What’s in the tests

Reading | Writing | Conventions of language | Numeracy | Past NAPLAN test papers | 



In the English learning area of the Australian 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 range of texts that illustrate different writing styles. Students read the texts and answer related questions. The tests contain multiple-choice and technology-enhanced questions such as drag-and-drop and hot-text. The Public demonstration site shows the range of item types, along with accessibility features available to students with disability.    

Typically, students are able to engage with more complex texts as their reading comprehension skills improve. As there is a very wide range of reading ability levels at each school year level, the texts range from short and simple to longer and more complex. The complexity of the texts that a student sees is dependent on the pathway they take through the tailored test design. For more information, see Tailored tests.




The Australian Curriculum: English requires students to be taught a variety of forms of writing. The 3 main text types (previously called genres) taught are imaginative writing (including narrative writing), informative writing and persuasive writing. In the writing test, all students receive the same text type or genre of writing task regardless of whether they are a Year 3 student doing the test on paper or a student in Year 5, 7 or 9 doing the test online.

In the writing test, students are provided with a ‘writing stimulus’ (also called a ‘prompt’ – an idea or topic) and asked to write a response in a particular text type. Different prompts are used depending on the testing day and student year level. These writing prompts target the full range of student capabilities expected of students from Years 3 to 9.

The use of multiple prompts should have no impact on how teachers prepare their students for the NAPLAN writing test. The text type – which could be narrative or persuasive – is revealed on the day of assessment. There is no choice of text type. See examples of persuasive and narrative prompts below. An example prompt is also shown in the Public demonstration site writing test for Years 5, 7 and 9. See NAPLAN – writing test FAQs for more information. 

Assessing the writing task

Students’ writing is marked by assessors who have received intensive training in applying the marking rubric (guide), which has 10 criteria. Test administration authorities in each state and territory are responsible for the marking of the writing tests within their jurisdictions. All markers across Australia use the same marking rubric, receive the same training and are subject to the same quality assurance measures.

The writing marking guides for both persuasive and narrative writing are below, with an example prompt. See the ACARA website for a greater selection of past NAPLAN writing prompts.

Persuasive writing

The Persuasive Writing Marking Guide (PDF 5.7 MB) and an example Writing stimulus (PDF 406 KB) are available for download. Note: the Persuasive writing marking guide for 2013 remains current.

Narrative writing 

The Narrative Writing Marking Guide (PDF 8 MB) and an example Writing stimulus (PDF 981 KB) are available for download. Note: the Narrative writing marking guide for 2010 remains current.



Conventions of language

The conventions of language tests assess spelling, grammar and punctuation. Literacy knowledge and skills are essential to effective communication across all learning areas. However, the tools of language, including the conventions of language, are explicitly developed in the English learning area. Therefore, the content assessed in the conventions of language tests is aligned to the Australian Curriculum: English.

The conventions of language tests focus on the use and knowledge of written standard Australian English. These skills are essential to the development of reading and writing. The content of the tests complements the writing tests where spelling, grammar and punctuation are explicitly assessed in context. However, students’ understanding of the conventions of language is also necessary for reading. The tests contain multiple-choice, text entry and technology-enhanced questions such as drag-and-drop and hot-text. The Public demonstration site has a range of item types along with accessibility features for students with disability




The NAPLAN numeracy tests measure the achievement of students in numeracy, including mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding as outlined in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. The numeracy tests assess the proficiency strands of understanding, fluency, problem-solving and reasoning across the 3 content strands of mathematics: number and algebra, measurement and geometry, and statistics and probability.

The numeracy tests contain multiple-choice, text entry and technology-enhanced questions such as drag-and-drop and hot-text. The Public demonstration site shows the type of items that may appear in the numeracy test as well as the accessibility features regularly accessed by students.

Year 7 and Year 9 tests

Year 7 and 9 numeracy tests have 2 sections. There is a short non-calculator section, in which students are required to demonstrate arithmetical calculation skills. For the remainder of the test, calculators are permitted, even if they are not necessary to answer the questions.



Past NAPLAN test papers

Find past NAPLAN test papers and answers on the ACARA website.