National Report on Schooling in Australia 2012

Student achievement – National Assessment Program

5.2 NAP – Science Literacy

The National Sample Assessment in Science Literacy commenced in 2003, and assesses Year 6 students only. This science assessment is complemented for secondary students by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Every three years, samples of Year 6 students from across Australia are tested on their scientific literacy. This is the application of broad conceptual understandings of science to make sense of the world, understanding natural phenomena and interpreting media reports about scientific issues. The assessment also includes asking investigable questions, conducting investigations, collecting and interpreting data and making decisions.

The 2012 NAP – Science Literacy assessment was undertaken by more than 13,000 Year 6 students from government and non-government schools. This represented approximately five per cent of the total Australian Year 6 student population. The school reports for each school were released to schools in December 2012.

Proficient standard in science literacy

The national proficient standard in Science Literacy was established after the 2003 sample testing to provide a clear picture of the knowledge, skills and understanding that students are expected to demonstrate in science by the end of Year 6. This standard has informed the development of the tests for subsequent sample assessments.

Five levels of proficiency (levels 2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 4) have been defined for NAP – Science Literacy. Level descriptors are available on ACARA’s NAP website.

The national proficient standard in Science Literacy has been determined to be at Level 3.2. The proficient standard is a challenging level of performance with students needing to demonstrate more than minimal or elementary skills to be regarded as reaching it.

Year 6 students who reach the proficient standard are able to: interpret information in a contextualised report by application of relevant science knowledge; interpret data and identify patterns in – and/or relationships between – elements of the data; collate and compare data sets of collected information; and give reasons for controlling a single variable.

Key performance measures

The proportion of students achieving at or above the proficient standard (Level 3.2) in Science Literacy in Year 6 is key performance measure (KPM) 4(a) in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2012.

The proportions of Year 6 students achieving at each proficiency level are reported in Table 5.5.

Key PerformanceMeasure4(a)

Proportionofstudentsachievingatorabove the proficient standard(Level3.2)inScienceLiteracy

 Table 5.5 Proportion of students achieving at each proficiency level and at or above the proficient  standard (Level 3.2) in Science Literacy, 2012 (per cent)

Proficiency lev
Level2 orbelow
Level4 andabove


CI = Confidence Interval. Confidence intervals reflect the level of uncertainty associated with the measurement of achievement. They define a range of values within which the true level of achievement is likely to lie. This table shows 95 per cent confidence intervals. This means, for example, that where the percentage shown is 90% ± 0.5 it can be said with 95 per cent confidence the true value lies between 89.5% and 90.5%.

Source: ACARA, National Assessment Program – Science Literacy Report 2012

The results show that 51.4 per cent of Year 6 students met or exceeded the proficient standard in 2012.

The National Assessment Program – Science Literacy Report 2012 is available on ACARA’s National Assessment Program website.

KPM 4(b) Proportion of students achieving at or above the proficient standard (Level 3) on the OECD PISA combined Scientific Literacy scale for 15-year-old students is reported in Part 5.3 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

KPM 4(c) Proportion of students achieving at or above the proficient standard (Intermediate) on the TIMSS science scales for Years 4 and 8 was reported in Part 5.3 National Assessment Program – Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) of the National Report in Schooling in Australia 2011 and will next be reported for 2015.