Overview of national and international assessments

Assessments completed by schools to highlight student achievement in literacy and numeracy or key learning areas. They inform future state and national education initiatives.

National assessments

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is the independent authority responsible for the overall management of the National Assessment Program (NAP), and assessments such as NAPLAN and the NAP sample assessments (excluding international assessments).


The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual online tailored testing assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

It is made up of tests in 4 domains:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Conventions of language (spelling, grammar and punctuation)
  • Numeracy.

Results identify how students are progressing in literacy and numeracy over time – individually, as part of their school community, and against national standards. Individual reports are provided for students and parents/carers, with an additional Student and School Summary Report (SSSR) for schools.

For more information, visit NAPLAN and NAPLAN (NESA).

NAP sample assessments

Selected groups of students in Years 6 and 10 participate in the sample assessments, held every 3 years.

The 3 sample assessments are:

  • Science literacy (NAP-SL)
  • Civics and citizenship (NAP-CC)
  • Information and communication technology literacy (NAP-ICTL).

The national reports and data from the assessments provide a comparison of results for each jurisdiction, and a breakdown of the national, to show how students in different demographic groups are achieving.

For more information, visit NAP sample assessments and National Assessment Program – sample assessments.

International assessments

The National Assessment Program (NAP), in addition to the NAP sample assessments, also includes the delivery of international sample assessments such as PIRLS, PISA and TIMSS (overseen by international organisations).


The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is conducted every 5 years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

The study is administered to a sample of Year 4 students and contains:

  • a reading assessment for students
  • questionnaires for school, teacher, student and home.

The findings highlight trends and international comparisons of students’ reading achievement and competencies in relation to goals and standards for reading education.

For more information, visit PIRLS and National Assessment Program – Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.


The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test is conducted every 3 years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is administered to a sample of 15-year-old students.

The test:

  • assesses students’ ability to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned at school to real-life problems and situations
  • has an accompanying background contextual survey.

The results provide key insight into the performance of education systems in key learning areas and in 21st-century skills.

For more information, visit PISA and National Assessment Program – Programme for International Student Assessment.


The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is run every 4 years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

The study is administered to a sample of Year 4 and Year 8 students, and contains:

  • a student test on both mathematics and science
  • a student background and experience questionnaire
  • detailed questionnaires for principals, and mathematics and science teachers.

The findings provide comparative insight into Australia’s education system in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

For more information, visit TIMSS and National Assessment Program: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

Assessment dates

For information on when the assessments are completed, visit Assessment dates.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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