Narrative Writing Tips (with Prompts, Samples & Stimulus) to ACE Your NAPLAN, Scholarship or Selective Entry Writing Test

Good written expression is not giftedness; it’s a skill you can improve for your scholarship, selective school or NAPLAN test. All you need is a bit of patience, writing practice, and our five powerful tips that will help you do your best on a scholarship or selective school exam.

Read on for the most valuable piece of advice on acing the written expression test for narrative writing and put your knowledge to test with exam-like creative writing prompts.

#1 Reason Students Fail Their Written Expression Test (And What It Takes To Ace It)

In case you're reading this and thinking: "Yeah, yeah… writing is important. But I'm doing fine," you might be right.


You might be underestimating the tough requirements of written expression for selective schools, scholarships and NAPLAN, making one of the biggest mistakes that will cost you valuable opportunities.

You see, many students think that doing well in school sets them up for success in a competitive exam.

But this couldn't be more wrong!


Because there's a big difference between writing for school and writing for exam success.

Let me explain.

All competitive exams like ACER, Edutest, Academic Assessment Services or the Victorian selective schools test, are designed to weed out average applicants and spot high achievers. Assessment exams like NAPLAN also group students in bands from below average to above average. If you want to ace your written expression test, it's not enough to show off a rich vocabulary and perfect grammar (which get you high scores at school).

To truly stand out from the crowd, you'll also have to demonstrate:

  • Ability to work under pressure. Everyone can create an A+ story when they have all the time in the world. Depending on your exam, you might have only 20-40 minutes to craft a piece. This means you need to know what to do without wasting precious seconds thinking about how to start a story, how much to write, etc. In short, you need a strategy – like the one we teach our students in our narrative writing course.
  • Creativity. Two things distinguish an “OK” essay from a great one – the imaginative point of view/storyline and accurate use of expressive devices. You can easily train these skills by doing lots of reading and by modeling after top-notch essays. For example, we encourage students to use our Exam Success sample essays library to discover creative pieces that scored well and borrow the techniques and ideas for their writing practice tests.
  • Thoughtfulness. This is your ability to 1) come up with worthy writing ideas quickly; 2) make your story flow; 3) use words to show emotions and create the atmosphere. You can develop thoughtfulness through learning specific writing techniques and practicing writing. You can easily set up a regular writing routine with Exam Success writing prompts library that contains 290+ written expression topics, some of which are very similar to the questions from Edutest/Acer scholarship exams and selective writing tests.

What Are Common Writing Topics In A Written Expression Test For Selective Schools, Scholarships and NAPLAN?

The writing prompts for a narrative/creative piece often come in the form of a worded statement that asks you to write about your life experiences: the events that happened to you, people you’ve met, or places you’ve visited.

Sometimes, the writing prompt comes in the form of a picture/image or as a combination of both a visual prompt and a text.

To give you a general idea of what to expect, here are some sample scholarship and selective test writing topics for grade 7 and grade 9:

  • Write a creative piece to the following prompt: When I helped someone
  • Write a creative piece to the following prompt: The new student
  • Combine the three elements to create a story - a computer, a mouse and a tree.
  • Write a creative piece to the following combined word and image prompt: A window to the other side.
  • Write a narrative based on the following image prompt.
  • Write a creative piece to the following combined word and image prompt: A window to the other side.

3 Powerful Narrative Writing Tips That Will Boost Your Score

Writing for exam success doesn’t have to be daunting.

Follow these 3 actionable tips below, and you’ll breeze through your written expression test and improve your essay score. Each tip is illustrated by a sample essay written by a real student to improve your understanding.

Tip #1 - Stick to the Genre

No matter how great your grammar is or how confident you are with stylistic devices, the examiner will mark your essay down if your piece doesn't correspond to the task.

If the writing prompt in your selective or scholarship test requires you to write a narrative/creative piece, it must include:

  • A clear plot with all the components of a story – engaging introduction, a lead-up to the main event, the main event, resolution.
  • One or more characters
  • An underlying idea - you should be able to summarise your essay in one sentence.

Remember that with narrative writing, you don't need to take a stand or develop a concept - you are required to tell a story.

Task 1

Take a look at the writing prompt below and decide whether the sample essay answers the task. When you've got the answer, see the video feedback from our writing expert below.

(Source: Exam Success)

Suggested solution (Video Feedback)

Tip #2 - Never Skip Planning

A good plan is a crucial part of writing a winning narrative piece in a short timeframe. It will help you map out your essay and stay on track as you write out the whole piece.

Your plan should be short and sweet. Ideally, you’d want to write just one summarising sentence for each paragraph of the story.

Feeling stuck? One trick we share with our students is to try writing your plan backwards. Start from the last paragraph that will summarise how the story would end and move to the beginning of your story.

Task 2

Look at the writing prompt below again and try to plan out your story. Once you're done, check out a plan written by one of our students.

Suggested solution

(Source: Exam Success)

Tip #3 - Use KISS Formula (Keep It Super Simple)

The exam is not the place to create long masterpieces with complex plots and multiple characters. There’s no time for that!

Simplicity is your best friend.

Apply the KISS formula to almost everything in your narrative:

  • Storyline – choose easy plots, ideally write about the event in your life you can relate to;
  • Characters – stick to one-two characters maximum without overthinking them;
  • Structure – focus on developing only one main event;
  • Language – avoid big and flowery words, especially if you don’t know how to spell them or in what context to use them.
Task 3

Look at the writing prompt below and think about how you would simplify the given sample essay. Once you're done, watch the suggestions from our writing expert.

(Source: Exam Success

Suggested solution (Video Feedback)

Want to write stories that will win you scholarships and selective school entry?

You can go the trial-and-error path and miss out on amazing opportunities, or you can let our top writing experts reveal all the secrets to crafting an essay the exam assessors will love.

With our comprehensive narrative writing course and our monthly writing clubs, writing has never been easier!

How to approach a writing prompt, where to get great ideas from, what to do first… - with our guidance, you'll get a simple and actionable roadmap to crafting a powerful narrative from scratch.

Most importantly, you'll have plenty of writing practice from day one.

See what's available to help you ACE your writing test

Narrative Writing - Written Expression Test Preparation

Written expression is the hardest part of any exam.

It doesn’t have to be!

This online narrative writing course (narrative writing is part of creative writing) will introduce you to a step-by-step process of writing top-notch essays so you can ace your NAPLAN, get scholarships and gain entry to selective schools – regardless of your experience.

In 18 extensive checkpoints, we’ll:

  • explore what makes a good piece based on multiple examples and sample essays from real students
  • learn to come up with interesting storylines for given topics
  • practice building a logical structure and crafting description to communicate our ideas.

Each checkpoint ends with a writing stimulus in the form of writing prompts or visuals so you can apply the powerful techniques you’ve learned in practice.

This course also includes complimentary scoring and in-depth written feedback on 1 of your essays. The written feedback you'll receive includes a revised version of your essay and specific points on three key areas: relationship to the prompt, structure, and expression. This is a great way to understand where you're excelling and where you can improve. See an example of scoring and expert written feedback on a real essay here.

Great for:

  • Academic Assessment Services scholarship and selective school exams
  • ACER scholarships and selective schools exams like Perth Modern, WA GATE and Brisbane State High School.
  • Edutest scholarships and selective school tests like Victorian Selective Schools (MacRob, Melb High, Suzanne Cory and Nossal) and Queensland Academies Selective entry (Year 7).

After purchase, you gain immediate access to your course for 6 months to get a head start on your test prep.

The price above is inclusive of 10% GST. If you are purchasing for use outside of Australia, at checkout, you'll be charged the amount without GST

Have A Question?

Get in touch!