About the 2017 Trials and Pilots

Digital Trials

This year we will be undertaking 15 Level 1 Trial examinations - a “Trial” is a practice assessment that does not count towards a student’s NCEA. The subjects we plan to trial this year are:

  • Art History
  • Business Studies
  • Classical Studies
  • Economics
  • English
  • French
  • Geography
  • Samoan
  • Health
  • History
  • Media Studies
  • Physics
  • Spanish
  • Science
  • Te Reo Rangatira.

Note that externally assessed standards will be used in all these subjects. The Trial examinations will be available at two times - the first opportunity will be 11-29 September and the second will be 16 - 27 October.

Schools will have control over when they offer the Digital Trials within this period.  The setup, invigilation and marking of the Digital Trials will be undertaken by schools.  The Digital Trials can either be used as a practice examination completed in one sitting, completed over multiple sessions as a classroom activity, or used for revision.

In the three language Trials French, Samoan and Spanish candidates will have full agency over audio playback.  Candidates will have the ability to pause, rewind, fast-forward, skip and have unlimited playback of audio.

This year up to 12 schools will be invited to become a Focus Group school. We will work closely with these schools and their candidates to further the learnings of Digital Assessment.  The Focus Group schools will be invited to participate in co-managed Trials for Level 1 Classical Studies, Level 1 English and Level 1 Media Studies.  These examinations will be invigilated and marked by NZQA.

Derived Grades

If the 2017 Digital Trial examinations are completed as a practice examination in one sitting, they can be used as evidence for derived grades because they have been modified using materials from a combination of previous years’ papers. These examinations must be kept secure so they are not available to students from other schools who may be sitting them at a different time. The marking of these papers must comply with the derived grade requirement for verification or justification before results are reported.

Further information about derived grades can found on these links:

Digital Pilots

We will also be offering three Level 1 Digital Pilot examinations and three Level 2 Digital Pilot examinations.

Level 1 Pilots will be available for all candidates in the following subjects:

  • Level 1 Classical Studies
  • Level 1 English
  • Level 1 Media Studies.

Level 2 Pilots will be offered to candidates who participated in the Level 1 Pilots in 2016:

  • Level 2 Classical Studies
  • Level 2 English
  • Level 2 Media Studies.

Involvement in a Pilot examination will be voluntary, and those students who opt-in will sit a digital examination rather than the paper examination (the printed examination paper will be available as a back-up). The Pilot examinations will be held on the same dates and times as the paper-based examinations.

A visual plan of the 2017 Digital Trials and Pilots can be viewed here.

Trials of enhanced functionality in digital assessment

In the 2017 Digital Trials and Pilots project, the digital assessment is similar to the paper based examination, but is augmented by use of technologies. Trialling these tools will inform NZQA’s learnings of digital assessment. 

The following are some tools students will experience in the Trials and Pilots:

  • Text editing
  • Copy and paste within the digital examination
  • Word Count in some subjects
  • Spell Check in some subjects

The following tools are only available in the Trials:

  • Videos*
  • Audio playback in the language trials of French, Samoan, Spanish and Te Reo Rangatira*

* Candidates will have the ability to pause, rewind, fast-forward, skip and have unlimited playback of video/audio.

Special assessment conditions

Candidates who require special assessment conditions can participate in both the Trial and Pilot examinations, as the following will be offered:

  • variable font size
  • resizeable screen
  • extra time.


Spellcheck will be available for all candidates in the following subjects:

  • Art History
  • Business Studies
  • Classical Studies (Trial and Pilot)
  • Economics
  • English (Trial and Pilot)
  • Geography
  • Health
  • History
  • Media Studies (Trial and Pilot)

Spellcheck will not automatically check candidates responses as typed, the candidate will have control over the spellcheck function and will select the passage and/or words they want spellchecked.

Spellcheck will not be available in the following subjects:

  • French
  • Samoan
  • Science
  • Spanish
  • Physics
  • Te Reo Rangatira

This is due to the required use of scientific language and the use of languages, other than English, candidates will use when responding to questions in these subjects. Candidates will not have access to spellcheck to ensure they have the best experience.

How to get involved

NZQA will contact all New Zealand secondary schools to let them know how they can be involved in the 2017 digital examinations.

Schools wishing to participate should refer to our technical requirements and other considerations page.

More information

For more information please email future.state@nzqa.govt.nz or contact Steve Bargh, Digital Assessment Liaison Manager, phone (04) 463 3173.


Page last updated 13 June 2017

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