Frequently asked questions

These questions and answers have been developed in response to queries from schools, and will be frequently updated. If you have a query please email

Click on the links below to access a specific category.

Available standards

Q. Are all external standards available for the Digital Trials and Pilots examinations?

A. The subjects being conducted as a digital examination (Trials and Pilots) will include all the externally assessed achievement standards for that subject. We have asked schools to register students for their chosen standards, but all the external standards in their Trial or Pilot will be available to them on the day of the examination if they wish to sit them.  During the Trials, if teachers do not wish students to complete certain standards, this should be communicated to the students before they sit the digital examination.

Digital examination dates

Q. When will the Trial examinations be held?

A. There are two windows for the Trial examinations:

  • 11 - 29 September 2017
  • 16 - 27 October 2017.

Q. Can we set our own date for the Digital Trials?

A. Schools need to set their own dates for the Trials - these need to be within the windows of 11-29 September and 16-27 October. NZQA does not need to be informed of these dates.

Q. When will the Pilot examinations be held?

A. The Pilot examinations will be held on the same dates and times as the paper-based examinations, as follows.

Level and Subject



Level 2 Media Studies

10 November


Level 1 English

13 November


Level 2 English

21 November


Level 2 Classical Studies

23 November


Level 1 Classical Studies

30 November


Level 1 Media Studies

1 December


During the assessment

Q. If we have a technical issue affecting all students involved in a Pilot examination, would the school have access to an electronic and/or hard copy of the assessment for distribution to all students?

A. The school will be provided with the normal sets of personalised examination papers that can be given to students in specific circumstances. A set of scenarios will be provided to Exam Centre Managers at their training to guide decision-making as to when to use the paper examinations. These scenarios will also be provided to Principal's Nominees.

Q. If a particular student has technical issues and cannot complete a digital examination, can the Principal's Nominee apply for a derived grade (providing valid evidence is available against the Assessment Standard)?

A. In this scenario, the student would be able to use the paper-based exam. If however there was an issue with both the digital and paper version, an application could be made for a derived grade.

If an emergency occurs, and all candidates are unable to return to the examination room, their digital work will be submitted and the Principal’s Nominee will apply for derived grades.

Q. Can students complete the standards in any order?

A. Yes, students have the ability to start on any standard and move between the questions and pages of each standard freely.

Exam invigilation

Q. Can students access their hard drives or other websites during the digital examinations?

A. The Digital Pilot examinations will include anti-breach software which will track students’ movement during the examination.  If students try to leave the examination window they will see a warning message prompting them to re-enter the examination.  If this message is ignored the students will become locked out of the examination and will need to ask the examination supervisor to unlock the examination for them, at which point a special report will be completed by the supervisor.

If schools are intending to use a Digital Trial examination as a practice examination, they will need to invigilate the Digital Trial examinations to ensure students do not access any materials outside of the digital examination.

General information

Q. What if I haven’t heard from NZQA?

A. Please check with your Principal’s Nominee in the first instance - all correspondence between NZQA and schools is taking place through them.

Q. How many schools are participating in the Trials?

A. There are currently over 90 schools and 10000 candidate entries registered to participate in this year’s Trials.

Q. What is the difference between Trials and Pilots?

A. A “Trial” is considered to be a practice assessment that does not count towards a student’s NCEA but the result may contribute towards a derived grade; a “Pilot” is considered to be an assessment where a student can gain credits towards their NCEA.

Language examinations

Note: students will require headphones for all language examinations.

Q. Will students be able to control when they play the listening passages?

A. Students will have full agency over the listening passages.

Opting in and out

Q. What is the cut-off date for opting into the Trials and/or Pilots?

A. Registrations for the Trials closed on 31 July 2017.  Registrations for Pilots are made through your SMS and close on 1 September 2017.  Once registrations are closed, additional schools and/or students cannot be added.  This is necessary to enable NZQA to undertake logistical activities that will support the digital examinations.

Q. Can schools who have registered their interest to participate if their circumstances change?

A. Schools who have registered can opt out at any time by emailing

Q. If we enter a student into Digital Trial and Pilot examinations is it possible to remove that student at a later date?

A. Schools have ownership of the Digital Trials and can remove students if required.  Students can opt out of the Digital Pilots and complete the relevant assessment on paper at any stage right up to the digital examination, or within it, if a student has an issue using the technology – see below.

Schools can remove a student from the digital examination at any stage. If a school withdraws a student (or a group of students) they should inform NZQA by emailing the details to

Participation in digital vs paper examinations

Q. Do all students sitting an examination at my school need to participate in a Digital Trial or Pilot, or can there be a mixture of digital and paper assessments for one subject?

A. For schools:

  • there can be a combination of students sitting digital examinations and students sitting paper-based examinations
  • it is highly recommended that the two types of examinations are undertaken in different rooms, where possible.

For individual students:

  • students can opt out of their digital examination at any point, and for any reason, but they must complete any standard they have started (either digitally, or on paper) and will not receive additional time to do so
  • if students experience technical issues, they can transfer to paper at any point, and will receive any time lost at the end of the examination - the amount of time will be at the discretion of the supervisor. If due to a technical issue, students have completed a standard partially digitally and partially on paper, both sections will be marked by the same marker.


Q. Will teachers be provided with a marking assessment schedule since they have to mark the trials?

A. NZQA will be providing an assessment schedule for the Digital Trial examinations to Principal’s Nominees.

Q. How long will it take for the assessments to be marked?

A. The marking and delivery of results of the Pilot examinations will be the same as for the paper-based cycle.

Schools will be responsible for the marking of the Trial examinations and the delivery of results and will therefore set their own marking programme.

Preparation for digital examinations: Familiarisation Activities

Q. Will a Trial examination be available for students sitting the Pilot examinations?

A. Schools were invited to register for the Digital Trials which they can use as preparation for the Pilot examinations.  NZQA also highly recommends that schools and students use the Familiarisation Activities. 

The login details can be found here.

Q. What are the Familiarisation Activities?

A. The Familiarisation Activities are an opportunity to experience the look and feel of the digital examinations. Schools can use these to trial setting up a digital examination situation. The Familiarisation Activities will also assist schools to evaluate their capability.

Q. How many Familiarisation Activities are available?

A. There is one Familiarisation Activity for each digital examination subject.

Q. I have found the Familiarisation Activities, but am not sure how to access it, as it seems to need a password. Could you please let me know where to find these?

A. The password for the Familiarisation Activities can be found in your secure extranet. Look for a yellow banner at the top once you have logged in (see the example below).
Speak to your Principal’s Nominee regarding access to the secure extranet.
Login example v2

Q. How many times can a student complete a Familiarisation Activity?

A.  Students can complete the Familiarisation Activities as many times as they wish.

Q. Can teachers use the Familiarisation Activities as a classroom exercise, marking and giving feedback?

A. The Familiarisation Activities are not designed to be an examination – their main purpose is to enable students and teachers to familiarise themselves with the format being used, and to experience the look and feel of a digital examination. Students can access the Familiarisation Activities multiple times; note that student responses cannot be printed and once they log out or exit the Familiarisation Activities their responses will not be saved. 

Q. Will there be sample assessments for the trial digital examinations?

A. There is a set of familiarisation exercises to assist students and teachers to get used to the digital tools that will be part of the trial examinations. These exercises will consist of individual assessment items (i.e. a task, activity or question, rather than a full examination) - see below.

Q. Can Familiarisation Activities results be used for derived grades?

A. The Familiarisation Activities are based on the 2016 examinations and therefore cannot be used for derived grade purposes.

Help resources

Q. Are there any resources other than the Familiarisation Activities which can help students and teachers prepare for the digital examinations?

A. NZQA will be releasing a series of help videos to guide students and teachers through the different tools they will encounter in the digital examinations.  Once released you can access these through the NZQA website.

Special Assessment Conditions (SAC)

Q. How will the digital assessments cater for students who have trouble reading text online?

The digital examinations have a built-in zoom to enable students to vary the size of the screen.

Q. Will SAC candidates have access to Spellcheck in the digital examination?

A. 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.  Candidates will have control over the spellcheck function and will select the passage 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, when responding to questions in these subjects. Candidates will not have access to spellcheck to ensure they have the best experience in these subjects.

Q. Is any additional or alternative SAC support being considered?

A. NZQA is running a trial to test additional functionality to ensure that relevant software can be used for digital assessments without causing issues. Schools already using relevant software are encouraged try it with the Familiarisation Activities and inform NZQA of their findings. Additionally, as part of NZQA’s goal to have all NCEA examinations available online where appropriate by 2020, more accessibility tools will be sought to support students requiring SAC so that they can complete digital examinations.

Technical requirements

Q. What browsers can be used for the assessments?

A. We recommend that you use one of the following browsers to access the digital examinations:

  • Chrome (53 or higher)
  • Safari (8.0 or higher)
  • Firefox (44 or higher)

Q. We want to be able to use Chromebooks for the Digital Trials and Pilots, which don’t have Microsoft Word – will this be an issue?

A. No - as the Digital Trials and Pilots will be run through browsers, they will not be reliant upon any programs like Microsoft Word.

Q. What if schools are not sure of their technical capability to participate in a Trial or a Pilot?

A. Schools can assess their technical readiness via the technical requirement and other considerations webpage. The page covers requirements, such as device and operating system options. Where possible, we suggest you involve your IT support people to help assess your readiness.

In addition to the technical readiness page, NZQA has also developed a set of Familiarisation Activities for each digital examination – see above.  A large number of students will be able to use the Familiarisation Activities at the same time, enabling schools to test the capability of their infrastructure and observe how it behaves.

Use of headphones

Q. Do students need headphones for the Trials and Pilots?

A. Students will require headphones for the following Trials, as these will include audio and/or video content.

  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • French
  • History
  • Samoan
  • Spanish
  • Te Reo Rangatira

Only wired headphones can be used for the examinations (as students could potentially use wireless headphones to access other devices without anyone knowing).

The Pilots do not require headphones.


Page last updated 14 August 2017

Skip to main page content Accessibility page with list of access keys Home Page Site Map Contact Us