Understanding the NAPLAN Numeracy Section for Years 3 and 5

Understanding the NAPLAN Numeracy

As NAPLAN exams draw nearer, kids aren’t the only ones feeling nervous!

Knowing what’s in the test for Years 3 and 5 will help you better support your child and reduce anxiety.

Below we explain what to expect in the numeracy section for Years 3 and 5.

What Does NAPLAN Assess?

NAPLAN questions are linked to content in the Australian Curriculum, and the test aims to assess skills needed in everyday life, such as the ability to do calculations. 

The numeracy section measures capability in the areas of understanding, fluency, problem-solving and reasoning. 

The test consists of multiple-choice answers, written responses and technology enhanced questions, such as drop and drag responses. 

You can check out the public demonstration site for more information,

What Do Kids Need to Know?

Below are some areas students may be tested in. Based on previous tests, these are areas students find particularly challenging. 


Year 3 and 5 students may be required to interpret graphs. This often involves being able to count the number of items or objects in a graph. They may then be asked to use addition or subtraction to work out the final answer for the question. 

Although this sounds simple, graphs often involve keys and scales. This means objects on the graph may represent more than one item. Many students make the mistake of counting the items in a graph as corresponding with the number of actions. 

To help with this, make sure your child understands how graphs and keys work. Reinforce how important it is to read the question properly.


In keeping with the focus on skills needed in everyday life, students may also be required to interpret calendars. Make sure your child understands dates, and the number of days in a month. 

A common question involves asking students to count backwards to work out what day of the week or date an event fell on. Often this day or date will fall in the month prior to the calendar month shown in the test so kids need to know how to do this themselves.


Another common question involves asking students to work out the best deal from a range of options. For example, the question may state that a shop is selling an item in packs or three, five and ten.

Students need to calculate which pack is the best value by working out the cost of a single item in each deal. Many students simply select the lowest priced deal, without doing the calculation. This is a good one to practice at home.


Students should be familiar with the concept of probability, or the chance of an event occurring. A die has a 1 in 6 chance of landing on a particular face, and a coin has a 1 in 2 chance of being heads or tails.

No matter how many times a coin has landed on one side, students need to remember that the probability is always 50/50 with a ‘fair’ coin. 


Students should be familiar with questions that require them to perform multiple calculations to find the final answer. They may need to add, subtract, multiple or divide. The tricky part is that it’s up to them to determine what calculations are required.

For example, a question may state that Toby and Sam picked 24 apples together while Mia picked 5 more apples than Sam. Students are then required to work out how many apples Mia picked. They need to understand that they have to divide the number of apples picked by Toby and Sam by two and then add five to come up with the answer.

The best way to prepare your child for NAPLAN is through practice tests. Our tutors can help with preparation and provide excellent tips and strategies for tackling the numeracy section.