Navigating NAPLAN: Strategies for Year 5 Achievement.

NAPLAN is most children’s first experience of a formal standardised test in Australia. But what is it, and how should parents prepare? This article answers all your questions about NAPLAN and gives you the best techniques to help engage your child in learning.

3 months ago   •   5 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by Robo Wunderkind / Unsplash

What is NAPLAN?

  • All Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 sit the NAPLAN test. NAPLAN - National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy.
  • NAPLAN is primarily an Australian Government tool to flag schools needing additional support and allocate them funding. It is also used by teachers to assess their teaching strategies.
  • NAPLAN is taken online on iPads or laptops (since 2022), typically in student classrooms.
  • It consists of four or five tests taken over three days.
  • It is not school grade-affecting.*
  • Individual results are released in Term 3, showing students’ performance relative to the country.

*In WA, students who do not meet minimum numeracy and literacy standards in Year 9 NAPLAN must later complete further ‘OLNA’ testing to graduate with a WACE.

So why is NAPLAN important for YOUR child?

While NAPLAN was designed to assist governmental authorities in evaluating the Australian education system there are many individual benefits of the NAPLAN to you and your child.

  • It gives parents a useful indication of how their child is tracking relative to national standards, whether they are performing above or below the national mean.
  • It provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned.
  • It highlights areas of strength and weakness to give teachers, parents and students an indication of where and how to improve their learning.
  • Gently develops exam techniques to prepare students for senior year.
  • Selective and private schools and other educational institutions or programs sometimes use a student's NAPLAN result to measure or estimate academic standing.

How is NAPLAN structured?

DAY 1:

Language Conventions (40 Min): students answer multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions assessing Australian English grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Writing (40 Min): students are provided with a ‘writing stimulus’ prompt and must create a short original text. The text type could either be Persuasive or Narrative, announced on the day - students do not get to choose.

DAY 2:

Reading (45/50 Min Year 3-5, 65 Min Year 7-9): students read passages and answer multiple-choice and short-answer questions testing their comprehension.

DAY 3:

Numeracy (45/50 Min Year 3-5, Calc 40 Min & Non-Calc 40 Min Year 7-9): students solve mathematical problems, answering multiple-choice, short answer, and fill-in-the-blank questions. In later years, a calculator (online built-in function) is required for one section.

For Language Conventions, Reading, and Numeracy Tests, questions of personalised difficulty level are displayed depending on the child’s performance in the test so far.

How should I prepare my child?

NAPLAN does not require any content memorisation or elaborate preparation. They test student's critical thinking abilities based on how students respond to unseen stimuli, comprehension questions and logical problem-solving questions. However, these targeted and engaging study techniques can boost your child’s confidence and maximise success:

Character Creation

The Narrative writing task of the NAPLAN is one that students find particularly overwhelming. When faced with a vague NAPLAN-style stimulus like, “Write a story about a character who does something brave”, or “Write about a mysterious box - what’s inside?” many Year 3 and 5 students will draw a blank and write nothing.

To avoid this issue, encourage your child to use their imagination and develop their own characters at home, before the NAPLAN week. What is their name? What do they look like? What are their likes and dislikes?

For example, maybe your child practises writing stories about a character called Millie, a girl with freckles and fiery red hair, who loves animals and chocolate cookies but hates swimming. It then becomes much easier for your child to answer the vague Narrative prompts. Maybe Millie is brave by swimming to save her dog in the ocean! Maybe inside the box is Millie’s birthday present, a pet who runs away, and has to be lured back home through a clever plan of leaving a trail of cookies! The physical description of the character – e.g., freckles and fiery red hair - will also help your child score points for characterisation and descriptive language.

Persuasion Practice

To encourage idea generation for the Persuasive Writing NAPLAN test, engage in lively debates with your child. Examples include: Are dogs or cats better pets? Should all kids learn an instrument? Should homework be banned? Should kids be able to stay up late?

Encourage your child to come up with 3 reasons to defend their argument (to function as 3 body paragraphs), use emotive language, and make use of techniques such as exaggeration, metaphors, and repetition.

Books Before Bed

Students perform better in the Language Conventions and Reading tests if they are more exposed to these skills in their daily lives. Encourage your child to read a book for 15-30 minutes each night before bed. Then the next day discuss the book together. Ask them about what they think of the book's message. Who were their favourite characters and why?

Maths Posters

A simple way to sharpen your child’s numeracy skills is to print out and display maths posters around the house. Personally, I learnt my times tables because they were taped to the back of our bathroom door! Having these tools around the home means they will be revisited frequently, and spaced repetition is a scientifically proven study hack.

Typing and Tech

Some kids find typing and digital skills tricky. To get them used to writing under timed conditions encourage them with fun regular typing tasks - typing a letter to Grandma, a birthday wish-list, or a recount of what they got up to at lunchtime.

Car-Ride Quizzes

An easy way to integrate NAPLAN study into the daily routine, particularly for Years 3-5, is in the car! Turn the ride to school into a fun quiz game, asking your child to define new vocabulary, spell out words, or solve multiplication questions.

Practice tests

The NAPLAN website has ample practice questions, and even ‘Demonstration Tests’ that precisely replicate the online format of the exam, not only the assessment content itself but also processes such as entering confirmation codes. Familiarity brings comfort, which brings success!


If you feel your child may need support going into NAPLAN, the best solution is private tutoring, someone experienced to help improve their numeracy and literacy skills in a fun and engaging way. Luckily, KIS Academics has an amazing selection of experienced tutors who can tailor sessions precisely to your child’s needs.

Let us find the perfect match for you and your child.

Written by KIS Academics Tutor from WA, Poppy Bell. Poppy received a 99.95 ATAR and is currently studying Arts/Law at the University of Melbourne (Chancellor’s Scholar). Poppy tutors English, Literature, Mathematics, Modern History, and French, as well as NAPLAN and OLNA preparation. She has received glowing reviews from her past KIS Academics students. You can view Poppy's profile here and request her as a tutor.

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