In the English learning area of each state and territory curriculum, students develop language and literacy skills and then apply these skills across a full range of learning areas. The NAPLAN reading tests measure literacy proficiency across the English learning area in line with the Australian Curriculum: English.

These tests focus on the reading of written English. Knowledge and interpretation of language conventions in context are also an important part of reading and are drawn upon in many reading questions.

In the tests, students are provided with a magazine containing a range of texts that illustrate different writing styles. Students read the texts provided then answer related questions in a separate booklet.

The skills demonstrated in reading are dependent on the complexity and accessibility of the text. Typically students engage with more complex texts as their reading comprehension skills improve. There is a very wide range of reading ability levels at each school year level so the tests start with simple, short texts and get increasingly longer and harder.

Types of skills and understandings that students are generally expected to demonstrate at their particular year of schooling are described in the minimum standards for reading. For more information on the national minimum standards see Standards.