Digital practice exams in 2020

Schools and students can use NZQA’s digital exam platform for their practice external assessment in English, Agricultural and Horticultural Science, Classical Studies and the reading standard for Te Reo Māori at all NCEA levels.

Most schools offer practice exams near the end of the year to help students prepare for their NCEA exams. If held under exam conditions, schools can use the marks for derived or unexpected event grades if needed, provided the student evidence collected meets our requirements.

Digital practice exams provide a useful indication of where students may wish to focus their study leading into the end of the year. They also offer another opportunity to practice on the NCEA Online digital exam platform before the end of year exams.

In 2020 digital practice exams are offered by NZQA with the support of three subject associations and managed and marked by schools.

The digital practice exams will be available from 31 August to 28 September, leaving NZQA time to prepare the platform for end of year NCEA exams. NZQA contacted schools in the week of 20 July with a request to confirm if they are interested in offering digital practice exams.

Using NZQA's platform for digital practice exams


What to do

How to do it

Before exams

Digital dashboard

Initial set up

  • timetabling exams 

  • allocating rooms 

  • allocating supervisors 

  • exam security 


  • passwords and codes

  • training your supervisors

Preparing staff and students

  • Check the exam - papers, students, entries, supervisor and student access

  • Special Assessment Conditions

  • Brief teachers and students 

Devices and rooms

  • student devices 

  • device(s) for supervisors 

  • room set up and requirements 

Technical specifications

  • network and WiFi

  • things to check

During exams    

Managing the exam 

  • opening and closing the session (admin role) 

  • supervisor login 

  • refreshing 

  • assigning additional standards 

  • checking all exams have been submitted 


  • Supervisor guide*

  • Admin guide*

Supervisor script

Instructions to students:

  • logging in

  • submitting an exam

  • managing issues 


Managing issues

  • student logins 

  • lockouts 

  • device failure 

  • lost connection 

  • switching to paper  


  • Supervisor guide*

After exams 

Quality assurance

  • derived grades and security 


  • training markers

  • recording grades


  • Marker guide*


  • releasing results

  • student access to exams

  • extracting grades

  •  Admin guide*

 *Supervisor, Marker and Admin guides have been sent directly to schools who are offering digital practice exams by email. If you are offering digital practice exams and have not received these, please contact 

Why are we offering this

It is an opportunity for students to get an exam experience using our platform before the “real thing” and for schools to test their systems. It should help teachers and students build confidence by using the same exam platform. These digital practice external exams can be used to complement any form of evidence gathered to provide quality assured results for derived or unexpected event grades.

Key dates

First week of Term 3 (July 20 onwards) – NZQA will contact schools intending to offer end of year NCEA Online exams about which practice exams they may want to offer and when.

1 August – Schools will need to upload their August data file with all students entered in the standards you want to assess digitally.

3 August – Schools need to confirm their interest in the practice exams.

Early August – NZQA will register all students entered for end of year NCEA Online exams based on information in the 1 August data file.  Updated guides and support packages on getting ready for digital exams become available.

Mid-August - NZQA will provide information and guidance to help schools learn to manage, monitor and mark the digital practice exams.  Schools will nominate which week they will schedule digital practice exams.

August 31 to 28 September - NZQA platform will be open for digital practice exams.

NZQA would like to thank the following subject associations for their support in offering digital practice exams in 2020:

  • Horticulture and Agriculture Teachers Association (HATA)
  • New Zealand Association of Classical Teachers (NZACT)
  • New Zealand Association for the Teaching of English (NZATE)
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