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Using Networked Computers in Examinations

by Paul Nisbet

on Mon Dec 02, 2013

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Staff often ask whether to use standalone or networked computers in exams, and so we have written a quick guide (below) and also available for download.

Exam Profiles for Digital Question Papers

In an exam you can either use standalone computers, or you can use machines attached to your school network. The best way to run digital exams is to use networked computers and for your technicians to set up ‘exam profiles' on the machines.

The Exam Profiles should:

  • prevent access to internet, USB memory sticks, Bluetooth and any folders or files on the school network or computer – to prevent cheating;
  • have the software required for the exam (usually Adobe Reader and Microsoft Word, plus text-to-speech software);
  • give access to an ‘exam folder’ on the network.

Each Exam Profile – Exam1, Exam2 etc. – has a network folder with the same name, with read and write access for the pupils.

Prior to the exam, staff should create a planning table which matches the pupils against the computers and the Exam Profiles - e.g. Joe Brown will be on computer 1 with Exam Profile 1; Jane Smith on computer 2 with Exam Profile 2; and so on.

On the day of the exam, the SfL teacher or technician, in the presence of the invigilator, puts the CD into their own networked computer and copies the papers from the CD to the network folders for each pupil.

Spellcheck on/off

SQA provide two versions of the Digital Question Paper on the CD: one with the spellchecker enabled (e.g. ‘Int_2_Geography_Spellchcheckon’), and the other with spellchecker turned off (e.g. ‘Int_2_Geography_Spellchcheckoff’). Make sure you copy the correct papers to the correct network folders for each pupil – for example, you might designate Computers 1 to 3 for candidates who are not using the spellchecker, and Computers 4 and 5 for learners who do have permission to use the spellchecker.

Digital Answer Booklets

If Digital Answer Booklets are required for the exam, they should be downloaded in advance from the SQA web site at and then copied to the Exam Profile network folders.

Data Booklets

If required, PDF versions of Data Booklets for sciences and Technological Studies should also be downloaded from the same SQA site and copied to the network folders.

Paper copies

SQA provide paper copies of the examination for all the candidates that are using Digital Papers:  learners can use both at any time during the examination.

On the day

Pupils sit down at the computers and are told the computer and the Exam Profile they are to use. They log on to Exam1, or Exam2 etc and they can see the correct paper sitting for them in the network folder. They open it, work on it, and save it frequently as they go through it. (Staff should also ensure that the Adobe Reader ‘auto-save’ is turned on.)

At the end of the exam candidates print their paper and/or answer booklets out on a networked printer (preferably in the room next door to give easy access and to avoid disturbing candidates in the exam room). The candidate should have an opportunity to check over the paper (within the overall time allowed) and if necessary amend and re-print answers before the paper is given to the invigilator.


Using networked computers with profiles and folders in this way gives security and is MUCH easier and faster for staff than using standalone computers. If you use standalone machines you will run round sticking the CD into each computer in turn, and then at the end of the exam, run round copying the completed papers off to a USB stick to get them printed. This takes a lot more time and is generally less reliable and more prone to error and high blood pressure than using networked computers with Exam Profiles.


Further guidance is available from SQA ( and CALL Scotland ( 

Tags: SQA, digital exams

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