In May of every year, students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 take part in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). NAPLAN was first introduced in 2008 and has become a routine part of the school calendar in Australia.
NAPLAN, which is a part of the National Assessment Program (NAP), is how governments, education authorities and schools can determine whether young Australians are reaching important educational goals.
NAPLAN will move online from 2017, over a three-year period. During this time, some schools conduct the test online, and some use pen and paper.
States and territories determine when their schools commence NAPLAN Online.
Moving NAPLAN online brings many new opportunities for students and teachers that are limited or not possible with paper-based tests.
The benefits of online assessments
Some of the main benefits of students taking part in NAPLAN Online include:
- Better assessment – and more precise results. NAPLAN Online uses a tailored test or adaptive design, where the test automatically adapts to a student's performance and asks questions that match the student achievement level, allowing the student to demonstrate their knowledge. This provides teachers and schools with more targeted and detailed information on students’ performance on the tests. Tailored testing also provides an opportunity to broaden the scope of the assessments.
- Faster turnaround of results. Delivery of assessments online significantly reduces the time it takes to provide feedback to schools, students and parents, so teachers can respond more quickly to learning needs.
- More engaging. ACARA research into online assessment has shown that students have engaged well with electronic tests.
As technology develops, ACARA aims to further refine the delivery of the tests to best use the available technology to provide increasingly sophisticated assessments and valuable feedback to teachers, parents and education authorities.
NAPLAN Online: key messages
- NAPLAN helps parents, carers and educators to see if children are meeting important numeracy and literacy standards. It is used to support school improvement processes by enabling teachers to monitor their students’ progress over time and to identify areas of strength and development.
- NAPLAN provides parents and carers with an individual report, showing their child’s results and a national comparison of their child’s performance against other Australian students in their year level.
- NAPLAN Online will provide better assessment, more precise results and faster turnaround of information.
- NAPLAN Online will use ‘tailored testing’, which gives students questions better suited to their ability, resulting in better assessment and more precise results.
- The precision and improved timing of the results will help teachers tailor their teaching more specifically to student needs.
- An online national assessment platform has been developed by Education Services Australia with funds from the Australian Government. The platform has been used to trial online assessment in 2016 and to deliver NAP sample assessments.
- Significant planning, development, research and trialling have been ongoing since 2012 to support the move to NAPLAN Online.
- State/territory education authorities will determine the timing of their move to NAPLAN Online and lead implementation for their state/territory.
- For schools that are not able to access the internet to the required level for online testing, alternative information technology solutions will be available.
Frequently asked questions
NAPLAN Online roll-out
Devices and the assessment platform
Administering NAPLAN Online
Writing and NAPLAN Online
When will NAPLAN Online start?
Schools across Australia will start to go online starting from May 2017 on an opt-in basis over three years. State/territory education authorities are responsible for determining when their state/territory moves to NAPLAN Online.
Will all schools commence undertaking NAPLAN Online in 2017?
No, state/territory education authorities are responsible for determining when their state/territory moves to NAPLAN Online. These agencies also lead implementation in their state/territory and ensure schools are prepared and supported to move online.
What organisations are responsible for delivering NAPLAN Online?
- Education Services Australia is responsible for developing the online assessment capability and platform, using ACARA’s detailed requirement specifications.
- ACARA is responsible for the NAPLAN Online assessment and for reporting the results of these assessments.
- State and territory school authorities are responsible for ensuring their schools are ready to move online.
Can students use their own tablet or laptop to take NAPLAN Online?
NAPLAN Online supports BYOD (bring your own device) for students. BYOD devices must be secured so students do not have access to unauthorised websites, applications and spell-checking features. NAP locked-down browser applications are available to support schools in ensuring online assessments run smoothly.
Visit the BYOD section on the 'Technical requirements' page of the NAP website.
How secure will the online assessment platform be?
The NAPLAN Online assessment platform (under Education Services Australia's direction) has state-of-the-art security protections. The online platform is designed and has been extensively tested to be compliant with government and industry standards for security, interoperability, privacy and accessibility.
In preparing for NAPLAN Online, the online test environment has been used in various online assessment activities as well as the National Assessment Program: Civics and Citizenship sample assessment in 2016. These activities have allowed us to test the security of the system.
In moving to NAPLAN online, what devices are under consideration?
Visit the 'Technical requirements' page of the NAP website.
How will tailored testing work?
During the test, students are presented with sets of questions based on their performance. Many of these questions are of mid-range complexity for each year level, but some are of higher or lower complexity. For example, students who struggle with questions early in the test are directed to questions that are less complex. Students performing to a higher level in the test will have an opportunity to answer questions that are more complex.
Will students be completing the same test?
NAPLAN questions have always assessed a wide range of difficulty. What differs from student to student in the online test is targeted questions of either higher or lower complexity, depending on the student’s performance. These targeted questions are designed to provide more focused, detailed results that can be used to target teaching.
Have schools used tailored testing in the past?
Many school testing programs use a form of tailored testing; for example, the Progressive Achievement Test in Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary and Spelling, which uses adaptive testing to match questions to each student’s level of achievement.
Most recently, ACARA has trialled tailored testing in more than 250 schools across Australia, using the actual test platform and real NAPLAN items, looking at both student performance during the test and the impact on the cognitive engagement and behaviour of students. More than 2,500 students in Years 3 and 5, and 1,500 students in Years 7 and 9 participated in the trials.
ACARA’s research found that most students completed the test feeling positive and motivated to do their best and the test results were more useful in supporting the next stage of their learning.
Download the Tailored testing fact sheet (PDF 228 kb).
What is automated essay scoring?
Automated essay scoring (AES) can mark thousands of essays consistently, reliably and quickly. The system uses computer algorithms that are designed to mirror human scoring. The computer program is trained to score characteristics of writing – such as fluency, grammar, construction – in the NAPLAN marking guide.
These characteristics are taken from essays and linked with essay scores based on a sample of essays previously marked by human markers. In effect, a computer models the decisions of expert human markers.
In 2017 all online essays will be double-marked – by a computer and human marker. Any discrepancies will be resolved by another human marker.
How do we know a computer can mark as reliably as a human marker?
ACARA has undertaken research reviews and studies that shows AES achieves scores that are comparable to human markers scoring. These findings mirror numerous studies on automated essays scoring in Australia and internationally.
The AES system marks writing tests using the same NAPLAN marking criteria used by human markers. The AES system is trained using more than 1,000 NAPLAN writing tests scored by human markers. It is trained to apply the marking criteria to a broad range of narrative and persuasive writing tasks. If the AES system cannot score a piece of writing, it will ‘red flag’ it and a human marker will score the essay.
How long will it take for student reports to be received after the tests?
Through the use of automated essay scoring for the essay and real-time marking of the other content domains, NAPLAN Online results will be ready to return to teachers and parents three weeks after the end of the testing window.
Will human markers still be used in NAPLAN Online?
To provide quality assurance of automated essay scoring, ACARA will double-score a fixed percentage of student essays (using both human markers and automated essay scoring) during 2017.
For more information on AES, download the Automated essay scoring fact sheet ( 482 KB).
How can results be compared when some students are doing NAPLAN Online and others using pen and paper?
The paper-based NAPLAN and NAPLAN Online tests both assess the same skills in literacy and numeracy taught through curriculum content. Student results will continue to be measured against the one NAPLAN assessment scale, and students will answer the same number of questions that they would in a paper-based test.
If other students complete the test in a paper format, will they be disadvantaged?
No, the paper and online tests will assess the same literacy and numeracy skills, and test students on the same curriculum content.
How has ACARA developed the online test to ensure it can be compared to the paper test?
NAPLAN Online has been designed to ensure the paper and online test modes can be compared in the same year. It has also been developed to ensure NAPLAN trend data from online in 2017 can be compared to previous paper tests dating back to 2008, when NAPLAN first began.
How can I best prepare my child to complete NAPLAN in an online setting?
Ensuring students are familiar with using devices, typing on them and navigating through programs is a part of students everyday learning and a requirement of the Australian Curriculum.
You can help your child become familiar with NAPLAN Online by accessing the public demonstration site on the NAP website. The demonstration site includes useful resources for schools to help students become familiar with the online test experience.
How will several classes of students complete the test at the same time if there are not enough devices?
Schools will not require a computer for every student. The test window for NAPLAN Online has been increased to two weeks to allow increased flexibility for tests to be staggered over a longer period of time. This means all students will not need to complete the tests at the same time.
How will spelling be assessed online if students have access to spell-check?
Spelling is assessed as a part of NAPLAN Online. A general requirement of NAPLAN Online is the student’s device must be secured (using a locked-down browser) so they cannot access unauthorised websites, applications and spell-checking features.
How do I know it was my child who did the online test?
Students are supervised during the test as a requirement of NAPLAN Online to ensure test conditions are maintained.
How do I know my child is completing the correct test?
Test administrators are responsible for checking if students are working on the correct test.
What will happen if the device stops working during the test?
No student is disadvantaged if their device stops working during the test. In the event the device stops working, all responses will have been saved and the student can complete their test in a rescheduled test session.
Can students use paper to work out or plan answers?
Students can use paper to work out or plan their answers for the conventions of language, writing and numeracy tests. This paper is collected by a test administrator at the end of the test.
If a student is sick, can they complete the tests online at home?
As with the paper NAPLAN, students who are sick cannot complete NAPLAN at home. Students who are absent on the day of testing may be able to complete catch-up tests if they return to school within the NAPLAN test window.
If a student’s school is doing paper-based NAPLAN, but the student would like to do NAPLAN Online, can they go to an online school to complete the tests?
No, students must do NAPLAN tests in the mode of delivery (online or paper) offered by their school.
Do students who complete NAPLAN Online have sufficient time to complete the test?
If a student is completing NAPLAN Online, they have the same amount of time to complete the test as a student completing the paper test.
Test times for NAPLAN are available on the 'Key dates' page of the NAP website.
Will students who are home-schooled or attend distance education schools be able to participate in NAPLAN Online?
Each state/territory test administration authority will determine the appropriate arrangements for testing students who are registered as undertaking non-school based education.
For example, home-schooled students completing NAPLAN Online may attend another school (or central location) on the test days as a visiting student.
How will schools with poor internet and limited computers run NAPLAN Online?
NAPLAN Online works best when schools have suitable hardware and reliable access to the internet. To assist schools in ensuring they have a sufficient number of devices, the test window for NAPLAN Online is extended from three to nine days to allow flexibility for tests to be staggered. As such, students will not all need to complete the tests at the same time.
Students will also be allowed to complete NAPLAN Online using a variety of devices such as laptops and tablets. Visit the 'Technical requirements' page on the NAP website.
Will students with limited keyboard skills be disadvantaged in the writing test?
The writing test is not about handwriting skills and NAPLAN Online is not about keyboarding skills. There are variations in how fast and well a student can type, just as there are variations in how fast and well a student can write by hand.
ACARA research shows that online writing is similar to handwriting in terms of the quality of writing produced by students at each year level. It also shows that students generally appreciate the use of online features such as editing tools (noting that online features such as grammar and spell-check are disabled during NAPLAN testing).
Students do not have to be able to touch type to successfully complete the test. View the NAPLAN Writing test FAQ ( 210 KB).
Will Year 3 students complete online or paper-based assessments in 2017?
The Education Council, comprising state, territory and Commonwealth education ministers, has agreed that Year 3 students who transition to NAPLAN online this year will undertake online assessments for numeracy, reading and language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) but will do a paper-based NAPLAN writing test.
Year 5, 7, 9 students who transition to NAPLAN online from this year will undertake all NAPLAN content areas (including writing) online.
How will student privacy be maintained with NAPLAN Online?
Student background information (including student name, gender, date of birth, language background and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status) and test participation and performance data are collected as part of the National Assessment Program. This information is treated confidentially and held securely to ensure that every student’s right to privacy is maintained. The NAPLAN online assessment platform has been built with state-of-the-art security features that have been rigorously tested.
Will the expanded test window lead to students being able to tell other students the answers to NAPLAN questions?
NAPLAN Online will use tailored testing, which means the test automatically adapts to student performance and presents questions that match student achievement level, allowing the student to demonstrate their knowledge. This means students are likely to be working on different questions at different times and many will be sitting tests with different items.
The tailored test design will also offer many more items than are currently used for the paper NAPLAN version, providing additional security protection.
Will there be staff training for readiness testing as well as NAPLAN Online?
Education Services Australia will train key staff from states and territories on the functionality of the platform. Students and teachers can familiarise themselves with the testing experience, as well as the types of items to be included in the online tests by using the public demonstration site. Schools determine the device that students should practise on. Encourage students to practise on a device similar to the one they plan to use for the NAPLAN Online tests.
What support systems are in place for students with disabilities?
Every student with a disability has individual needs, experiences and functional abilities so there is no typical or uniform testing experience for students with a disability. Research-based adjustments are available for students with disabilities to allow them to access and participate in NAPLAN tests.
Visit the National protocols for test administration on the NAP website.
Will a downloadable NAPLAN online student report be available for parents from 2017?
In 2017, NAPLAN student reports will continue to be distributed to schools, which then distribute the reports to parents. Schools administering the test online will receive preliminary reports as early as three weeks after the end of testing. A component of the student summary reports may be provided to parents at a school’s discretion.
Last updated: 23 March 2017