Digital exams

This information is relevant to 2019 exams and will be updated for 2020. 

NZQA is changing how students can do their NCEA exams – from hand-written papers, to online, using a PC or laptop. This reflects the way students already interact with the world and how they are doing much of their learning, and it helps to prepare them for their next steps after school.

Watch the video below to get an overview of what the digital interface looks like. 

Digital exams student checklist

Sitting a digital exam? Make sure you're prepared by using our digital exams student checklist (PDF, 107KB)

Have a play

Doing any exams digitally this year? The hands on activities below will help you become familiar with the exam interface so there are no surprises on exam day.

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Getting ready for digital exams

Technical and digital exam support requirements for schools can be found here.

Common questions

Where can I find my login details for a digital exam?

Your login details will be on your NCEA candidate admission slip given to you in term 4.

If you lose or forget your admission slip on the day of your exam, go to the school office and ask them to print the admission slip. Your Principal’s Nominee must sign your reprinted admission slip before you enter the exam room.

What do I need to bring on the day of my exam?

You will need to bring:

  • your NCEA candidate admission slip with your username, which is your National Student Number (NSN) and your verification code, printed directly below your NSN
  • pens (black and blue colours are permitted), pencil and eraser for note taking or in case you need to switch to paper
  • emergency evacuation pack: clear, sealable plastic bag containing mobile phone (switched off), watch (alarms and notifications switched off), keys, money, bus pass and medicines
  • Where applicable your personal device, fully charged and prechecked by the school (a power bank for your device may also be stored in your emergency pack).

What if I can’t log in?

Let your exam supervisor know if you can’t log in. They will help you and contact technical support, if required.

You can log into your exam up to 30 minutes before the exam start time. You can’t see the content of the exam until your exam supervisor gives you access.

What if I decide not to do the exam online on the day?

You can choose to move to paper at any time before or during the exam. If you have started a standard online, you're encouraged to complete the standard digitally before moving to the next standard on paper. If you choose to switch to paper, the rest of the exam must be completed on paper. You will not be able to switch back to the digital exam.

Will I still get a resource booklet?

Some exams will include a separate booklet of resource material. If your exam includes resource material in a separate booklet, your exam supervisor will give this to you.

What happens if my device fails during an exam?

No student will be disadvantaged if their device stops working during a digital exam. If a device stops working, all responses will have been saved and the student can resume on another device as required with no time or work lost.  If no other device is available, the exam supervisor will note how much time was taken for the student to switch to paper and grant additional time at the end of the exam.

What if I have a problem with the online exam that can’t be resolved quickly?

You can switch to paper. If you are unable to work due to a technical problem during the online exam, your exam supervisor may give you additional time to complete your exam to make up for time lost. The exam supervisor will determine how much additional time should be given to ensure you have three hours to complete the exam.

Your supervisor may move you to a paper exam due to a technical issue if it cannot be resolved quickly. You do not need to copy what you have completed so far onto the paper exam as this will be saved on the exam software server.

What happens if I move away from the exam window?

If you attempt to move away from the exam or try to access other areas of your device, you’ll get a warning message. If you do not return to the exam immediately, you’ll be locked out of the exam. The supervisor can unlock the exam but may need to report the possible breach to NZQA.

Can students copy content from source texts and ‘paste’ it into their responses?

Yes, information from the digital exam can be copied and pasted, but students will not be able to navigate outside of their exam to copy and paste content.

How often is my work saved?

Your work is saved every 30 seconds and when moving between standards.
If you have lost connection, a pop-up screen will alert you if you try to move between pages.

Don’t worry! Raise your hand and the supervisor and technical support staff will help you.

Don’t refresh or close your browser. Once connection is established again, the supervisor can confirm that your work has been saved.

Can I change the font sizes of my response, for example if I have trouble reading text on screen?

Yes, you can use the zoom in/out keyboard features to read your responses easily.

Will digital exam answers be available for students to view?

For 2019 exams: digital exam answers will be available from 22 January 2020. You can find more information on accessing your digital exams here.

Digital exam answers are available to view on the digital exam platform until 30 June 2020. To view your results, you will need to login using your NSN and the verification code on your admission slip. 

What are the specifications for Bring Your Own Devices?

Quickly check if your device meets the specifications for a digital exam by using our Digital exams device check

If you are using your own device for your digital exam, make sure the device is a laptop or Chromebook.

Touch screen portable devices can only be used if they have physically attached keyboards. Students using on-screen keyboards will be locked out of the exam by the security mechanisms in the software.

  • the operating system is
      • Microsoft Windows 7, 8.1, 10+
      • Apple Mac OS 10.12+
      • Chrome OS
  • The device has one of the following browsers installed
      • Google Chrome, version 74+
      • Safari (Mac), version 11+

Note: You can’t access the exam if you use another version of the browser or an unsupported browser.

  • notifications, screensavers and automatic updates have been disabled

Note: If you haven’t disabled them, you may get locked out of the exam or lose your work.

    • you’ve set screen resolution to minimum 1366 x 768 pixels
    • the browser is set to full screen mode
    • it’s virus free
    • it’s fully charged and can last the duration of the assessment

Note: Your school may not be able to provide plugs for power cables in your exam room, so it’s important that your device is fully charged before going into an exam.

Power banks can be used in the exam room. Your power bank must be stored in your sealed emergency evacuation pack under your desk. If you need to use it, ask your supervisor. Power banks with wireless capability and/or memory storage capacity will not be allowed. If you bring these devices into the exam room it will constitute a breach of exam rules.


What data will NZQA collect during a digital exam?

By sitting a digital exam, you are agreeing that NZQA can collect and keep digital data about your exam activity. This activity data may include, but is not limited to:

  • Your mouse movements and clicks
  • Any screen information
  • Any times you are locked out
  • All saved versions of your answers.

NZQA will keep this data safe and not share it in any way that could identify you. NZQA may use it to identify possible breaches of the rules or improve future exam design.

You can request a copy of this data by contacting NZQA through our Contact Us page.

If you do not agree to NZQA collecting and keeping this data you need to tell your Principal's Nominee. You should not sit an exam digitally.

Note: This message will also be displayed on the exam software before you enter the exam. You can choose to switch to paper at any point before or during your digital exam.


The digital exam experience

We visited Paraparaumu College and Rongotai College in October 2018 to speak to students and staff about their experience with digital exams. Below are some video highlights from these discussions.

What students liked

 Why schools participated



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