22 Sep 2016

Students head online to test NCEA exams

11:18 am on 22 September 2016

Thousands of teenagers have been getting a sneak peek at the future of NCEA exams this month.

Paraparaumu College students sit trial online exams.

Paraparaumu College students sit trial online exams. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

They have been trialling online exams for the Qualifications Authority as part of its preparations to make all exams available digitally in 2020.

Qualifications Authority spokesperson Andrea Gray said about 7000 students at 100 schools were involved in the trials.

Ms Gray said the exams were more than just digital copies of paper tests.

She said they used techniques like "dynamic graphing" and drag and dropping, which could not be done on paper.

"Dynamic graphing would be where you hover the mouse over an area of a graph and click on the place where, for example, the graph shows the most acceleration," she said.

"It gives students and teachers an opportunity to use some of the innovative ways in which we can assess the standards digitally."

Ms Gray said the practice exams were aimed at understanding how students experienced the digital format.

"We're also looking to understand what the school experience is of mounting the digital exams - what are the logistics like, how do they work - and we're most interested in trying to understand the validity of the digital exams in comparison with the paper-based exam."

The trial exams were being offered in ten subjects: Business Studies, Economics, Geography, Health, History, Science, Physics, Te Reo Rangatira, Samoan, and Spanish.

no caption

The practice exams are aimed at understanding how students experience the digital format. Photo: 123rf

In addition, students at the trial schools would be allowed to sit digital versions of some of this year's NCEA exams.

Ms Gray said unlike the trial exams, the pilot exams would count for NCEA and they would not include questions tailored for a digital setting - they would simply be digital versions of the paper exams.

The pilot exams would be in Classical Studies, English, French and Media Studies.

One of the schools involved in the trials is Paraparaumu College where the head of maths, Leonor White, said it made sense to put exams on a computer given young people's high use of technology.

"Some of us who are looking at this going 'oh it's a waste of time, we shouldn't be doing it' - we're not sitting them, our students are, they're the ones using devices every single day."

Paraparaumu College principal Gregor Fountain said he hoped digitisation would bring fundamental changes, not just to how exams were sat, but what they examined.

"Will the exams take the opportunities that come from digitisation to be more sort of open book type exams, and be exams that will allow kids to pull on resources that they could access rather than largely being recall-style exams?"