NAPLAN Scores as Predictors of Access to Higher Education in Victoria

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 22/14

Date: 2014


Brendan Houng
Moshe Justman


This paper examines the extent to which year-9 performance on the National Assessment Program—Language Arts and Numeracy (NAPLAN) predicts access to higher education as determined by subsequent achievement on year-12 Victoria Certificate of Education (VCE) exams. VCE performance is measured via three binary indicators: achieving an Australian tertiary admission rank (ATAR) above 50 ("ATAR50"), above 70 ("ATAR70"), and above 90 ("ATAR90"); and two continuous indicators: ATAR and the Tertiary Entrance Aggregate (TEA). We find that a four-way classification of year-9 NAPLAN results explains 35% of the variance in ATAR50, 37% in ATAR70 and 26% in ATAR90; and NAPLAN scores and basic demographic indicators explain 38% of the variance in ATAR and 42% of the variance in TEA values. Examining the joint effect of year-9 NAPLAN scores and socio-economic status in predicting VCE outcomes, we find that while both are significant, NAPLAN scores have a much stronger effect. At the school level, we find that predictions of success rates based on NAPLAN scores and basic demographic indicators explain over 82% of the variance in school achievement in each of the binary indicators.

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