Test development

The development of NAPLAN and NAP sample assessment tests (PDF icon139 kb) 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.

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

The development of NAP sample tests has also been guided by the national statements of learning in science (PDF icon 951 kb), information and communication technologies (PDF icon 371 kb) and civics and citizenship (PDF icon 872 kb).

Once the Australian Curriculum associated with the NAP sample tests is implemented in all states and territories, test requirements for each of these assessments will be adjusted as necessary to reflect and measure essential elements of the new curriculum.

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.

    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
      Test developers are engaged to develop questions that meet the endorsed test specifications. ACARA contracts out this part of the process to organisations that successfully demonstrate exceptional experience and competence in the area of test development. Read the Guidelines for the development of accessible NAPLAN online items (PDF 2 MB).

    3. Review of test items
      Test managers 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 Expert Advisory Panel, made up of measurement and assessment experts, meets regularly to provide advice throughout the test development and reporting process, to ensure that NAPLAN tests meet the necessary technical specifications.  

    6. Testing
      NAPLAN is held in May - with a three day testing window for paper assessments and a longer testing window for NAPLAN Online. Unlike NAPLAN, NAP sample assessments are not held on the same fixed dates in all schools, and generally occur in October/November of each year.       

    7. Equating program
      A process of equating is carried out to enable the results from NAPLAN assessments in different years to be reported on the same assessment scale (see also Test results). A second national sample of students participates in this additional ‘equating’ testing program, which is usually carried out before the main assessments so the results can be linked.

    8. Analysis
      Once the assessments are marked, the results are analysed and scaled onto the NAPLAN assessment 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

      • summary and national reports showing performance across the nation are published

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


    For more information on how test results are reported, see Test results.


    Last updated: 5 November 2018