Worried about how you or your child will perform in NAPLAN?

NAPLAN (standing for National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) consists of THREE exams:

1. Reading and Writing

2. Language Conventions

3. Numeracy

Previously, Year 9 students were required to reach the minimum standard of a Band 8 in their NAPLAN exams order to qualify for their HSC. If they didn’t reach it right away, they had six more attempts to do so through an online test.

However, Education Minister Rob Stokes announced in February 2018 that rather than tying NAPLAN to the HSC, amidst fears of “unnecessary pressure”, students are instead required to sit a separate online test to demonstrate they are able to meet the minimum standard required to obtain the HSC.

Regardless, that doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off. NAPLAN is still an important check-up, testing some pretty important skills for Year 10, 11 and 12.

This article is the second in a series of three articles breaking down each of the three literacy-based sections of NAPLAN – Reading, Writing and Language Conventions.

But, first – check out our article on Year 9 NAPLAN Reading here and Year 9 NAPLAN Language Conventions here!

Year 9 NAPLAN Writing: What to Expect

The Reading and Writing exam is the FIRST test you will sit. It consists of two sections: Reading and Writing (surprise, surprise).

In the Writing section, you will be given a stimulus and a question. Based on the stimulus, you will then be asked to write either an informative, narrative or persuasive piece of writing.

So far, NAPLAN has only ever assessed narrative and persuasive writing however this doesn’t mean you can rule out informative writing just yet – there’s no reason why they can’t assess it in the future.

What will I be asked to write?

You will be asked to write either an informative, narrative or persuasive piece of writing.

Informative A piece of writing designed to inform readers about a particular topic.

The most common text types here include information reports, accounts and explanations.

Narrative A short story, typically consisting of an orientation, complication and resolution.

It is crucial that your story contains all three of these sections in order to meet the criteria however they don’t necessarily have to be chronological. You may choose to take a different form such as a parallel plot, elliptical plot or flashback… but more on these later!

Persuasive A piece of writing designed to persuade or convince readers of a particular point of view.

The most common text types here include articles, essays or letters.

What are the markers looking for?

NAP have published marking criteria for both Narrative and Persuasive writing, accessible here. I’d suggest having a read through them as they tell you exactly what the markers want to see in a top band response.

However, I’ll make your job slightly easier and break a few of the key criteria down for you.


Both Narrative and Persuasive writing list audience as their first criterion.

You will be marked on your ability to orient, engage and affect the reader.

You should know your audience well; it may be much more specific for Persuasive writing than Narrative. Use this knowledge to guide your written response – consider the point of view you might take and the type of language you will use in order to best connect with and engage your reader.

In Narrative writing, you can engage the reader through an exciting and vivid opening, giving a clear sense of setting, initial characterisation and the direction of the plot. You may also wish to use descriptive and evocative language devices such as imagery, metaphors, similes, personification and onomatopoeia to engage the reader’s senses – try to bring your words to life!

For an awesome glossary of language devices, click here.

Text Structure

The second criterion for both Narrative and Persuasive writing is text structure.

Here, you will be assessed on how well you follow a correct and effective structure for your piece of writing.

Narrative structure

In a narrative, you must include an orientation, complication and resolution.

However, these don’t necessarily need to appear in chronological order. In fact, mixing up the structure of your story can help your response to stand out to the markers, which is never a bad thing!

If you are going to use a non-chronological plot however, it’s important to know what you’re doing. You don’t want your story to seem confusing or disjointed!

How can I structure my story?

  • Linear structure – Chronological telling of the story. This is a typical orientation-complication-resolution story structure.
  • Circular or elliptical – Starts and ends in the same place but the ending suggests that there is an epiphany or realisation. The start and ending deliberately parallel each other.
  • Flashback – Moves between the present and the past.
  • Parallel – Two story threads running at the same time but from different perspectives. The stories usually merge at the end to create unity.
  • ‘In media res’ – Beginning the story from the complication as a brief glimpse of the future. The rest of the story is then told as a flashback, retelling events leading up to the complication. When you reach the complication, you then repeat your opening paragraph – then continue on to the resolution and conclude the story.

Any other tips?

Foreshadowing is always a great way to hint at what is to come! Try and include some if you can but remember the key word of hint. Don’t spoil it for your reader!

You could end with an important message or a twist HOWEVER please don’t make it cheesy or mushy.

Stay far, far away from endings such as “I woke up and it was all a dream…” or “To be continued…”. Seriously. Don’t go there.

Persuasive structure

Persuasive writing more or less follows the same structure as an essay.

You will need three main sections – Introduction, Body and Conclusion.

What goes into each of these sections?

Introduction (1 paragraph) The purpose here is to introduce the reader to your main argument. A good (read: Band 8-worthy) introduction consists of:

1. Thesis statement: clear statement of your position on the topic. What is your line of argument?

2. Introduce your supporting ideas: give a short preview of the arguments to follow in your body paragraphs. Summarise them in a few sentences, ideally no more than 4.

Your introduction should also capture the interest and attention of your reader!

Body (2-3 paragraphs)


The purpose here is to convince the reader to agree with your argument.

The body consists of 2-3 paragraphs presenting supporting ideas in a logical order.

Follow the PEEL structure (or whatever other acronym your school uses) for maximum marks!

Conclusion (1 paragraph)


The purpose here is to conclude the argument and reinforce your position.

A good conclusion consists of a summary of your arguments and a restatement of your position.

Developing Key Ideas

To meet this criterion at the Year 9 NAPLAN Band 8 level (or above), you will need to be judicious in developing the key ideas of your written response.

Ideas in a narrative

In a narrative response, you will primarily be judged on the maturity of your ideas. A theme or overarching message is always a good way to go about this, and you can develop it through extended metaphors or motifs.

You will also be judged on how authentic your response is – in other words, how well you can keep it real! It’s always a good idea to write what you know – think about your own life experiences, interests and passions in shaping your story.

This next point should go without saying but I’ll mention it anyway – PLEASE do not write about anything inappropriate or offensive. Topics such as alcohol, drugs, anything violent or anything sexual are not going to sit well with the markers. As a rule of thumb, keep it G-rated.


The narrative should be underpinned by strong characterisation and an establishment of setting. As you only have a short amount of time, it is easier to focus on one character rather than a whole gaggle of them.

Again, write from what you know! Think about yourself or people you have met – use them as inspiration! Perhaps give them pseudonyms though to avoid any awkwardness.

Think carefully about how you’re going to use characterisation. You might develop a character’s identity quite explicitly through stream of consciousness, as a way of directly revealing their inner thoughts. Alternatively, you may choose to characterise by following the age-old advice of English teachers everywhere, to “show, don’t tell”. Reveal character implicitly, through symbolic actions or incidents, or pathetic fallacy.


Within your narrative, you should try to establish a vivid setting – that is, one that comes to life on the page. You want the reader to easily be able to imagine themselves in the world you have created.

How to do this? Figurative language devices can be your best friend here. Think imagery, personification, metaphor… And try to engage more senses than simply the visual! Might there be a particular sound or even smell you wish to describe? Think outside the box.

Try to maintain a balance in the amount of description included in your story. While description can be crucial, at the end of the day you do have a plot to follow. Try to embed description into your narration of the plot, rather than dedicating whole paragraphs to describing the appearance of the character’s front garden, for example.

Ideas in persuasive writing

When writing persuasively, you will be judged on your ability to select and elaborate upon relevant ideas in order to build a persuasive argument.

To argue an irrelevant point, both to the question and to your perspective, is a waste of time for everyone.

How can I make sure my ideas stay relevant?

Make sure you fully understand the wording of the question and what it is asking you to do. Read it over and over again. Underline key words. Rephrase the question into your own words if need be.

As you write, have the question beside you on some spare paper. Regularly remind yourself of the question as you continue writing your response. If you have time, you may even wish to draw up a quick dot-point plan for your persuasive writing piece.

How many ideas should I include?

You can maximise your marks by including a range of perspectives covering different sides of the stated issue.

However, being able to identify multiple perspectives within the same issue is no easy feat! Build your skills by regularly keeping up to date with current affairs and debates in the news.

Similarly, practice writing responses to a range of different questions. Once you have written a response covering one point of view, rewrite the same response but this time, forcing yourself to take the side you initially disagreed with.

How should I be using language?


In both Narrative and Persuasive writing, you will be assessed on your ability to select effective, contextually appropriate words with precision.

In a Narrative task, markers will also be looking for a range of language devices, particularly those that are figurative (non-literal). You will also be judged on how well you can match your word choice with your chosen genre.

For a list of language devices, click here.

In a Persuasive task, you may wish to enhance your writing through modal verbs and adjectives, persuasive devices or technical words where appropriate.

For a list of persuasive devices, click here.

How can I build my vocabulary?

READ! One of the best and most enjoyable ways to build your vocabulary is simply by increasing the amount that you read each day. Try and aim for at least 10 minutes of silent reading time per day.

As you read, keep a list of your favourite words and descriptions that you encounter.

You can also create a glossary of adjectives to describe different moods and feelings.

If you’re truly stuck, the Thesaurus is a favourite of many for finding synonyms.


It’s super important to ensure your ideas and sections are linked together. Try to maintain continuity between each part of your writing, showing the marker that you are able to control multiple threads and relationships across the whole piece.

Everything needs to fit together!


While cohesion is important, it’s also important to be able to separate your ideas into paragraphs, ironically enough.

In a narrative, start a new paragraph when:

  • The setting changes
  • The time sequence changes
  • You introduce a new idea
  • You introduce a new character
  • You introduce a new event
  • A new person speaks
  • You want dramatic effect

In persuasive writing, start a new paragraph when you move into a new section (Introduction paragraph, each separate body paragraph and a conclusion paragraph).

Spelling and grammar

It goes without saying that to achieve a Band 8 or above in writing, you need to ensure your spelling and grammar are spotless (or close to being so).

All sentences should be correctly structured, with a variety of sentences being used – e.g. simple, compound and truncated.

Punctuation should also be used accurately.

How do I punctuate properly?

  • Capital letters at the start of a sentence
  • Full stops at the end of sentences
  • Question marks at the end of a question
  • Exclamation marks at the end of exclamations
  • Commas when listing or introducing a new clause in the sentence
  • Colon to precede a list

And finally, we reach spelling. Markers will be paying close attention to the accuracy of spelling and the difficulty of spelling the words you have used.

Spelling is an area students often struggle with. To improve your spelling in time for NAPLAN, try and add at least one of the following to your normal routine:

  • Explicitly studying spelling rules and patterns (for example, I before E except after C).
  • Developing a list of words you know you struggle with, and revising it regularly.
  • Regularly testing your spelling at home – a great way to do this is through flashcards – if you can’t be bothered to make real ones, Quizlet is a great resource.
  • Revisiting primary school with the good old Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check routine.

What next?

From here, jump online and access some practice Year 9 NAPLAN papers (you can find them here).

Try to complete these papers under the recommended time limits. If possible, get feedback from a teacher or tutor. Then, complete more papers until you are able to improve your initial score.

So there you have it! After reading this article, you should be feeling more confident than ever about hitting a Band 8 for Year 9 NAPLAN reading! You can do it!

Are you looking for some extra help with Year 9 NAPLAN in 2018?

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