Australian Curriculum

NAPLAN aligned with the Australian Curriculum

Since 2016, NAPLAN testing has been aligned to the Australian Curriculum: English and the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. The Australian Curriculum for English and Mathematics incorporates the essential learnings described in the Statements of learning for English and mathematics, on which NAPLAN tests were based prior to 2016. It provides the common curriculum for teaching and learning in English and mathematics for all Australian students.

The NAPLAN assessment framework has been developed to align the test questions and test constructs to the Australian Curriculum for NAPLAN tests from 2016, and to reflect the dual delivery mode of NAPLAN, online and paper, from 2017. It describes the purpose and principals that guide the development of NAPLAN, and also gives an overview of what NAPLAN assesses and how the tests are designed. 

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is committed to the continual improvement of the NAPLAN tests. The NAPLAN assessment framework will be revised as information from current and future research studies becomes available and as any revisions to the Australian Curriculum are made.

The best preparation for NAPLAN is to continue focusing on teaching the curriculum.

Across the language conventions, numeracy and reading tests

Items in the tests are based primarily on knowledge, understanding and skills gained from the prior year. As in all previous NAPLAN tests, a small percentage of additional content from the year of testing and the following year of testing is included. This is to ensure the range of items in the test allows all students to demonstrate their capability.

The wording of the item descriptors (these describe the skills and knowledge tested in NAPLAN) that schools receive with their students’ results is directly linked to content descriptions in the Australian Curriculum: English and the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.

Language conventions tests

In the NAPLAN language conventions tests, the way information is presented to students reflects how it is presented in the Australian Curriculum. This means slightly more metalanguage is included in questions than before the alignment to the Australian Curriculum.

For example, in the past, when the NAPLAN test for Years 3 and 5 used words such as ‘noun’, ‘verb’ and ‘adjective’, there was an explanation of the word in brackets; that is, ‘noun’ was followed by ‘naming word’. From now on, the words ‘noun’, ‘verb’ and ‘adjective’ will appear in the NAPLAN test with no explaining words.

Numeracy tests  

In the NAPLAN numeracy tests, the proportion of questions from each strand match the proportion of the strand content in the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. There are slightly fewer ‘space questions’ (for example, features of 2D shapes and 3D objects) and more number, statistics and probability questions than in tests prior to 2016. The space items are now known as ‘geometry items’.

From 2017, the number of numeracy items will change to be consistent with the expectations of the Australian Curriculum and other NAPLAN domains. The number of items in the Year 3 test will increase from 35 to 36 questions. The number of items in the Year 5 test will increase from 40 to 42 questions.

For Year 7 and Year 9, the number of items in the numeracy test will reduce from 64 questions to 48 questions. ACARA studies indicate this change will not unduly affect the reliability and validity of the numeracy test. Year 7 and Year 9 students will sit one numeracy test with two parts: Part A (where a calculator is allowed) and Part B (where students are not permitted to use a calculator). While the non-calculator section of the test will be shorter, the number of questions across the entire test that require mental calculation remains the same.

Reading tests

The NAPLAN reading tests focus on the reading content of the Australian Curriculum: English, with the range of text complexity similar to pre-2016 NAPLAN texts.

Writing tests

There are no substantive changes to the NAPLAN writing tests or the marking guides. As in past years, students will be asked to write a narrative or persuasive response to a writing prompt. 

There is one writing prompt for Years 3 and 5, and one writing prompt for Years 7 and 9; the genre of the writing test will not be disclosed prior to the test. Students’ responses will be marked using the existing marking guides.


This information now updates that provided to teachers before the 2016 NAPLAN tests, in the letter below:

Letter to teachers regarding NAPLAN 2016 alignment with Australian Curriculum