What is NAPLAN and what role does it play at high school?

NAPLAN sparks a lot of discussions and at times uncertainty in high schools every year so it’s important to understand why the testing is done and what the results are used for.

A group of school students are standing in front of their school.

Students learn a lot throughout their years at school. But there are some skills so fundamental that we focus on them more than others. Two such skills are communicating with language (literacy) and working with numbers (numeracy).

NAPLAN is designed to assess how well students are learning these core skills and how effectively our schools are teaching them.

"One of the few differences about NAPLAN in high school is that parents and carers now have more results to compare their child’s current performance against."

This is important because a key aim of NAPLAN is measuring progress over time.

Sitting the NAPLAN tests at high school

Students across Australia in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 take the NAPLAN tests. By the time your child gets to high school, they are already familiar with the NAPLAN testing schedule.

NAPLAN for Year 7 and 9 students is held in May and involves four different areas or test domains:

  • writing
  • reading
  • conventions of language, ie: spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • numeracy.

It’s important to understand these are not simply English or maths tests.

"Literacy and numeracy are required in all subjects, just as they are in all areas of work and life."

Teachers analyse the results to develop teaching strategies to improve literacy and numeracy skills in all subjects.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) provides past NAPLAN test papers for all years including 7 and 9.

ACARA is the national authority responsible for developing NAPLAN and there is more useful information on ACARA website. The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is the NSW test administration authority and is responsible for implementing and administering the test in NSW schools.

How it works on the day

The tests occur over several days in May and schools are currently moving from paper to online.

"In NSW, more than 50 per cent of public schools are now completing NAPLAN testing online."

This video explains the reasons for moving from paper to online tests:

Video - Why we like NAPLAN Online

Duration - 2:48

Read the transcript for 'Why we like NAPLAN Online'.

The tests are timed so students can only begin when they have permission.

Assessment and results

Qualified, independent markers assess written papers while computers mark the multiple-choice sections. Results are received from August to September.

In NSW parents and carers receive two reports:

  • an individual student report
  • an additional student report.

The individual student report shows your child’s skill level on the NAPLAN assessment scale. The assessments reveal whether students are above, at or below the national minimum standard.

It is the same system as primary school, with literacy and numeracy performance sorted into bands. Find the relevant bands for each year:

  • For year 7, the relevant bands are 4 to 9 and the minimum standard is band 5
  • For year 9, the relevant bands are 5 to 10 and the minimum standard is band 6.

For schools with more than 10 participating students, the school average is also shown.

This short video explains how to interpret an individual student report:

Video - Common assessment scale

Duration - 1:48

Read the transcript for 'Common assessment scale'.

The additional student report provides more detail on individual questions and how students responded to them.

You can find more information on the NESA student report webpage.

Preparing for NAPLAN

The best thing parents and carers can do before the test is to be positive and encouraging. The aim is to test a student’s skills not their grasp of specific detail so there is no need to revise or study for the test.

Encourage your child to simply do the best they can on the day.

ACARA doesn’t endorse any commercial NAPLAN preparation or diagnostic tools.

"Our schools prepare students by explaining the test format, the types of questions to expect and how the test room will be set up."

Students should already know how to use the technology required for NAPLAN Online. Reassure them there is nothing they need to do other than complete the questions to the best of their ability.

NAPLAN is  is intended as a resource for education authorities and teachers but also for parents and carers, and ultimately students themselves.


NAPLAN’s role in demonstrating minimum literacy and numeracy standards for HSC is changing. NESA provides up-to-date information about how it will test the HSC minimum standard.

For more information about NAPLAN

Parent and carer support

NAPLAN student reports


Contact your child’s school.

If your family has been affected by the recent bushfires, find the latest advice on special considerations for NAPLAN at the NSW Education Standards Authority.

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