Assessment Matters


Special Assessment Conditions – Digital Assessment
A2015/021 - 18 Jun 2015


Principal's Nominee
Special Education Needs Co-ordinators

Special Assessment Conditions – Digital Assessment

NZQA is continuing to explore how digital assessment can support candidates with entitlement to Special Assessment Conditions (SAC).

The 2014 SAC micro-pilot is being extended and all schools are invited to register interest in this year’s project if they have candidates who may meet the criteria for eligibility.

The project will offer online computer-based (digital) examinations for SAC candidates who have entitlement to use both a reader and computer in 2015. The digital examinations will include:

  • text to speech
  • variable font size
  • a dyslexic-friendly font.

NZQA will partner with Canadian company A. Willock Information Systems (AWIS) to host the examinations using their established platform.

Further information about this project is available here.

Project Phases

In 2015, there are two phases for this project:

Phase One – Familiarisation with online practice assessments

NZQA will provide 2014 online practice assessments for candidates to gain familiarity with the AWIS platform in the following standards:

  • L1 English, AS90849, AS90850 and AS90851
  • L1 Agricultural and Horticultural Science AS90924
  • L1 Science AS90940 and AS90944
  • L2 English AS91098, AS91099 and AS91100
  • L3 English AS91472
  • L3 Business Studies AS91380 and AS91381.

After familiarisation with the system, candidates (via their SENCO) will confirm to NZQA that they wish to complete some, or all, of their external examinations digitally. They should do so by completing the registration form.

It should be noted that in order to have their own typed responses read back to them, candidates need text to speech software which will run with the online digital exam.

Candidates and staff may provide feedback about the 2014 online practice assessments by email to

If the SENCO wishes to discuss this project further, please contact Siona Tulia on 04 463 4305 or

Phase Two – implementation of digital assessment procedures in external examinations

  • Candidates will use a desktop or laptop computer and headphones (if there is more than one candidate in the computer room).
  • Exam questions, and any other supplied resource texts are digitally read to the candidate on the click of a button. A candidate may choose to have any text read as many times as they wish.
  • Candidate responses are typed into pre-determined spaces.
  • In order to have their own typed responses read back to them, candidates need text to speech software which will run with the online digital exam.
  • At any point during an examination, a candidate may decide to revert either to completing their examination on computer using a word processing program or making use of their allocated reader/writer.
  • Candidate answers are printed out at the end of the examination, enclosed with their answer booklet, and dispatched for marking in the usual way.

Candidate suitability

Candidates who may be suitable for this examination option:

  • have a SAC entitlement to a reader and writer/computer
  • are comfortable using a computer and keyboard and type faster and more accurately than they write
  • have experience (or could gain experience) using text-to-speech software, eg ClaroRead, Natural Reader, Kurzweil. Please note that most products in the market offer a basic product via a free download
  • have current entries for external assessment
  • are keen to take part in the project and have parental and SENCO support.

Please discuss this proposal with these candidates and their parents to gauge initial interest.

School Requirements

In addition to having suitable candidates, schools will require the following:

  • reliable Internet access and speed
  • readily available technical support
  • text-to-speech software and staff who are prepared to investigate the use of this with potential candidates
  • the ability to download additional provided software which automatically ‘blocks’ candidates from accessing other areas of the Internet or other saved documentation which might assist candidates during a digital examination.

Registration of interest

Once you have determined any candidates interested in participating, please register initial interest by emailing the following information to or complete a registration form by 3 July 2015:

  • SAC candidates’ NSNs and names
  • Externally assessed standards they are interested in completing digitally.

NZQA will contact schools individually if any further information is needed.

Report on the 2014 SAC micro-pilot

The 2014 SAC micro-pilot explored the use of text to speech software within computer-based examinations rather than using a human reader/writer. The micro-pilot had two components:

  1. Phase One: school practice examinations in August and September 2014. Eleven candidates from four schools sat seven practice examination sessions (14 standards) across NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3.
  2. Phase Two: NCEA external examinations in November 2014. Eight candidates from three schools sat four NCEA examination sessions (9 standards) across Levels 1, 2 and 3.

The full report for the 2014 micro-pilot (PDF, 899KB) is available on the NZQA website.


Please refer any enquiries relating to this circular to:
Siona Tulia
Operations and Logistics
Telephone: 04 463 4305
Fax: 04 463 3113

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