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NAPLAN and Changes to the HSC

As of 2017, Year 9 students will be able to meet the higher HSC standards by achieving Band 8 in NAPLAN in reading, writing and numeracy.

In July 2016, the NSW State Government unveiled major changes to the HSC, where school leavers would need to achieve a set pass mark in numeracy and literacy before being able to successfully graduate high school. The changes have been developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).

They will come into effect for the 2020 HSC, and the first group to be affected will be 2017 Year 9 students, when they sit the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests.


While the NAPLAN test has traditionally been conducted on paper, the current plan is for all schools to transition to NAPLAN Online by 2021.

One of the main benefits of NAPLAN Online is "adaptive testing", in which the test presents questions of higher or lower difficulty depending on a student's performance in the test. Adaptive testing is designed to be able to assess a wider range of student abilities and to measure student levels more precisely.

A student should not be concerned if they find test questions more challenging than usual, as this may simply be due to the fact that they are taking a more complex test pathway. The difficulty levels of questions answered correctly by a student are also taken into account when determining their final test score.

What are the major changes?

The Government's changes are aimed at requiring Year 12 students to demonstrate they meet minimum standards of numeracy and literacy before they can receive the HSC.

Students will first be able to meet the new standards when they are in Year 9. Those who achieve at least a Band 8 in each of the Year 9 NAPLAN reading, writing and numeracy tests will automatically be eligible for the HSC.

Students who fail to achieve Band 8, however, will have the opportunity to pass a literacy and numeracy test in Year 10, 11, or 12 to meet the requirements.

Online NAPLAN testing began trialing in some schools in 2018, and the aim is to have all schools transition from paper to online testing by 2021.

What happens if I can't meet the new standards?

Mathematics will not be compulsory for the HSC. Students who do not meet the literacy and numeracy standards by the end of Year 10, however, will need to complete further work in Years 11 and 12, until they pass the online literacy and numeracy tests.

This will involve prescribed short literacy and/or numeracy courses, additional topics, or additional tutoring.

Those students who complete Year 12 but have still not passed the test for the minimum standards will not receive the HSC. Instead, they will be awarded the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) and will then have five years after leaving school to pass an online literacy and numeracy test to receive their HSC.

How can I prepare for the NAPLAN?

The NAPLAN is not a test that requires excessive preparation, beyond studying the relevant material already included in the Australian high-school curriculum. There is some value, however, to students familiarising themselves with the NAPLAN test process and content.

To ensure that you will be prepared for the new HSC standards, contact us.

We will see to it that your literacy and numeracy skills are brought up to the required levels, as well as boosting your confidence and familiarity with NAPLAN exams through practice with past exam papers.

What other changes are occurring to the HSC?

Reforms to the HSC will come into effect from 2017 to 2020. In addition to the higher literacy and numeracy standards already discussed, other changes include:

  • New Year 11 and 12 syllabuses in English, Mathematics, Science and History.
  • New courses, starting with a Science Extension course for Year 12 from 2019.
  • Rigorous guidelines for effective school-based assessment that focuses on the application of knowledge and skills, and reduces student stress by capping the number of tasks.
  • Redesign of the HSC exam questions to assess depth of knowledge and application of skills.
  • A common scale for Mathematics, to encourage students to study the Mathematics course best suited to their level of ability.
  • A regular review cycle of syllabuses provided online. Syllabuses will provide more opportunities for students to master knowledge and skills.
Timeline for changes to the HSC

More information and help

For more information about the NAPLAN and changes to the HSC standards from NESA, click here.

Visit the ACARA NAPLAN Website

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