Understanding the NAPLAN: Breaking Down Each Section of the Test

NAPLAN is designed to provide a clear snapshot of each student’s level of achievement in literacy and numeracy at key stages in their education. The goal is to identify areas for improvement for individuals, schools, and the wider education system.

Assessments take place annually for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The test focuses on the core skills of literacy and numeracy, which are vital to a student’s educational growth and play a key role in their future achievements. 

NAPLAN is divided into four sections – reading, writing, language conventions and numeracy. The public demonstration site includes prompts and sample questions for each area of the test.

Below we consider each section in detail.

  • Reading

This section assesses students’ ability to understand and interpret written texts. Students read a range of texts that demonstrate different writing styles, such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and informational texts. 

They are required to answer corresponding questions, which might be multiple-choice or involve interactive elements like drag-and-drop or hot-text. Questions focus on comprehension, inference, context, themes, characters, main ideas, supporting details, and text structure.

Students may be asked to identify information, draw conclusions, predict outcomes, understand vocabulary in context, and analyse the author’s intent. You can find examples of these question types on the public demonstration site.

Typically, as students’ reading comprehension improves, they can tackle more complex texts. Since reading abilities can vary widely within the same school year, the texts range in length and complexity. The test is adaptive, and each students’ pathway is determined by the accuracy of their previous responses. 

  • Writing 

The Australian Curriculum requires students to learn and practice various forms of writing. The three primary types of texts they are taught are imaginative writing (which includes narrative), informative writing, and persuasive writing. 

The writing involves an extended writing task or “prompt.” Students might be asked to write a narrative, persuasive, or informative piece, depending on the year level and test year. Key aspects assessed include organisation, coherence, grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, word choice, and adherence to the assigned task. The scoring criteria focus on both the quality of ideas and the technical correctness of the writing.

Students are given a writing prompt, which is an idea or topic they must respond to in a specific text format. The text type, which can be either narrative or persuasive, is revealed on the day of the test, and students do not get to choose the format. 

For an extensive collection of past NAPLAN writing prompts, visit the ACARA website.

  • Language Conventions

The language conventions assessment focuses on the correct usage and understanding of standard written Australian English, skills that are crucial for reading and writing proficiency. These tests complement the writing tests by specifically assessing spelling, grammar, and punctuation in context. 

Students answer questions that test their knowledge of language rules, including proper punctuation, correct spelling, and grammatical structures. Questions may include identifying and correcting errors, completing sentences, understanding word relationships, and recognising correct language usage.

The tests include a mix of question types like multiple-choice, text entry, and technology-enhanced questions such as drag-and-drop and hot-text. 

  • Numeracy 

The numeracy section evaluates students’ mathematical skills and understanding. It covers a range of topics, including number operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), fractions and decimals, patterns and sequences, shapes, coordinates, measurements (length, area, volume), and basic statistics.

This test aims to assess both basic computational skills and higher-order thinking, such as problem-solving and reasoning. Questions can be multiple-choice, short-answer, or require calculations. It includes technology-enhanced questions such as drag-and-drop and hot-text. 

The Tutor Doctor Difference

In 2023, one third of students did not meet NAPLAN’s minimum proficiency standards. 30% of students in NSW received results in the bottom two bands. These results can be partly explained by changes to the test’s achievement bands, which were reduced from ten to four bands. 

They also point to a concerning decline in educational standards.

At Tutor Doctor, we are very experienced at helping students achieve their best results. Whether it’s preparing for the NAPLAN exam or analysing NAPLAN results to design a personalised learning program, our fully qualified tutors are committed to educational success.  

Contact us for a free consultation.