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7 Common Language Convention Mistakes Students Make In Year 3 NAPLAN

Is your child in Year 3 and about to sit the NAPLAN test? Not quite sure what NAPLAN is all about? Well, you've come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll discuss common language convention mistakes in the Year 3 NAPLAN, to make sure that your child can avoid making these very same mistakes.

But first, let’s look at what NAPLAN really is, why it is important and what you can do to help your child succeed.

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What is NAPLAN?

NAPLAN is essentially an annual, nationwide assessment program conducted in May, where students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 must participate.

NAPLAN usually consists of four different exams: Writing, Reading, Conventions of Language, and Numeracy. The writing test is only 40-minutes long while the others are 45-minutes long and assesses students’ literary and numeracy foundations and skills.


How are NAPLAN tests graded?

Each Year 3 NAPLAN test is graded between Band 1 and 6.

The highest achievable band in Year 3 is Band 6. However, students who are placed in between Band 3 and 6 are all above the national minimum standard.


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Are the NAPLAN tests supposed to be high-stakes?

If you’re concerned about whether your child’s NAPLAN results will impact them in the long run, don’t worry. The government and education authorities often utilise NAPLAN results to determine whether students across the nation are meeting educational outcomes.

Similarly, schools use this data to identify their students’ strengths and weaknesses, monitor progress, set new target goals, and cater to individual needs.

So, don’t be afraid!

NAPLAN isn’t supposed to be some scary, be-all-end-all exam, but simply a test that can further help students develop fundamental literacy and numeracy skills.


What is the language conventions test?

The NAPLAN language conventions test is a 45-minute exam that assesses students’ spelling, grammar and punctuation. There are approximately 51 spelling correction and multiple-choice questions in a language conventions exam.

Often, students perform better in language conventions than any of the other two tests. However, it is still important for your child to develop and refine their literacy skills, as well as understand how to use appropriate grammar and punctuation.


7 Common Language Convention Mistakes Students Make In Year 3 NAPLAN

So, to help you prepare your child for their upcoming tests, here are 7 common language convention mistakes that students often make in the Year 3 NAPLAN test.


1. Misidentifying clauses

A common language conventions mistake students make is related to clauses.


But first, what exactly is a clause?

Well, a clause is a group of words containing both a subject and a verb, that makes up part of a sentence.

For example, Tom eats scrumptious burgers.


How is this different from a phrase?

A phrase is simply a group of words that express an idea. However, keep in mind, that a phrase is not a sentence.

For example, scrumptious burgers.


What is the difference between a dependent and independent clause?


Independent clause

An independent clause has a subject (the focus of the sentence) and predicate (the part of the sentence that contains the verb and something about the subject), and can form a sentence alone.

Let’s take a look at the sentence below.

Although it was raining, I wore sunglasses. 

The independent clause is ‘I wore sunglasses’. See how it still makes sense on its own?

In the above clause, the “I” is the subject and “wore sunglasses” is the predicate.


Dependent clause

On the other hand, a dependent clause may contain a subject and verb, but cannot form a sentence alone.

From the example above, the dependent clause is ‘Although it was raining’.

Notice how the dependent clause does not make sense on its own.


Noun, Adjective and Adverb clauses

Now, there are three different types of clauses, including noun, adjective and adverb clause:


Noun clause

A noun clause is a dependent clause, and usually serves the same purpose as a noun.

Noun clauses are comprised of a subject and verb, and, typically, names of people, places and things.

So, what does this actually mean?

Let’s take a look at the example below.

Whatever Emma painted was amazing. 

Here, the noun clause is ‘whatever Emma painted. This is because the clause is referring to Emma’s artwork (which is a noun).


Adjectival clause

An adjectival clause is a dependent clause that describes a noun or pronoun. These clauses comprise a subject and verb.

Adjectival clauses start off with a relative pronoun (i.e. this includes who, whom, whose, which, that) or a relative adverb (i.e. where, when, why)

Still a bit confused?

Well, let’s take a look at this sentence below.

The boy who is wearing khaki pants loves to cook. 

Here, the adjectival clause is ‘who is wearing khaki pants’.

This is because this clause is providing information about the noun (i.e. the boy).


Adverbial clause

Similarly, an adverbial clause is a dependent clause that modifies an adjective, verb, or even another adverb.

Adverbial clauses describe how, when, where, or why, and often begins with a subordinating conjunction (e.g. after, because, unless, while, whenever).

Now, take a look at this sentence below.

I will do my homework after I eat my dinner.

Here, the adverbial clause is ‘after I eat my dinner’. This is because this clause is modifying the verb ‘will do my homework’.


Example question:

1. Identify the noun clause in the sentence below.

Whatever the girl was wearing looked good.

A) Whatever the girl was wearing

B) Was wearing

C) Looked good

D) Wearing looked good


2. Identify the adverbial clause in the sentence below.

John felt full after he finished his meal.

A) John felt full

B) Felt full

C) Felt full after he finished

D) After he finished his meal



1. The correct answer is A) Whatever the girl was wearing

A noun clause should represent a noun. In this case, the noun is ‘whatever the girl is wearing’ (i.e. her clothes).

2. The correct answer is D) After he finished his meal

An adverb clause should describe how, when, where or why. In this case, ‘after he finished his meal’ is referring to the time when John felt full.

To learn more about clauses, read our guide to English grammar.


2. Quotation punctuation

In the NAPLAN test, students may be asked to identify the correctly punctuated speech quotation.

Now, we know punctuating quotations can be very confusing.

So, here are a few key points to remember:

  • Quotation marks go around the speaker’s words (e.g. “Catherine likes to eat burgers.”)
  • Capitalise the first word and any pronouns and proper nouns (e.g. “Ben and Tim went to Circular Quay.”)
  • Punctuation (i.e. comma, full stop, question mark, or exclamation mark) should go inside the quotation marks (e.g. “Have you had lunch yet?” asked Jennifer.)


Example question:

Which sentence is punctuated correctly?

A) “Put on your seatbelt, Jash said, and then I will drive,”

B) Put on your seatbelt” Jash said, “and then I will drive.

C) “Put on your seatbelt,” Jash said, “and then I will drive.”

D) Put on your seatbelt, “Jash said,” and then I will drive.



The correct answer is C) “Put on your seatbelt,” Jash said, “and then I will drive.”

Remember, that quotation marks should always go around the speaker’s words. If the phrase continues into another set of quotation marks, there should be a comma in the first phrase placed in the quotation marks (e.g. “Put on your seatbelt,”).

And, always remember to include a full stop at the end of a sentence (e.g. and then I will drive.)!


3. Comma before ‘and’

Another common language convention mistake students often make is recognising where commas should be placed in a sentence.

In particular, some students struggle with knowing where to place a comma in sentences containing the word ‘and’.

So, how do you do it?

Since the word ‘and’ is a conjunction, it can be used to join two independent clauses together.

When this happens, you should place a comma before the conjunction – in this case before ‘and’.

For example, Tara plays the violin every Tuesday, and practises ballet every Wednesday. 

However, this is not always the case!

When you have two independent clauses that are relatively short and connected, you can leave out the comma.

For example, Andy likes to eat apples and peas.


Example question:

Which sentence is punctuated correctly?

A) In my pencil case, I have one ruler, two pens, three rubbers and four pencils.

B) In my pencil case I have one ruler, two pens, three rubbers, and, four pencils.

C) In my pencil case I have one ruler, two pens, three rubbers and, four pencils.

D) In my pencil case, I have one ruler, two pens, three rubbers, and four pencils.

E) In my pencil case, I have one, ruler two pens, three, rubbers, and four pencils.



The correct answer is both (A) and (D):

A) In my pencil case, I have one ruler, two pens, three rubbers and four pencils.

D) In my pencil case, I have one ruler, two pens, three rubbers, and four pencils.

With or without a comma before the ‘and’, the sentence still makes sense.

This is because the phrases ‘three rubbers’ and ‘four pencils’ are very short and also connected.

To learn more about conjunctions, commas, and serial commas, read our grammar guide!


4. Apostrophes

When should you use ‘s or s’?

Often, students can get easily confused as to where the apostrophe should be placed in words.

Words that end with the letter ‘s’ follow a different ‘rule’ from other words.

So, let’s break down where apostrophes should be placed in different types of words.


Singular vs Plural

Let’s take a look at this example below.

When referring to only one singular student, use student’s. When referring to multiple students, use students’. 

Singular – The student’s hat was found in the playground.

Plural – Students’ hats were found in the playground. 


Now, let’s take a look at another example below.

Noun not ending with ‘s’ – Michelle’s water bottle got squashed in her bag.

Noun ending with ‘s’ – Nicholas’ water bottle got squashed in his bag.

Notice how Nicholas, whose name ends with an ‘s’ is apostrophised differently from Michelle, whose name does not end with an ‘s’.


Where should you place apostrophes in contractions?

The table below lists out different examples of contractions with correct and incorrect apostrophes.

Making sure that your child recognises correct contractions is very important!

Correct Apostrophe  Incorrect Apostrophe
We’re Wer’e
They’re Theyr’e
Mustn’t Must’nt
Shouldn’t Should’nt
Couldn’t Coul’dnt
Wouldn’t Would’nt

Example question:

Which sentence is punctuated correctly?

A) Thoma’s dog likes to run in the park and eat treats.

B) Thomas’ dog likes to run in the park and eat treats.

C) Thomas’s dog likes to run in the park and eat treats.

D) Thomases dog likes to run in the park and eat treats.



The correct answer is B) Thomas’ dog likes to run in the park and eat treats.

Thoma’s, Thomas’s, and Thomases are all grammatically incorrect.

If you’re looking for more information about apostrophes, read our grammar guide, here.


5. Commonly misspelt words

The language conventions tests are often comprised of at least twenty-five spelling questions.

That is why it is so important to make sure your child has a wide vocabulary range and knows how to spell some commonly misspelt, or tricky words.

Here are a few examples of commonly misspelt words that have appeared in NAPLAN Language Conventions tests.

Correctly spelt Incorrectly spelt
Embarrassed Embarassed, Embarrased
Unnecessary Unecessary, Unneccesary, Unnecesary
Definitely Unecessary, Unneccesary, Unnecesary
Occasion Ocassion, Occassion

Example question:

There is a spelling mistake in each of these sentences. Write the correct spelling for each misspelt word below.

A) Aden fell off his bike and felt embarassed.

B) My mum said buying a new bag was unnecesary.

C) Emily definately loved to eat noodles.

D) Jennifer cooked turkey for a special ocassion.



Here is the correct spelling for the words above.

A) Embarrassed

B) Unnecessary

C) Definitely

D) Occasion


6. Stationary/ stationery? Principal/ principle?

Students often get easily confused between using the word ‘stationary’ or ‘stationery’, and ‘principal’ or ‘principle’.

So, here are individual definitions of each word, and how they can be used in a sentence.

Is it stationary or stationery?

Stationary means not moving, fixed, or immobile.

For example, The car was stationary because the tyres were flat.

On the other hand, stationery are the materials used for writing, typing or for office use,

For example, Sarah likes to collect stationery to use in class.


So, what about principle and principal?

principle is essentially a basic truth, such as values.

For example, There are a few basic principles of life.

Whereas, principal is a person in a leading position.

For example, My school principal always speaks at assemblies.


An easy way to distinguish between these two words, is thinking that your school principal is your ‘PAL’!


7. Of/ have

Is it ‘could of’ or ‘could have’?

Well, many students actually get these two phrases mixed up.

‘Could of’ is a commonly misspelt version of ‘could have’ and is grammatically incorrect.

‘Could have’ is a verb phrase derived from ‘could’ve’ – this is grammatically correct.

So, whenever identifying an error or using the non-contracted version of ‘could’ve’, make sure your child recognises the correct phase to use.

Phrase Contraction
Could have Could’ve
Would have Would’ve
Should have Should’ve

Example question:

Which sentence is correct?

A) Nathan could of bought shoes in the shopping centre.

B) Afra would of went to the park if it wasn’t raining.

C) Jamie should have gone to sleep early.

D) Larissa should of gone to the park with her dog.



The correct answer is C) Jamie should have gone to sleep early.

The ‘of’ in ‘should of’ is not a verb, and hence is grammatically incorrect.

Remember that should’ve is derived from ‘should have’, not ‘should of’. The same goes for could’ve and would’ve.


What can you do to help your child succeed in NAPLAN?

Still not too sure where to go from here to help your child prepare for NAPLAN?

Well, finding NAPLAN practice tests is actually one of the most important tasks when preparing. As your child begins to familiarise themselves with the format and types of questions asked, not only will they feel more confident, but their skill and abilities will also improve.

At first, your child should practise working on individual questions to get comfortable with the test format. Only after familiarising themselves with the question, should they sit a full NAPLAN test under timed conditions.

By practising a variety of questions, your child will be able to avoid these very common language convention mistakes! If you want to learn more about Year 3 NAPLAN tests, read our article discussing the 5 Common Numeracy Mistakes Students Make in the Year 3 NAPLAN.

Written by Sophia Dang

Sophia is a former Matrix student and James Ruse graduate. She is studying Bachelor of Medical Studies/ Doctor of Medicine at UNSW and is the Content Intern for Matrix Education. Sophia also loves to create art for her family business.


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