Some WA schools are giving mock NAPLAN tests to children a year below the target age to find out where to focus their teaching to improve students' results when they are old enough to sit the real test.
About 1.1 million students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sat the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy assessments last week.
Some WA schools also had students in Years 2, 4, 6 or 8 sit past papers under test conditions so their progress could be monitored in the next 12 months.
A public school teacher told _The West Australian _some Year 2s had been overwhelmed by the experience. "Kids were crying and saying 'I don't know what to do'," the teacher said.
About 30 schools use a service offered by education consultant Best Performance, which allows schools to test students in the NAPLAN off years and get a detailed report on their weakest areas.
Director Steve Godden said he recommended that schools in poor areas did not include Year 2s in the test regime because they may not be up to it academically.
He said most schools took a sensible approach and understood that students would not meet the national average if they were a year younger.
The benefit of the data was that it was much quicker than waiting for NAPLAN results to find out which concepts students had failed to grasp.
WA Primary Principals Association president Stephen Breen said though children should practise NAPLAN-style tests, the association did not support using mocks between official test years.
He said the trend was a result of increased importance being attached to the tests.
Education Department Statewide services executive director Martin Clery said schools knew that good teaching was the most effective way to prepare students for NAPLAN.
"Schools need to take a commonsense approach and do this in a way that best meets the needs of their students," he said.
Rob Randall, chief executive of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which runs NAPLAN, said while it was important to familiarise students with test structure, excessive practice was unnecessary.