What is NAPLAN and how to prepare for it

Australian NAPLAN test

If you’ve got school aged children but have yet to reach a year when they are required to sit the NAPLAN test, you might be wondering what exactly the NAPLAN test is, and why it is important for students and schools. And more importantly, you might be concerned about how you can help your child prepare for this national standardised exam.  

What is NAPLAN?

NAPLAN stands for the National Assessment Program Numeracy and Literacy and is conducted during May every year. NAPLAN is scheduled to happen on the same day across the country in order to measure students numeracy and literacy levels at that point in time. NAPLAN is made up of a series of assessments that tests basic skills that all students are required to learn and progress through school.  

NAPLAN tests happen when students are in Year 3, Year 5, Year 7, Year 9 and Year 11 to give Australians a snapshot of student’s ability in Reading, Spelling, Writing, Grammar and Punctuation and Numeracy.  

Why is NAPLAN important and why do we do it in Australia?

NAPLAN is an initiative of the Education Ministers Meeting and is designed to see which schools across private, public, independent and Catholic are meeting national benchmarks, and which are falling below the national average. This allows schools to readdress existing education programs and if there is an opportunity for the school to improve their program. As an example, if NAPLAN has identified that a school’s Year 3 cohort has underperformed overall in their reading and comprehension, the school can choose to change their teaching technique or allocate more resources to improving that area of learning. 

The tests also provide schools and parents with an understanding of how individual students are progressing and performing in relation to other students their age.  

When are NAPLAN results delivered?

It takes a significant amount of time for the NAPLAN results to be collated and made available. Individual  NAPLAN results are delivered to your child’s school sometime between August and October.  A full national report is released in December.  

The NAPLAN results page that you will receive can be a little challenging to interpret the first time.   A good gauge is to see where your child’s “dot” is against the triangle of the “national average”.  Bear in mind these results are NOT a measure of your child’s intelligence.     

Example student result, retrieved from the National Assessment Program website

NAPLAN is a standardised test and, for the most part, education is delivered in a standardised format.  NAPLAN is a point in time snapshot that does not tell the whole story. Children are individuals with individual learning strengths and weaknesses. If your child is a kinaesthetic learner or an auditory learner, they may not do as well as a visual learner in NAPLAN.  If a school’s focus was for reading and comprehension and they directed extra resources to that area, that school may see the results across their cohort improve above the national average.   

While NAPLAN results do have value as a guide for how well education is being delivered across Australia, they are not high-stakes test which must be “passed” to gain entry to the next year level. 

How can I help my child to prepare for NAPLAN? 

One of the most frequently asked questions from parents is ‘how can I help my child prepare for the NAPLAN tests?’ The point of NAPLAN testing is to test students’ progress across the year, not how well they perform at the tests after some serious studying.  Of all the myth’s surrounding NAPLAN, the most common is that you must prepare for NAPLAN. 

In fact, we would recommend that you don’t put too much emphasis on the NAPLAN tests with your child as this can cause them to become nervous and stress about the outcomes of their exams.  

NAPLAN tests are a way for parents and teachers to identify what student’s current strengths and weaknesses are so they can focus on the areas that need more work going forward. NAPLAN tests are not an entry exam to progress to the next year at school and they are not to be treated as high pressure exams such as the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate.  

The best way to support your child when they have NAPLAN tests on the horizon is to work with them on the key areas of spelling, grammar and punctuation, reading, writing and numeracy consistently. Additional support outside of the classroom from family or from a tutor has proven to be beneficial to children’s learning, so rather than stressing when you know NAPLAN is happening next month, a holistic approach to supporting your child’s learning in an ongoing capacity is going to be far more beneficial for them in the long run.  

Contributor: Hayden McEvoy built A Team Tuition on his own transformational experience as a student struggling with ADHD and receiving D grades to becoming a successful A grade student, elite athlete and ultimately a successful business owner. Hayden believes that tutoring, done correctly, can change the life of a student. 

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