Australian students unnerved by NAPLAN

Nearly 1/3 students say NAPLAN is the most stressful school experience. Over one third keep exam nerves completely to themselves

Cluey Learning Sunday, 1 March 2020

Close to one in three Australian students (32 per cent) find tests like NAPLAN the most stressful part of school, according to our latest research. Despite this, over one third keep test nerves to themselves and less than 10 per cent confess their nerves to their teacher.

Designed as a benchmarking assessment, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy is a nationwide, standardised test for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Forty per cent of students admit they start to worry about the annual assessment weeks and even months ahead of the actual tests. Students suspect their teachers are also unnerved by NAPLAN, with almost 60 per cent of pupils agreeing their teachers are stressed or worried about it.

NAPLAN will take place between May 12 – 22 in 2020, and students are most nervous about the numeracy test (43 per cent), followed by writing (25 per cent), language conventions (24 per cent) and reading (9 per cent).

NAPLAN has long generated debate among parents and educators, and discussion has made its way into the playground too. Over 70 per cent of students say they talk about NAPLAN with their classmates.

Our Chief Learning Officer Dr Selina Samuels encourages parents to talk to their children about how they feel leading up to NAPLAN.

“Some parents actively avoid mentioning NAPLAN in the lead up to the test in the hope that it will ease the pressure. Despite this tactic, children are thinking and talking about NAPLAN, so addressing the elephant in the room may be beneficial. NAPLAN offers an opportunity to show children how to prepare for and face situations that might make them a bit nervous.”

“The lead up to the tests is a chance for parents to share personal challenges they’ve faced, and things that make them nervous, so that children can understand that these kinds of challenges are a normal part of life and can be managed. When students take on something that challenges them and come out the other end, they’ll be more resilient,” she continues.

To help parents navigate NAPLAN, we’re launching a free webinar series this March led by Dr Samuels herself. Register for a digital ticket to ‘NAPLAN and nerves’ at

Standardised tests don’t equal standardised support

When it comes to NAPLAN, 66 per cent of students said their teacher helps them prepare via practice exercises in class and/or homework. Almost 20 per cent said they’re not receiving any prep and a further 14 per cent were unsure. While support and preparation are not standardised for students, 70 per cent of pupils agree NAPLAN study and practice is helpful.

Students say “no thanks” to NAPLAN

Over 65 per cent of students said they would skip NAPLAN if there were no consequences. Plus, one in four students are prepared to feign sickness on an exam day to avoid a test. Dreams aside, 17 per cent of students fessed up to missing a NAPLAN test day in the past and 11 per cent have already faked sick days owing to tests.

Our latest research also looked into how kids felt their parents may fare if they were faced with NAPLAN. Sixty five per cent of students felt their parents would do “okay”, 20 per cent confirmed they would do “really well”, while 15 per cent revealed their parents’ results would be “bad”.

The ‘NAPLAN and nerves’ live webinar will take place Monday March 9 at 4pm AEDT and Friday March 13 at 3pm. 

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Dive into additional data from our latest study:


Unnerved by NAPLAN:

· Over 50 per cent are “a little nervous” about NAPLAN while 18 per cent are “very nervous”

· Almost 50 per cent said sitting an exam is the worst part of tests, more so than the exam lead up and even receiving results

“No thanks” to NAPLAN:

· 66 per cent think schools should get rid of NAPLAN

· 80 per cent prefer marked projects versus exams

Show me the money:

· 49 per cent believe they should get paid or rewarded for sitting NAPLAN

NAPLAN stands for ?

· More than half know why they are doing NAPLAN however more than ¾ admit they don’t know what the NAPLAN acronym stands for

Students speak:

· Over 80 per cent agree they do not get a say in their education e.g. what school they attend

· ¼ admit they would cheat in a test if they could be guaranteed no one would ever find out

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