Understanding NAPLAN: An Essential Overview of what NAPLAN Involves and How to Prepare
The clock is ticking!! NAPLAN is currently scheduled for May 2022, leaving approximately two months before students sit the tests. In this post we’ll detail what NAPLAN involves and how students can best prepare for the exams.
What is NAPLAN and why have it?
NAPLAN is a national standardised online test administered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) that assesses students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. There are four tests in total: Language Conventions, Reading, Writing and Numeracy.
Here is what each test involves:
- Language Conventions: Students will be assessed on their understanding of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Questions will be a combination of multiple choice and short answer questions.
- Reading: Students will be given a series of short texts and will need to answer a series of multiple-choice and short answer comprehension questions on each text.
- Writing: Students will be given a writing stimulus where they’ll be asked to write a response in relation to the material provided. The material will take the form of a narrative, persuasive text or imaginative writing.
- Numeracy: Students will be given a series of numerical questions in a multiple choice and/or short answer format. The questions will assess their understanding of various topics and their numeracy skills more broadly. In Years 7 and 9, there are two numeracy tests: One where a calculator is allowed and another where students cannot use a calculator in the exam.
So, why is NAPLAN useful? NAPLAN serves as a useful diagnostic tool that can be used to identify a student’s performance in comparison to the rest of the country. Furthermore, NAPLAN also provides detailed feedback on where students are performing well and where students have knowledge or skills “gaps”. For these reasons, NAPLAN results are often used in the process of assessing a student’s suitability for entry into competitive academic programs such as entrance into selective schools.
Now that we have an understanding of what NAPLAN involves and why it is important, let’s get into what students can do to prepare for the test.
How can students prepare for the test?
NAPLAN exams are unique in the sense that they assess skills more broadly as opposed to specific content. Given this, how do students best prepare for NAPLAN?
Rather than studying specific content alone, the best way for students to prepare for NAPLAN is to continue developing their literacy and numeracy skills generally in conjunction with identifying knowledge gaps. Content can be learnt within one or two sittings whereas skills need to be developed over time through practice.
In saying this, students should target their practice according to their weaknesses. Students can identify their weaknesses in terms of the following:
- Which of the four topic areas are they least confident in? For example, are they least confident with reading and writing? Or are they least confident in numeracy?
- What are their weaknesses within each topic area specifically? In numeracy, for example, a student might have a knowledge gap in algebra.
To identify “ knowledge gaps”, we suggest that students do the following:
- Examine their results from past school assessments and see where they have lost marks or what they need to work on.
- Read through questions from NAPLAN past papers (examples of past papers can be found here) and asterisk any questions that seem unfamiliar or challenging. Once students have done this, identify any common themes in the questions they have marked.
Once students have identified their weaknesses and knowledge gaps, they can then proceed to address these areas through targeted revision. To revise, we suggest that students do the following:
- Revise their areas of weakness with their teacher or tutor.
- Complete textbook exercises or practice tests from NAPLAN practice books in their own time that assess their knowledge of the areas identified.
A final note
In sum, doing well in NAPLAN is a two-pronged process of refining skills and remedying knowledge gaps; NAPLAN is not something that students can simply ROTE-learn content for. When preparing for NAPLAN, students should be patient and understanding; developing a skill in anything takes time!!