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 (PDF icon 753 kb) and
Statements of learning for mathematics (PDF icon1 mb). 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 952 kb), ICT (PDF icon 372 kb) and civics and citizenship (PDF icon 873 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 tests in the National Assessment Program takes about 18 months to complete. This process involves a specific set of steps designed to ensure that the tests 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.

    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 from each state and territory participate in the trialling of potential test questions. The data from these trials are analysed and then questions that meet the test specifications are selected to construct each test. 

    5. Expert advice
      ACARA’s Expert Advisory Panel, made up of five measurement and assessment experts, also reviews the tests and trial data and provides advice before they are finalised.

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

    7. Testing
      NAPLAN tests are held over three days in May every year. 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.

    8. Analysis
      Once the tests are marked, the results are analysed in a number of ways by experts in the area of educational measurement.

    9. Reporting
      Results from the National Assessment Program tests 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 are shown on the My School website (NAPLAN only).


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