NAPLAN is a term that’s thrown around school classrooms like tennis balls at recess. Teachers mumble it, kids and their parents prepare at home in anticipation of the big day, and education departments emphasise its relevance and importance. But do you know exactly what NAPLAN testing involves, who does it and why it gets so much airtime in schools? Read on to find out the important details for this year’s NAPLAN tests.

What is NAPLAN and Who is Tested?

The NAPLAN tests are a nationally distributed assessment of literacy and numeracy proficiency, which provides a snapshot of how children around Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are developing the necessary skills required for learning. The results indicate whether our students are meeting the expected educational outcomes for their year levels.

Why NAPLAN is So Important

 Two students sitting side-by-side in a classroom, holding pens and smiling.

Peter Titmanis from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) says NAPLAN tests are important because they are the only tests we have in the country that are completed by all students in certain year levels. The results give vital data to teachers, schools and education departments that then helps them to plan their programs at school, state and national levels. “We can use the information to identify what sort of strategies and resources might be more widely needed,” he says.

NAPLAN 2024 Dates

In 2023, NAPLAN testing moved from May to March and this still stands in 2024. Moving it forward means results will be available earlier in the year, which will help better inform teaching and learning programs.

The NAPLAN 2024 test window will be from Wednesday 13 March to Monday 25 March.

What is Tested and When?

There are four NAPLAN tests, held over a number of days, strictly in the following order:

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Conventions of language (spelling, punctuation and grammar)
  • Numeracy

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways to Help Your Kids With Maths

What Sort of Questions Will the NAPLAN Tests Ask?

A student writing on a whiteboard while the teacher supervises.
  • The writing test asks students to write on a topic in a particular style, in a defined time frame. So, they might have to write a narrative or a persuasive essay.
  • The reading test involves reading a range of informative, imaginative and persuasive texts and answering comprehension questions.
  • The conventions of language test is used to assess grammar, sentence structure, spelling and punctuation. 
  • The numeracy test involves a range of maths problems, including algebra, measurement and geometry, and statistics and probability.

The system will ask a number of tailored questions initially so students can be guided into a set of questions linked to their ability. Encourage your children to continue with the test even if they think the first questions seem too challenging. 

Practical Ways to Help Kids Before NAPLAN Tests

Child psychologist Deirdre Brandner says it’s important to acknowledge anxieties when helping a child who is worried about upcoming NAPLAN testing. Children can become concerned their parents or teachers may be angry if their results aren’t high enough, so it’s important to reassure them that NAPLAN testing is not to be feared. It’s something designed to assess their capabilities, not prescribe their future, and it won’t affect how their teacher or their parents see them.  

One thing you can tell your children, Deirdre says, is that: “Your teacher knows you, your teacher knows whether you find fractions easy or you find decimals hard, because your teacher sees you every single day. They’re the people who know what your real ability is.” 

Reassure your children that their NAPLAN results assess what they can do well and what they still need to work on and learn, rather than their worth as a person. 

SEE ALSO: How to Set Up a Homework Study Space Your Kids Will Love

NAPLAN Preparation

A teacher sitting at a classroom table helping students with a writing task. ‍

Students often ask for tips and tricks to help them prepare for NAPLAN tests. “The best preparation,” says Peter, “is to go to school regularly, listen to your teacher, and do what the teacher says.” 

However, students can look at the ACARA website if they want to see some examples of NAPLAN practice tests. Alternatively, they can visit the online public demonstration site, choose their year level and work through some practice questions for each of the four categories.

Sia Goutzas is principal of Maths Words Not Squiggles, a tutoring centre that focuses on preparing students for the demands of school exams, including NAPLAN tests. While Sia believes the best preparation for NAPLAN testing is to learn well in the years leading up to it, she lists some extra things children can do to feel better equipped in a testing situation. 

“It's very, very important that students understand the layout of an exam and what they're going to come across when they are sitting for it,” Sia says. “Being comfortable with the format means they’re not walking in blind and they have a better understanding of the overall concept of the exam process.”

She suggests using some of the NAPLAN resources available such as past papers and working through previous exams to gain an understanding of the types of questions that may be asked. “You can't cram for NAPLAN,” she says. “It's important that students are taught how to stay on top of their schoolwork. They should know how to read, how to write, know the different types of text, understand the mathematics. Every piece of homework they’re completing, every task they've been set, is preparing them for NAPLAN.”

What To Try

SEE ALSO: Teacher Tips for Exam Preparation

This article was originally published in 2022 and has been updated.