Test development

The development of NAPLAN and NAP sample assessment tests is managed by ACARA in consultation and collaboration with experts in the areas of literacy, numeracy, ICT, science, and civics and citizenship. Assessment experts, including teachers, education authorities in all the states and territories, the Australian Government, and the non-government school sector are also involved in this process.

The assessments are aligned to the knowledge and skills taught through the Australian Curriculum. Both the NAPLAN and NAP sample assessments are constructed:

  • to assess knowledge, skills and understandings appropriate to students in particular year levels

  • to be interesting and engaging to students throughout Australia

  • to challenge students at all levels of ability.

Since 2016, NAPLAN testing has been aligned to the Australian Curriculum. Prior to this, the development of NAPLAN tests was guided by the national Statements of learning for English and Mathematics. 

Assessment frameworks, which detail the nature of the questions in the tests, are aligned to the Australian Curriculum and are regularly reviewed and refined. See the current NAPLAN Assessment Framework (PDF 708 KB). For NAP sample assessments, the most recent versions are as follows – science literacy (2018), civics and citizenship (2018) and information and communication technologies (2020). See NAP sample Assessment frameworks.

Development and review process

The development and review process for assessments in the National Assessment Program takes about 18 months to complete. ACARA staff with expertise in curriculum, content, assessment development and psychometrics oversee every step of the process, to ensure that the assessments are of the highest standard:

  1. Guidelines for test development
    Guidelines for test development, including question (item) formats and suitable topics for reading materials, are reviewed early as part of an ongoing quality assurance process. This ensures that there are clear guidelines for writers to follow when they develop test questions.

  2. Question (‘item’) development
    ACARA staff and contracted test developers develop questions that meet the endorsed test specifications. ACARA staff also write test questions in-house, including all the spelling and accessibility alternative questions. Read the Guidelines for the development of accessible NAPLAN online items (PDF 2 MB).

  3. Review of test items
    Curriculum and assessment experts from each state and territory, as well as representatives from the non-government sector, review proposed test items to ensure they meet curriculum and jurisdiction or sector-based circumstances.

  4. Trialling
    Representative samples of students (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) from each state and territory, sector and geolocation participate in the trialling of potential test questions. The data from these trials are analysed by psychometric experts that are independent from any NAPLAN writing agency, and then questions that meet the test specifications are selected to construct each assessment. 

  5. Expert advice
    ACARA’s advisory panels, made up of measurement and assessment experts, meet regularly to provide advice throughout the test development and reporting process, to ensure that NAPLAN tests meet the necessary technical specifications.  

  6. Testing
    The NAPLAN test window is in March. NAP sample assessments occur in Term 2, but are not held on the same dates in all schools.

  7. Equating
    A process of equating is carried out to enable the results from NAPLAN assessments in different years to be reported on the same measurement scales (see also Results and reports).

  8. Analysis
    Once the assessments are completed and the writing is marked, the results are analysed and scaled onto the NAPLAN measurement scales. These analyses use well-known statistical methods and processes that are widely used in other national and international large-scale educational testing programs.

  9. Reporting
    Results from the National Assessment Program assessments are reported in a number of ways:

    • individual students receive a report on how they performed (NAPLAN only)

    • schools receive information on how students at their school performed

    • national data showing performance across the nation are published

    • average school results including measures of progress are shown on the My School website (NAPLAN only).