NAPLAN Testing Results

How to interpret NAPLAN 2011 Test Results

If you are used to the traditional A, B, C, D and E grading, you can interpret the bands similarly. In the most simplified comparison, Outstanding = A, High = B, Sound = C, Basic = D, Minimum = E and Below = F. Remembering a grade of D, E and F are traditionally all grades scoring less than 50% and therefore considered as a FAIL. 

You need to know how the exams are established before you can interpret the testing results fully.

All students sat identical exams for their year level, with some identical questions overlapping each levelled exam.  For example, the Year 5 Numeracy Test had some identical, easier problems from the Year 3 Numeracy Test, and some more difficult ones form the Year 7 Numeracy Test. This is necessary in order to gain an extended range of abilities, both below the year level and above. This extended range is essential for identifying students failing within their level or working beyond it. To be able to report these more extreme achievement levels, NAPLAN results are represented in a graph and show a spectrum of possible testing results. 

The most accurately reported comparative testing results are in the NAPLAN Writing Test. For the Naplan Writing Test, every child had the identical test paper and their writing was marked using the one official marking criteria. That means, exam papers came in on-line, without any indication of whether they were in Year 3 or Year 9. Using the marking criteria, markers determined how well each writing test demonstrated ability to: spell, punctuate, write sentences, and use the correct structure, level of ideas, …. It is quite common, but very tragic, for a Year 9 student to spell at a Year 5 level. Parents and schools need to know how to read the NAPLAN testing results accurately enough to be able to identify these. Students underperforming need remediation and students excelling need extension otherwise there is a significant risk of student disengagement with their learning and ultimate failure for both – boredom and quitting because it is too hard. 
There are two important elements used to report the results for NAPLAN Assessments tests:  the scale and the performance standard.


An assessment scale is used to measure and compare each individual student’s NAPLAN results against all other Australian student in that year level (Year 3, Year 5, Year 7 and Year 9). The scale maps the range of results achieved by students at that level against an assessment scale in each of the areas tested.  The scales span all the year levels from Year 3 to Year 9, and are divided into 10 bands.  Not all bands are reported for each year level. This is because some bands are well beyond the abilities of that year level, or they are well below the levels of achievement for that year level. If your results fall at the base or tip of the scale, you are working below or beyond what is expected. 


For NAPLAN results, a ‘National Minimum Standard’ is defined and located on the assessment scale for each year level. Band 2 is the minimum standard for Year 3, band 4 is the minimum standard for Year 5, band 5 is the minimum standard for Year 7 and band 6 is the minimum standard for Year 9. These standards represent increasingly challenging skills and require increasingly higher scores on the NAPLAN scale.

Please understand that achieving within the bottom band of the National Minimum Standard is not a very good result. Whilst it is within the ‘range’ of acceptable achievement, it does indicate that the results are at the ‘bottom of the class’. It is best to read the percentages of students within that band, compare it to the percentage of students above that result, and the small percentage performing below that result. You may find the result is in the bottom 15 out of every 100 students in Australia or worse. 
If there are no intellectual difficulties associated to this result, you may like to seriously consider supporting your child with additional help. 
  • View a video (1 min 45 s) that provides an overview of the NAPLAN common assessment scale.