Essential Secondary Science Assessment (ESSA)


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Phone: (02) 9244 5676
Fax: (02) 9266 8426
High Performance, Locked Bag 53, Darlinghurst NSW 1300


Essential Secondary Science Assessment (ESSA)

What is ESSA?

ESSA is a statewide Science assessment program based on the NSW Science Years 7-10 Syllabus, which mandates the teaching of science in contexts that assist students to see the relevance of science and to make meaning of scientific knowledge, understanding, skills, values and attitudes.

The ESSA test is an interactive multimedia assessment called ESSAonline. ESSAonline 2014 will occur between Monday 10 November and Friday 14 November.

Ideally, students will be scheduled to complete the test on a single day during this period. However, schools may elect to schedule their students across multiple sessions and/or days during this period.

Download a parent information sheet (PDF 35kB) about the test.

Who takes the test?

ESSAonline is for students who have completed two years of secondary schooling and learning in science. It is mandatory for all Year 8 students in NSW government schools. Non-government schools in inside and outside NSW and home schools are welcome to register for ESSAonline.

Download the information and registration package (PDF 81kB) for non-government schools.

Download the information and registration package (PDF 81 kB) for home schools.

What's in the test?

Students are asked to demonstrate their:

  • knowledge and understanding in science
  • skills in planning and conducting investigations, including a simulated experiment
  • skills in understanding and responding to a range of scientific information in a variety of media (including video, audio, animation graphics and text)
  • skills in critical thinking and problem solving.

ESSAonline contains:

  • three extended response tasks
  • approximately 80 multiple choice and short response items.

What are the results used for?

The test results provide information about student achievements which are used to support teaching and learning programs.


Analysis of these results assists school planning and can be used by schools to monitor development of scientific knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes through time.

ESSAonline marking

Extended response tasks are marked by trained, experienced science teachers. Multiple choice and short response items are computer marked.


Schools receive detailed diagnostic analysis of the achievements of individual students, various groups within the school and the school's performance as a whole. This feedback is provided by an innovative web-based centralised software system called School Measurement, Assessment and Reporting Toolkit (SMART).

Reports are also generated and printed for each student. Reports will be distributed to schools early in the year following the test. School staff will advise parents as to how and when the parent reports will be distributed.


Download a parent information sheet about the report (PDF 35kB).


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