Providers and partners

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.

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

For copyright purposes, sample exams require a sample student # and sample password. To obtain these, please email or phone Siona Tulia at NZQA on or 04 463 4305.

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 examination.

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).
  • Examination 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 examination.
  • 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 or 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.

To read more about the 2014 micro-pilot, see the SAC Reader/Writer report (PDF, 899KB).

Further Information

Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) candidates who decide they wish to complete one or more of their 2015 end of year examinations digitally will have been approved for both a reader and writer/computer.

They are most likely to complete all the standards they have entered for a session using a desktop computer or laptop and are comfortable using computers and entering text themselves. Candidates who communicate better in their own handwriting and using a reader may not be suitable for this project.

There is, however, no compulsion that all standards must be completed digitally within a session, and some candidates may elect to complete one standard digitally whilst preferring to use their reader/writer for another. If this option is proposed by candidates SENCOs need to consider the practicalities of bringing in a reader/writer for part of an examination session.

The digital examinations contain three additional features which may assist candidates and are available for use in all examinations:

  • Spell-check
  • Large print
  • Dyslexic font, which may benefit some candidates.

To provide reassurance and ensure no candidate participating in this digital assessment project is disadvantaged, candidates will not be obliged to complete an examination digitally if they wish to revert to using either a word processing program and their reader or their reader/writer. This person will be available during an examination should a candidate wish to change or in the event of computer breakdown.

No additional time will be made available to candidates for a changeover to a reader/writer or word processing program - they will only receive the time approved as their SAC entitlement.

No digital examinations will be provided for schools to use as mock examinations as these are prepared by schools for their own students.

Accessibility Tools

There are a range of accessibility tools available to schools in relation to computer based assessment, through your current operating systems provider. NZQA is not promoting these products or recommending their use, just making schools aware of their availability


To assist with the actual changing of settings, please go here:

If you are interested in being involved in this project for 2015 or have any questions or feedback, please contact Siona Tulia on 04 463 4305 or

Timeline for 2015

When What Who
From 16 June – 3 July Schools to provide an initial indication of interest in participation in the project by email to or through the registration form SENCOs and PNs
16 June Publish selected 2014 NCEA examinations online for candidates to practice on the AWIS interface NZQA
16 June Send through communications about SAC to schools via PN email and circulars NZQA
From 16 June Read information about SAC – Digital Assessment SENCOs and PNs
16 June – 30 June Identify and talk to candidates who meet the criteria and may wish to complete some or all of their examinations digitally SENCOs and PNs
From 16 June Contact Siona Tulia at NZQA on 04 463 4305 or with any questions about the project SENCOs and PNs
16 June – 30 October Practice on the selected 2014 NCEA examinations Candidates
16 June – 1 August Confirm which standards candidates are completing using an online digital examination via or via a registration form Candidates/SENCOs
16 June – 30 October Provide any feedback about practice examinations to NZQA via or call Siona Tulia on 04 463 4305 Candidates/SENCOs
12 October – 30 October Schools to do a AWIS readiness test – examination, security download and text to speech reader Candidates/Schools
Skip to main page content Accessibility page with list of access keys Home Page Site Map Contact Us