Year 6 Survival Guide

Year 6 is your child's final year of primary schooling. In addition to being a crucial part of their preparation for high school, your child will have the chance to sit the Selective High School Placement Test in March.

In this Year 6 Survival Guide, we explain what parents and their children can expect from Year 6 and how they can best ready themselves for the coming challenges.

Year 6 Survival Guide

In this Year 6 Survival Guide, we discuss:


An Overview of Year 6

Year 6 is a memorable year for most children. Your child will say farewell to their primary school and many of the friends they made along the way as they prepare for their high school journey ahead.

While there is no NAPLAN test for Year 6 students, your child will sit the Selective School Placement Test in March, which will potentially determine the High School they go to. Separate testing for entry into private schools is also held in Year 6.

Year 6 playground for students


What’s expected of students in Year 6

In Year 6, students should be prepared to:

  • Complete and check their work independently
  • Work with other students to complete group projects
  • Manage their time to meet deadlines for assessment tasks
  • Use their devices independently to conduct research and reference their sources


Common issues among Year 6 students


Issue 1: Year 6 students are spending too much time in front of the wrong screens

Technology is great for learning, but it must be used in moderation. Extended screen time can cause eye strain, be unproductive and less than ideal for your child’s physical and mental health.

At the bare minimum, your child should stand up and take a short break from technology for every two hours they are in front of their screen. Ideally, they wouldn’t need to be spending this much time on their devices at once, but we know that sometimes tasks just need to get done. So this is the next best option.

Year 6 student using technological tablet


Issue 2: Year 6 students struggle to complete their work in time

As a parent, you might find yourself constantly checking up on your child and reminding them about assignments, which they should know about better than you. And, this is on top of their teachers and classmates prompting them at school.

It’s completely normal to be concerned, especially when your child has the habit of staying up the night before assignment due dates to get their work done.

One option is to just leave your child alone and trust that they will learn from their mistakes. But we understand that it can be stressful to just stand back.

So, an alternative is to spend some time with your child to:

  1. Break down the assignment into a list of small tasks
  2. Ask your child how long they think they need to comfortably finish each task (better to overestimate than to underestimate)
  3. Allocate times in the week for them to complete each task, so that they consistently work on their assignment leading up the due date

That way, your child will have no excuses for not following the timeframe they decided on, and they will start to develop organisational skills.


Issue 3: Year 6 students make careless mistakes in their work

It’s one thing to say that your child is capable of understanding challenging concepts, and it’s another to be confident that they can perform well in exams.

If you feel that your child is making a lot of careless mistakes, it’s important to address it with them. Here’s some strategies for that:

Year 6 student maths work


Have your child write full working out to justify their answers

Often, skipping steps and rushing is all it takes for a careless error to occur. Speed is important in exams, but shouldn’t be the priority.

Your child needs to work on their mastering their accuracy before they attempt to cut corners.


Have them underline the key words in every question that they do, before attempting them

If the main problem seems to be that your child isn’t reading the question properly, make this a blanket rule, until they learn to read carefully without an external reminder.


Ask them to check their work before they look at the answers

To fully check their work, they should re-attempt each question, without looking at their previous working out, and compare their two response.

It’s ok if this takes a long time. It’s much more beneficial for your child to learn the skill of correcting themselves, rather than just looking at the answers.

Make it clear that they need to check every single question, whether they are confident about their answer or not.


Encourage them to use all the given time in all exams.

If they finish early, they should spend the remaining time systematically checking each question and their answer.

They shouldn’t be daydreaming or handing in their exam until time runs out of they’ve triple checked everything, twice over!

This is a good habit for all students to have, even if they seem to be performing well. Your child should start building this habit when doing practice tests.


Issue 4: Year 6 students find it difficult to remain focused for an entire exam

Parents are always encouraged to give their child practice exams, but what do you do when you see that they are having trouble staying engaged for its whole duration? Your child might be taking frequent bathroom breaks, talking to you or other household members even after several reminders, or just be off daydreaming.

Your child might find it difficult to focus for many reasons. Here are some:

  • The questions are challenging and fatiguing.
  • Your child isn’t interested in the content.
  • They aren’t used to paying attention to things for an extended period of time.
  • Your child isn’t fueling enough.
  • Your child doesn’t see the purpose of exams.
  • They aren’t confident enough to feel motivated.


Alarm clock

Your solution to your child’s lack of focus will depend on what’s causing the problem

As a parent, sometimes you’ll understand exactly what your child is experiencing, and other times, you’ll be left guessing.

Even if you are confident that you know the root of the problem, it’s nice to touch base with them. Let them try to express it in their own words, so they understand that you empathise with them and want to help.

In this Year 6 Survival Guide, we suggest multiple strategies, so you can select the most appropriate for your child.


What you can do to strengthen your child’s focus

If the cause of your child’s lack of focus is due to the fact that the questions are challenging, there’s no need to push them to sit through an entire practice exam straight away.

Have them attempt it in sections, still under timed exam conditions, and progressively increase the size of the sections when you see their performance improve.

On the other hand, if they simply aren’t interested or view exams as pointless, it would be worthwhile discussing how exams help us recognise our strong points and weak points so that we can get better and better. It’s not always fun to sit an exam, but we are better for it at the end of the day, and improvements in performance will come from practice.

Again, if you feel that it’s too big of a challenge to make your child sit through a whole exam at once, break up the practice exams into sections and slowly work their way towards completing a whole one in a single sitting.



What is Stage 3?

Stage 3 is the final curriculum of primary school, so it’s meant to help your child develop study habits, creativity and independent learning strategies necessary for high school.


What can parents do to help?

It’s a blessing and a curse to know that your child doesn’t need your help as much as they did in their younger years.

In their final year of primary school, your role as a parent will mainly involve providing them access to revision materials and a second opinion to bounce ideas off.

Your child will still seek your support and recognition, but they usually won’t need to explain their homework to them, and you will find that this will become even more the case in High School.

Some great ways to get involved in their school work, without taking away their independence, are:

  • Being their audience for their practice presentations
  • Talking to them about what they are researching
  • Helping them source materials that they need for their assignments
  • Documenting their projects to reflect upon later

Year 6 student giving flower to parent


Subjects studied in Year 6 at school

Year 6 students will learn the following subjects at school:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Humanities
  • Health and PE
  • Science
  • Technologies
  • The Arts
  • Languages

In this Year 6 Survival Guide, we will discuss the key points you need to know about English and Mathematics. To find the syllabus for all Year 6 subjects, check out the NESA website.


What to expect for Year 6 English

In Year 6, your child will be exposed to many new texts, words, concepts and ideas, as they refine their communication in written, visual and oral forms.


Key things that Year 6 students can do to improve their English skills:

  • Expand their vocabulary — Your child can do this by reading outside of school and deliberately learning words from online vocabulary lists!
  • Learn correct grammar, spelling and punctuation — These are fundamentals that your child will need to get write for high school and further. It’s easier to learn it right from the start, compared to trying to correct bad habits in the future
  • Practise presenting with a loud and clear voice, and appropriate posture — Presentations are currently a part of the HSC, so this is something that your child will need to master in Year 6 for the future.
  • Write short stories and excerpts — English is all about being creative and thoughtful about what you communicate, so practising writing little pieces will help your child develop this kind of critical thinking and articulate it well.


What to expect for Year 6 Maths

Your child should already be familiar with all the concepts covered in Year 6, but they will be challenged to delve deeper and apply their skills in many new contexts.

Here’s a list of key concepts that your child should expect to learn about in Year 6 Maths:

  • Representing positive and negative numbers on a number line
  • Fractions and decimals (addition and subtraction)
  • Statistical graphs
  • 12- and 24-hour time
  • Interpreting timetables
  • Sequences with whole numbers, fractions and decimals
  • Geometry involving calculating area, volume and capacity
  • Chance experiments
  • Word problems

Student doing addition worksheet


Selective High Schools Placement Test

For the selective test, your child will receive a score out of 120. 100 of those marks will be awarded based on their performance on the actual test day. The other 20 marks will be determined by their scaled school assessment score.

Overall, the distribution of the marks look like this:

AreaMaximum mark
Reading test25
Mathematical reasoning test25
Writing test15
Thinking skills test35
Scaled school assessment score20

For more information about Selective Schools and the Selective School Placement Test, check out our Selective Schools Guide.

Exam hall


Key concerns parents have about Year 6


Concern 1: Parents are concerned that their child isn’t performing well enough

There’s a lot of pressure to perform in Year 6, as the high school they go to is potentially affected by their performance. It’s completely natural to be concerned as a parent because, obviously, you care.

The main thing is that you are productive with your concerns and use them to support your child’s learning. We list out the key strategies below in this Year 6 Survival Guide.


Concern 2: Parents don’t know how their child compares to others on a large scale

This concern has often has nothing to do with parents being competitive. Instead, parents usually feel this way because they want to make sure that their child is on the right track and won’t be blindsided by a less than ideal performance in their Selective Schools Placement Test or other high school entry exams.

It’s a valid concern to have, which is why it is important to look at scores that have been standardised over large groups of students the same year group as your child. This can include NAPLAN and ICAS results. Bear in mind, these results are merely an indicator and not the be-all-and-end-all, as exams can vary, just as student performance does.

Your child’s past results may not be a reliable indicator of the improvement they have made over the year, so you might want to compare your child’s individual progress with things like reports and exam marks over the years. A record of your child’s scores in practice papers is also a useful way to gauge their progress.


How to achieve a smooth transition into Year 6

Congratulations, you’ve reached the final part of the Year 6 Survival Guide! To summarise, these are tried-and-tested strategies that parents can use to help their child make the most of Year 6:


Survival Strategy 1:​ Encourage independent learning

We don’t mean to say that you should completely abandon your child, but rather, give them time and space to complete their study and debrief afterwards if you feel it’s necessary.


Survival Strategy 2: Help your child find hobbies that don’t involve screentime

Technology is an important part of our lives for study, entertainment and more. But your child needs to have a break from their devices to maintain good physical and mental health.

So, give your child the chance to try different hobbies like sports, arts and everything in between, to encourage them to break away from their screens in their spare time.

Year 6 student playing soccer


Survival Strategy 3: Help your child apply their knowledge in practice papers under exam conditions

Exams won’t be super stressful if your child is well-prepared, and part of that preparation involves simulating exam experiences.

Practice papers completed under exam conditions let you know where your child is at, helps them improve their exam habits, and know what to study more.


We hope you have found these Primary Survival guides useful and wish you and your child all the best through Year 6 and beyond!

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