Every year, our Seven Steps creator and CEO Jen McVeity sits the NAPLAN writing test – in pretty much the same conditions Australian students face. And every year she finds it hard.

As an author, it’s obviously not the actual writing that’s a challenge. In fact, Jen feels that the NAP Marking Criteria truly values great writing.

But it’s the limitations NAPLAN puts on the test taker that are the problem.

You can check out Jen’s written response to the persuasive and narrative NAP writing topics from 2016-2021, the marks she received from a trained NAPLAN marker and Jen’s debrief from her results here.

[Teacher Hub members’ exclusive]: View Jen’s results and response.

Students need time to plan – actually all writers do

Every year, Jen finds the 5-minute planning time impossible. As she says, ‘I can’t even drink a coffee in five minutes, let alone plan a powerful piece of writing.’

Portrait of CEO and Author, Jen McVeity

Students need time to brainstorm, come up with an idea that is original – not the first idea that springs to mind. Importantly, they need to plan how they will structure their writing. How will their start sizzle, how will they build tension and end with impact? Fifteen minutes should be the minimum planning time for any piece of sustained writing.

What can you do to help students make the most of their 5 minutes?
NAPLAN is only one test. Great writing needs lots of planning, so keep up your great work on Step 1: Plan for Success. Before NAPLAN next year, practise some fast brainstorming drills and teach kids how to draw the Writing Graph so they can quickly map out their ideas.

[Teacher Hub members’ exclusive insights]: Explore how much time authors truly spend planning.

Spelling, grammar, punctuation are given too much weight

The heavy weighting given to these secretarial parts of writing (11/48 marks or nearly 23%) seems unfair. The Language Conventions NAPLAN test already measures this – why double test?

Photo of students

Jen, like most students, ran out of time at the end so couldn’t review and edit her writing. That’s where her points took a hit.

What can you do to help students with this?
We think the perfect time to worry about spelling, grammar and punctuation is when you have a near-final draft. That’s when you should take some time to review your writing to Ban the Boring and clean up your mistakes.

It can be hard to allow time for this though in a test situation. Get students in the habit of doing at least one re-read of their writing – making sure to fix obvious spelling mistakes, add missing punctuation and cutting out unnecessary sentences and words.

So what did Jen score?

Check out Jen’s response to the 2018 Years 7/9 writing topic and how she was marked. Did she make Band 10?!

Be sure to share Jen’s writing with your students so they can see how even a published author can’t get a perfect score!

A simple and clear guide on how to teach writing

The path to great NAPLAN results begins now!

It’s not easy to turn an idea into a spectacular piece of writing in 40 minutes. But students are expected to do just that.

Unlock the explicit framework for breaking writing down into Seven (simple) Steps. As a result, your students build their writing skills and celebrate small successes that excite and engage them.

The final product? Students who are confident to write, and a 40-minute writing task that produces amazing results.

Learn how to break down writing and build up student confidence at a Workshop One: Seven Steps to Transform Writing or  create the perfect training and resource package for your school.

4-week teaching guide for NAPLAN

Here’s our suggestion on how to help students pull everything they have learnt together to create an entire text, on their own, in 40 minutes. Feel free to speed up or slow down this test practice process with your students based on their ability level.