What is NAPLAN?

NAPLAN assesses the literacy and numeracy skills of all Australian school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. But what is NAPLAN really? Read our guide to NAPLAN.

What is NAPLAN
Cluey Learning Thursday, 5 December 2019

What is NAPLAN?

The National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is a standardised assessment which all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are required to sit. According to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) official definition:

The tests provide parents and schools with an understanding of how individual students are performing at the time of the tests. They also provide schools, states and territories with information about how education programs are working and which areas need to be prioritised for improvement.

Plain English, please!

When is NAPLAN 2021?

Children in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 at ALL Australian schools are required to sit four separate tests over three days between May 11-21. 

Tests are overseen by the teachers and principal at each school and usually take place in a hall or large classroom. Although NAPLAN gives parents, teachers and schools an idea of where each individual student is at in their development, it’s mostly used to compare a school’s average with the national average. NAPLAN results are used in planning, and to determine which schools, programs or skills need to be prioritised and scrutinised. 

What’s tested in NAPLAN?

Language conventions

40 minutes – Year 3 and 5

45 minutes – Year 7 and 9

This test covers grammar, spelling and punctuation in context. Questions take the form of multiple choice or short answers and students will be required to meet minimum standards in Australian English. 


40 minutes – Year 3 and 5

40 minutes – Year 7 and 9

Students are given a stimulus or prompt (usually the first few frames of a story or idea) and asked to craft a response in a particular text type (narrative, persuasive or imaginative writing). 

Language conventions and writing tests take place on the same day. 


45-50 minutes – Year 3 and 5

65 minutes – Year 7 and 9

Students are given a reading booklet containing short pieces of text. Their knowledge and interpretation of language conventions in context will then be tested via multiple choice and short answer questions. 


45-50 minutes – Year 3 and 5

120 minutes – Year 7 and 9 (40 minutes with a calculator, 40 without)

Students will demonstrate their numeracy skills and knowledge of mathematical topics via multiple choice, short answer and fill-in-the-blank questions. 

Why NAPLAN cops a bad rep

NAPLAN is one of the most widely debated government initiatives in Australia. Arguments around the unnecessary pressure, especially when it comes to young children, and dubious effectiveness of a one-size-fits-all test in determining national benchmarks for learning are pronounced and prolific. What’s more, results aren’t returned to schools for four months, rendering them almost obsolete. 

Preparing kids for NAPLAN

Much of the debate around NAPLAN obscures its original purpose — to test the core skills every child needs in order to progress through school (and life). 

In fact, statewide assessments are common around the globe. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s PISA test is designed to understand, evaluate and compare education systems worldwide.

There is obvious value in governments and education systems establishing expectations around age-appropriate academic standards, and holding educators, schools, and governments accountable.

The problem is, the format of the questions and the tests themselves are quite distinctive.

In both the literacy and numeracy tests, students are required to show their ability to navigate multiple choice questions, interpret instructions, and understand how to write for a specific audience and purpose. They’re working under time constraints and in exam conditions, perhaps for the first time.

Many schools continue to maintain a firm policy not to explicitly prepare for NAPLAN. More still have decided that it is unfair on students not to familiarise them with the format of these tests and the structure of the questions.

At the end of the day, parents and teachers should be ensuring that kids don’t fear NAPLAN. And in many cases, healthy prep is a large part of that process.

Cluey NAPLAN programs

In our experience, most parents want their children to know what to expect from NAPLAN and to build strategies to help them approach the tests. Familiarity and practice are the best ways to dispel – not create – anxiety.

In pursuit of this, our tailored NAPLAN programs, including one-to-one tutoring and practice tests, are focused on key literacy and numeracy skills and work to build confidence and support students in their exam prep. 


Frequently asked NAPLAN questions

Does every child in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 have to do NAPLAN?

While participation is encouraged, ACARA does state that parents with strong objections can withdraw their children from participating. States and territories have different ways of managing student withdrawals, but formal notification must be received by your school principal prior to testing.

How are NAPLAN tests taken?

In 2019 up to half of all NAPLAN students took their test online, however online or paper format is still at the discretion of the school. 

Which types of questions are in the tests?

Questions take the form of either multiple choice or short-form answers. Sample questions from NAPLAN Practice Tests and Past Papers can be found here

Should I prepare my child for NAPLAN?

Familiarising your child with the structure of questions is the best way to prepare. Focusing on core literacy and numeracy skills will also minimise their anxiety. 

When does NAPLAN take place and how long until results are returned?

NAPLAN takes place in Term 2, usually during May. Results are usually delivered to schools by August or September, then released to parents at the discretion of each school. 


Useful links

Learn more and check out some NAPLAN advice below. 

Further reading:

NAPLAN 2021 Dates and Further Info

Cluey Learning NAPLAN Prep Programs

NAPLAN Practice Tests and Past Papers

NAPLAN Assessment Program official webpage

Why we need to prepare our kids for NAPLAN

Understanding NAPLAN results

How to interpret NAPLAN results

Cluey Newsletter

Our expert tips. Your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook