Phonics Screening - Why use Pseudo Words?

Pseudo words or non-words are an established assessment methodology in many schools, and are already used in many existing phonics programmes.

They are included in the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check because they will be new to all pupils, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words.

Pupils who can read pseudo words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word. The evidence from the pilot showed that a significant majority of teachers agreed that including these words in the assessment was useful.

Won’t using pseudo words just confuse pupils?

The Government’s evaluation showed that pupils generally enjoyed the pseudo words. Of course, it is important that children understand the difference between real words and pseudo words. Some teachers in the pilot reported that some pupils were confused and the Government have taken steps to address this, including helping teachers to introduce the pseudo clearly.

Make Phonics Fun Our Make Phonics Fun series which is specifically designed to help teachers prepare pupils for the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check includes both real and pseudo words. In fact, 20 real and 20 pseudo words are supplied as photocopiable test cards with each topic. Both sets of words are carefully woven into the lessons and activities and the pseudo words are introduced in a fun way by linking them with a family of aliens and monsters.

- For more information go to Help with Pseudo Words
- Watch the Phonics Screening Teacher Training Video
- Get hold of a copy of our Make Phonics Fun series of books


Other helpful information about the Phonics Screening Check:


  1. Phonics Screening - What is it?
  2. Phonics Screening Preparation
  3. Phonics Screening Teacher Training Video
  4. Why use Pseudo Words?
  5. Help with Pseudo / Non-Words
  6. Phonics Screening and SEN
  7. Phonics Screening Resources
  8. Phonics Screening - The Pilot
  9. What Pilot schools have to say
  10. Further information - Department of Education FAQs


Related teaching resources

  • Make Phonics Fun - Summer topics
  • Phonics Planning 3rd edition cover
  • Phonic Families book and CD
  • Phonics to Spelling CD