NAPLAN Explained: What Exactly Are These Tests?

Right across the country this week, more than one-million students will be picking up their pencil, or logging into a computer, and undergoing NAPLAN testing.

What you need to know
  • NAPLAN involves students across Year 3, 5, 7 and 9
  • Every year in the second full week of May, more than one million kids are put under the microscope
  • The data goes on to inform policy makers, researchers, and teachers

The standardised testing kicked off on Tuesday, and for the first time one in five students will be swapping pencils for computers as NAPLAN transitions to an online testing system.

It comes around every year… but what actually is NAPLAN?

What are our kids doing, and why?

It’s called the National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy.

To put it simply, it’s an annual standardised test to see where our young ones are at in terms of learning.

It tests students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, across all types of skills that are deemed essential for every child to progress through school and life.

Covering reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and numeracy, it’s an all-encompassing test to make sure we’re moving forwards, not backwards.

On Tuesday the testing curriculum will kick off with English, which covers two days, before moving on to mathematics on Thursday.

NAPLAN starts today. Image: AAP

It’s the only national assessment that all of our students take, and the data goes on to inform decisions that in turn determine the learning curriculum.

Policy makers and education researchers use the data to help understand student performance trends, while teachers on the front line can use the information to improve their teaching within the classroom.

There has, however, been some discontent around the education sector, with some calling for NAPLAN to be scrapped or overhauled.

Some claim the stress is unfair on children, while others believe some schools are wasting valuable time prepping students to ensure the school scores well.

Federal Education Minister Scott Birmingham on Tuesday dismissed the naysayers, insisting NAPLAN was here to stay and calling it a valuable educational tool.

“NAPLAN is just one part of the educational journey, but it’s a part that parents value to ensure they understand their children are developing basic literacy and numeracy skills.

“I would say to those who seek to cause trouble about NAPLAN to take a step back, and to treat it like any other school day. This is just one assessment undertaken four times in the life of a child during their 12-13 years of schooling.”

"For now, NAPLAN is an important resource in terms of keeping a fixed eye on the progress of students around their literacy and numeracy skills," he continued.

While most kids understandably get stressed and anxious around exams, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority CEO Robert Randall said no extra preparation is required for NAPLAN, and urged parents to relax their young ones and ensure them this won’t impact their grades.

"What children learn in the classroom through the teaching of the Australian Curriculum is what NAPLAN assesses. As with any test in life, some students may feel anxious about NAPLAN.

"NAPLAN Online offers benefits for students and teachers, including more precise results and detailed information for teachers, and a more engaging experience for students.

“Faster turnaround of information and results will better support teaching interventions and inform decisions about learning.”