The Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) taken by pupils in their final year of primary schooling in England have been widely criticised for placing children under too pressure and contributing to an increase in test-related stress and anxiety. In this exploratory study we set out to explore the experiences of forthcoming SATs in a small sample of children using an appraisal model of stress and to reflect on whether these criticisms are justified. Results from focus groups with pupils and interviews with class and head teachers suggested that there was diversity in pupils’ experiences their tests. The pressures associated with SATs did not necessarily lead to negative outcomes and some children described SATs in more positive ways, as challenging rather than threatening. Self-worth judgements played a central role in individual-level appraisal and may also provide a useful link to discourses surrounding the value of academic credentials.