NMSSA Science Toolkit

NMSSA logo

Nau mai haere mai ki tēnei rauemi pūtaiao.

Welcome to the NMSSA Science Toolkit

for Year 7 and 8 students.


What is the purpose of the toolkit?

This toolkit is designed to assist teachers to assess, understand, and support Year 7 and 8 students’ learning in science. Its development followed concerning results from the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA). It could be useful for teachers inquiring into their own or their school’s practice. With this toolkit schools can

  • use the NMSSA Science Capabilities Scale (SC) to assess students in relation to levels in the New Zealand Curriculum
  • identify aspects of the science learning area that each student does or does not understand
  • find teaching and learning activities to address identified areas of need
  • monitor student progress over time.

What is in the toolkit?

Two parallel online assessments – a pre-test (Assessment 1) and a post-test (Assessment 2). Each assessment includes both selected-response and open-ended questions.
Rubrics for marking open-ended questions.
Reports on student achievement. These include an overall score for all students and information about how students scored on each question.
Descriptions of the important science concepts involved, and suggested next steps for each question.
Links to other resources to support teaching and learning in science.

How do I use the toolkit?

  1. Administer Assessment 1 to your students.
  2. Mark the open-ended questions online.
  3. Review the automatically generated reports to identify any gaps in our students’ science understandings.
  4. Use the suggested teaching and learning activities to support your students with their science learning.
  5. Administer Assessment 2 to your students.
  6. Mark the open-ended questions online.
  7. Compare results from Assessments 1 and 2, looking for changes in science understandings

What is in the assessments?

There are 36 questions in each assessment covering a range of science capabilities. Contexts for each question are derived from the ten Principles and big ideas of science education. There is a mixture of selected-response and short answer questions in the tests. Assessment 2 is comparatively more difficult than Assessment 1.
Assessment 2 includes questions that require students to use an online drawing tool. Make sure students are familiar with this type of tool, in particular, how to produce arrows, and how to add text. You can find more information on the drawing and labelling tool here. Allow students time to complete these tasks and feel free to provide them with support on using the tool during the assessment.
Drawing tool.png

How do I administer the assessments?

The assessments are administered online. While there is no time limit, it is suggested that students be given 45 to 50 minutes to complete each test. Remind students they can navigate both forwards and backwards in the test.
To access the tests an ARB login is required. This can easily be obtained by registering on the ARB site.
To administer the assessments, you will need to provide your students with the unique URL found at the top of the page. This will ensure student results are linked to your teacher account. This link can be sent via Google Classroom, email, or social media.
Student URL.png

Science Assessment NMSSA-Ass1b.png      Science Assessment NMSSA-Ass2b.png

Marking the tests

About half of the questions in each test will be automatically marked. The remaining questions need to be marked manually.
Marking student responses icon
Click on the icon Marking student responses to access student results.
Marking can be completed student by student or item by item.
Items that are automatically marked can be made visible by selecting “Show auto-marked questions”.
Use the rubric to determine each student’s score.
Select the next student on the list to mark their responses or select Next question to move to the next question.


List report icon
A List report includes:
  • student raw scores
  • number of questions omitted
  • score on the NMSSA Science Capabilities Scale
  • curriculum level based on scale score.
The list can be sorted on any of these parameters. 
Individual test item report icon
The Individual test item reports contain background information about each question:
• the science capability the question assesses
• the science big idea behind the question
• the relevant New Zealand Curriculum Science achievement objective
The report also includes
• the question the students were asked
• a marking rubric
• a table of student results showing how students responded to the question
• information about what students need to be able to do to successfully answer the question
• an explanation of correct and incorrect responses
• suggested next steps.

Further resources

There are a range of other resources that teachers and schools can access to support the teaching and learning of science.

Insights for Teachers NMSSA Science 2017

This report explores four practical insights of learning in science. It also considers what we can learn from the NMSSA results about the literacy and numeracy skills students need to engage with their science learning. It describes (page 6) the development of the NMSSA Science Capabilities Scale.  

Science posters on NMSSA site

These posters have been developed for teachers and whānau to show student progress in science at Levels 1 & 2, Level 3, Level 4 and Above Level 4. They are based on science progressions in the "Rainbow diagram” (described on page 6 of the booklet Science in the New Zealand Curriculum Understanding progress from levels 2 to 4).

Supporting science teaching with new science reports from ERO

ERO has released a series of reports for kaiako, teachers, and leaders that identify where services and schools are doing well.  These reports highlight opportunities to increase the impact of science teaching and learning. They provide practical guidance and inspiration through practice examples.

Science engagement survey

The Science engagement survey is a free online tool to help teachers find out how students perceive their science learning in class. There are two versions of the survey: one for Years 0 to 4 and one for Years 5 to 10.

Science Thinking with Evidence

Science Thinking with Evidence assesses how well students use evidence to think about scientific contexts and issues. It makes explicit links to the Nature of Science strand of the NZ curriculum and the key competency thinking. There are four tests, two for students in Years 7 & 8 and two for students in Years 9 & 10. Achievement on each test can be reported on a common measurement scale.  

Assessment Resource Banks

The Assessment Resource Banks have developed a wide range of formative assessment resources at Levels 1 & 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the NZ Curriculum. This link will take you to Level 4 resources that include the science contextual strands Physical World, Material World, Living World, and Planet Earth and Beyond and the science capabilities Gather and interpret data, Use evidence, Critique evidence, Interpret representations and Engage in science: Level 4 resources. A further resource to help with understanding the science capabilities can be found here.

Other resources can be found here:

Why was this toolkit developed?

This toolkit was developed to assist teachers to assess, understand, and support their students’ learning in science. Its development followed concerning results from the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA).
In 2017 science was assessed using nationally representative samples of about 2,300 students from 100 schools at each of Year 4 and Year 8. Results indicated that while most students in Year 4 (94%) were achieving at or above curriculum expectations (developed Level 1 and 2), a minority of Year 8 students (20%) were achieving at or above curriculum expectations (developed Level 3 and 4). In addition, students in Year 8 tended to be less positive about science, and, overall, expressed lower levels of confidence in science than students in Year 4.
 MoE_Logo.jpg nzcer_logo.png logo.pngthumbnail.png