Five tips to pass the NAPLAN writing test

1. Think and plan your NAPLAN writing test before you write.

Boring – yes but completely necessary. Never forget that writing is a mixture of style and structure.

It’s actually quite hard to write a creative writing piece or a persuasive text, so take the time to think about what you are going to write.

2. Don’t start writing until you know how you are going to begin and end your piece.

Remember: With Creative Writing – Keep the reader guessing, create tension and a complication, hold information back. The character must want something and something else gets in the way. We have really helpful Creative Writing scaffolds in our book.

With a persuasive text you must also make sure that you follow a structure that makes sure you have the biggest impact. Make a claim, explain your arguments and draw on evidence. Refute opposing arguments and then end with an explosive statement. Simple? Well start practising – again we have really helpful scaffolds in our Persuasive Writing book.


3. Start and end your NAPLAN writing test with a bang!

Leap into your story or your persuasive piece from the first sentence. Grab the attention of the reader from the get go. Start in the middle of the action – don’t delay or dawdle. Get the story moving.  Start your creative writing piece with dialogue to get the story moving, “Brian, get out of the fire!” Start your persuasive with a bold claim – Plastic is not fantastic!

4. Focus on VCPs in your NAPLAN writing test.

Vocab. Connectives. Punctuation. All very, very, very, important because these mechanical parts of language create a cohesive piece of writing and help a reader understand.

So a few pointers here – the more sophisticated language you use, the higher mark you will score. So learn a few challenging words like litigious, longevity or luminescent. If you search for challenging words for NAPLAN you will find lists of words.

Connectives are important words such as because – when you write a sentence with because it immediately becomes more complex because you have to explain. Other connectives such as although and however also indicate complex ideas and others such as in addition indicate an ongoing argument to the reader.

Punctuation is also vital – use it! Not just faithful old full stops and commas. All the family – the speech marks, colons and ellipses – each one creates rhythm and music in your writing.

Our books Creative Writing and Persuasive Writing, explain all you need to know about VCPs and paragraphing…

5. Show don’t tell in your NAPLAN writing test – in all your writing.

Teachers always go on about this because it really is one of the foundation skills of good writing. It takes a while to develop this ability and when you do – your writing will lift up from the page and leap into the mind of the reader.

There are a few aspects of showing not telling.

It is always much better to show feelings rather than tell. If your character is angry, don’t say – he was angry – say  – he kicked the rubbish bin.

Don’t say – she was beautiful – try and really explain what beauty is – so the reader can understand. Ban all the following words – beautiful, gorgeous, great, fantastic, so cool, random. Work harder and use words to explain what it is you can see that is so enchanting.

The other part of showing not telling is a little harder but if you can pull it off – it really works well. If you want to argue that dogs are better than cats, for example, show the reader. Create a scene of an enthusiastic happy dog or a demure, soft puppy and contrast that with a scene of a feral cat. See how persuasive you can be.

Our books Creative Writing and Persuasive Writing, of course, go through how to show in detail.


As you can see, writing is actually very hard and takes a long time to master. It is something you can always improve on. There is lots of help out there on the internet and of course, we can help too.

Buy our books!

How to become a successful speller

One of the concerns raised in having a nationally standardised test is that it can create anxiety for young people who struggle with literacy.  The problem, however, is that many children slip through the cracks and their difficulties with spelling are not picked up and assisted. NAPLAN can, in fact, identify students who struggle with spelling and hopefully lead schools to develop programs and activities to assist learning.

Isn’t that a good thing?

For the teenagers we work with for whom spelling is somewhat of a challenge – these pointers developed by Philomena Ott are very helpful.


C       Capitals

Check you have capitalised the first letter of a sentence and all proper nouns.

O      Omission

Read through your work and check you haven’t forgotten a word. Add the correct word.

P      Punctuation

Check you have added a full stop at the end of a sentence and that you have inserted quotation marks.

S       Spelling

Check your spelling.


Some common features of dyslexic writers

1. Omission: Omit a single letter

occuring for occurring

2. Insertion: Insert a single letter

off for of

3. Substitution: Replace a single letter with another single letter

definate for definite

4. Transposition: Misorder two adjacent letters

lable for label

A single letter is misplaced by more than one position in a word

litgh for light

5. Grapheme substitution: A plausible but incorrect choice of

their for there

thort for thought

5. Wrong use of a split vowel digraph

gole for goal

If you know a young person who makes these kinds of choices – he or she can be helped.

Please see: Information from ACARA on the adjustments available to young people with disabilities.


Information from ACARA on the adjustments available to young people with disabilities.

Support NAPLAN

Information from the Victorian Education Department on dyslexia

Learning Difficulties and Dyslexia

Information from the Yale Centre for Creativity and Dyslexia

Yale Centre for Creativity and Dyslexia

Make words work hard

Be specific, definite and concrete.

In both narrative and persuasive writing, you have to use words to create a visual feast of sights and sounds for the reader to fall into. Being specific creates engaging pictures in the mind of a reader.

Don’t say                     Say

Food                                 Seared steak and crunchy hot chips

The floods                       Mothers waded through the chest-high water

Drink                                Manhattan, Whisky sour

Dog                                   Cavoodle, Golden retriever

Flower                              Daffodil

Cat                                    Persian Blue

Painting                           Banksy’s Slave Labour


Which words create the better picture?

Go and have a look too – at a new section on our website  – some excellent tools for high school and university students.


Well – for someone that really likes everyone to just get on – wading into the NAPLAN debate can be quite scary. Clearly, I don’t want any child to be anxious about sitting a test and I don’t want teachers to feel that they have to only teach grammar and sentence structure in English lessons so their students pass NAPLAN.

However, we do seem to have something of a national problem. Mastering writing continues to be a challenge around Australia. I looked at the statistics myself today on ACARA’s website and they made interesting (and depressing) reading.

The year nine results across the country reveal that more or less only 40% of students met the Band 8 standard or above for writing. In the Northern Territory – it was 20%. This year – young people around Australia had to write a persuasive text of around about 500 words on the topic ‘Don’t waste it!’ and the visual prompts included water, food and time.

Now of course, writing is a difficult to master. It will take some children far longer than others. Children with learning difficulties may find it too big a mountain to climb by year 9. And yes, some young people resist, fall asleep in the test, don’t try and so on – so the figures may not be accurate. I realise school is for learning and it is a journey. A long journey. A lifelong journey.

But. We’ve got to try haven’t we? We’ve got to aim high, haven’t we?

Only 40% of students managed to score over and above 32 marks out of a possible 48 marks writing about whether or not time is precious or food should not be wasted.

Isn’t this something we should be concerned about?

A wonderful response

Thank you people of Australia and the world.

You have embraced our first book and we are so excited.

We have received some ringing endorsements from wonderful teachers and every teacher, librarian and parent we show the book to, says the same thing – ‘Yes please!’.

From Lara Bird – a wonderful teacher – Mandy Newman thank you for writing this book. Great layout and content for both student and teacher. A wonderful resource for planning creative writing lessons. A book to support students in developing skills when learning to write creatively. Thank you

And from Judy Reed – another inspirational teacher – this lovely testimonial accompanies the sale of the book at the Pymble newsagency.

Thanks so much for your support – it’s so satisfying to have created a product that people so obviously wanted. More to come…

What a great first day!

Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm for our first book. We’re thrilled with the wonderful, warm response we have received in the first 24 hours.

A couple of questions have come up that we would like to answer.

Is the book applicable to adult writers? 

Absolutely. The principles of good writing are the same whether you are 14 or 41. This book refers to a national test that all Australian students have to undertake but all writers need to learn how to emotionally engage an audience and to consider how they structure a story to keep the reader’s interest. All of these ideas are covered in the book.

Do you ship to the United States? 

Why yes we do – if you are from any country other than Australia and the USA – please let us know and we will provide you with shipping charges. We are working on this section of our website.

Have you heard of ? 

We had not until today and it’s a wonderful UK site that really encourages fantastic creative writing practice. Go have a look  – It’s fab!




Stories are everywhere

A mark of a good storyteller is boundless curiosity. Storytellers are not interested in one explanation  – but many. Stories are everywhere, lying around waiting to be captured, remade and retold. Listening to the radio – to talkback and interviewers such as Richard Fidler are great sources for wonderful tales of different kinds of human experience which can be caught and transformed into a tale to be retold at school.


Fear alleviated…

So the universities have responded…

Hey story tellers! We are all story tellers

We are all story tellers but once we have to write a story down our minds go to mush and it gets too complicated.

We tell each other stories every day. We don’t dawdle and delay getting to the action – we say – hey guess what – my friend almost got eaten by a shark. We cut to the chase. That’s what we have to do with writing as well. Cut to the action. Fast.