Proficiency levels – science literacy

A proficient standard is a point on a proficiency scale that represents a ‘challenging but reasonable’ expectation of student achievement at a particular year level.

The proficient standard for Year 6 students was first established after the NAP–SL main study in 2003 to provide parents, teachers and the community with a clear picture of the proficiency in science literacy that students are expected to demonstrate by the end of Year 6. With the extension of the NAP–SL assessments to Year 10 students in 2018, a standard-setting process was conducted to determine a Year 10 proficient standard. As has been the practice in all NAP sample testing programs, this was achieved through a standard-setting process that brought together expert science educators, including practising primary and secondary teachers, from all states and territories and the non-government sectors, and was reflective of the teaching experience across metropolitan and rural, and high and low socio-education communities.

Five levels of proficiency (levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or above) have been defined for NAP – science literacy, and are described in the table below. The proficient standard in science literacy for Year 6 is the boundary between levels 2 and 3, and for Year 10 the boundary between levels 3 and 4.  Students achieving at these levels are considered to have a sound understanding of Year 6 and Year 10 science.

Proficiency level

Level descriptors

Level 5 or above

Explains interactions that have been observed in terms of an abstract science concept. Summarises conclusions and explains the patterns in the data in the form of a rule and are consistent with the data. When provided with an experimental design involving multiple variables, can identify the questions being investigated.

Level 4

Applies knowledge of relationship between variables to explain a reported phenomenon. Extrapolates from an observed pattern to describe an expected outcome or event. Demonstrates awareness of the principles of conducting an experiment and controlling variables.

Level 3

Interprets information in a contextualised report by application of relevant science knowledge. Interprets data and identifies patterns in – and/or relationships between – elements of the data. Collates and compares data set of collected information. Gives reason for controlling a single variable.

Level 2

Selects appropriate reason to explain reported observation related to personal experience. Interprets simple data set requiring an element of comparison. Makes simple standard measurements and records data as descriptions.

Level 1

Describes a choice for a situation based on a first-hand concrete experience, requiring an application of limited knowledge. Identifies simple patterns in the data and/or interprets a data set containing some interrelated elements. Makes measurements or comparisons involving information or stimulus in a familiar context.


For more information, see How to interpret.