Get your school ready for digital exams

Check out the information on this page for Principal’s Nominees, teachers and technical support people to get ready for NCEA Online digital exams.

Students can look at digital exam information, familiarisation activities and common questions so they know what to expect here digital exam preparation for students.

Common questions for schools:

Digital exam subjects

What NCEA Online subjects are available in 2021?

For end of year exams, we’re offering 24 NCEA subjects digitally, over 67 sessions, across levels 1-3 (unless noted):

Agricultural & Horticultural Science

Art History

Business Studies


Classical Studies

Education for Sustainability (L2 only)






Home Economics


Latin (L1 & 2 only)

Media Studies

Psychology (Level 3 only)


Social Studies


Te Reo Māori

Te Reo Rangatira

Lea Faka-Tongan

Cook Islands Māori Korean

You can also check out the National secondary examinations timetable for the list of subjects offered digitally.


How do I opt into digital exams?

Ensure the planned digital external entries are flagged as digital in your SMS.  Digital entries can be checked in the Key Indicators page of your Provider Login.

Submitting digital external entries to NZQA means that you’ll be automatically provisioned for both the practice exams subjects and end of year exams.

Special assessment conditions

Can students with a Special Assessment Condition (SAC) sit a digital exam?

Yes, students with a SAC entitlement can sit a digital exam.

As a school, you should consider the resources you will need to plan for a SAC student sitting a digital exam. For example, you’ll need to plan the appropriate space, supervisors, and exam assistants.

You can find more information about this on the Special Assessment Conditions page.

Can the background colour be changed for SAC students who need a different colour to help them read?

No, the supervision software means the digital exam becomes locked if browser extensions are used.

SAC students should talk through their needs and preferences with their schools.


Do students use their own devices or are school devices preferable?

Students can use their own device or a school device. There are pros and cons for both. The most important thing is that students use a device they are familiar with.

Bring your own device (BYOD) students are familiar with their own device. If they are using their own device the students need to be supported to ensure they are set up correctly for exams. More information can be found on the digital exams device check page.

School computers could be available as a backup and access to power outlets for recharging between exams would be useful, especially for those with two exams in a day.

Do schools need to supply a device for digital exam supervisors?

Yes, schools will need to provide a device for digital exam supervisors. Supervisors need to access the supervisor dashboard to monitor students’ digital exam activity.

A Chromebook is fine for a smaller exam session of fewer than 20 students.  For bigger cohorts, a larger screen is recommended so the supervisors can more easily view and monitor the greater number of students.

What’s involved in a Network Assurance Check?

Network for learning (N4L) works with a panel of 10 trusted IT Partners. This panel will carry out this year’s free Network Assurance Checks to support kura and schools’ digital readiness for NCEA Online.

In May 2021, N4L contacted all kura and schools that offer external assessments to ask if you would like to opt into the programme of work for Network Assurance Check. This check, which  takes place throughout June and early July, involves:

  • assessing the performance of the kura or schools’ network
  • checking general internet speed
  • identifying any WiFi dead spots
  • a review of Network security.

Following the Network Assurance Check your school or kura will receive a Findings Report. This report details technical capabilities and areas for improvement - that help to enhance the efficiency and security of your network so that you can prepare for digital exams.   

Is the Network Assurance Check the same as last year? If so, why do we need another check in 2021?

Your network performance can change over time so having another Network Assurance Check is like having a regular WOF.

It’s worthwhile reviewing any changes in factors such as student participation, use of classrooms, or technical setup. It’s also a good way to test that any improvements made by you are effective.

It’s important that you decide on which rooms will be used for digital exams ahead of time so that the Network Assurance Check can identify how well the network is working in the rooms that will be used for the exams.  This is important to ensure the best digital exam experience for students.

Is it compulsory to have whitelisting this year for digital language exams?

For a secure, authentic and positive experience, we recommend the use of whitelisting for digital language exams. This limits student access only to the digital exam platform and NZQA’s website.

So that this doesn’t affect the rest of the school or kura, you’ll need to separate the network traffic for students sitting digital exams from the rest of your network traffic. This can be done in different ways depending on your setup, such as setting up a virtual local area network (VLAN).

Can LanSchool software or “incognito” browsers affect the invigilation software in a digital exam?

No, we haven’t identified any VPNs or incognito browsers that affect the exam invigilation software in a digital exam.

We recommend disabling all background software to ensure it does not interfere with the exam invigilation software.

We also recommend that, where possible, your school has a VLAN set up for the digital exams, and use whitelisting of the exam URL and NZQA website.

For more information look at our Check school infrastructure webpage.

Downloadable resources

School experiences with digital exams

We spoke with Principal's Nominees at schools who did one or more digital exams in 2019 to find out more about their experiences with digital exams. Below are some highlights from those discussions.

Alan Robertson, Burnside High School

Dionne Thomas, Karamu High School

David Lowe, Taipa Area School

 Why schools participated in digital exam trials (2018)

Where to get support

We’re here to support your school provide digital exams to students. If you have questions, please: 

  • contact your school relationship manager by phone or email
  • email us at
  • call our Contact Centre on 0800 697 296. 
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