, rather than the performance of any pupil.

We will use the results to determine the timing of questions, ensure the system works for users and records data accurately.

How schools can get involved

SQA has already contacted selected schools for trials 1 and 2. They will contact schools selected for trial 3 after trial 2. If your school isn’t selected, but you would like to participate in user research, contact STA.

We would particularly like to hear from schools who may have concerns over their broadband access or concerns about accessibility arrangements for pupils with special educational needs.


For 2018 MTC trials contact SQA on 0345 278 8080 or e-mail

For general MTC queries, or to volunteer to participate in further user research contact

Published 14 February 2018