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Co-ordinator Update 31 October 2023

Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in 2023 - 24 external assessments

We issued a position statement in March regarding our current policy around ICT security in exams which prohibits any internet access. In advance of the exam diet, all centres must complete an ICT Security Checklist which confirms that devices being used in exams have no access to the internet. Access to the internet is prohibited in external assessments (including coursework where the conditions of assessment do not permit this and exams) to prevent learners using ICT from accessing anything online that may help them.

We acknowledge the increasing use of internet-enabled laptop or tablet devices (mainly Chromebooks and iPads) by learners in local authority schools and colleges over the past few years, mainly in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a survey of centres to gather information on how ICT devices are being used in teaching and learning, and assessments. We are carrying out further research and engaging with centres to help us understand how technology is currently being used as an assessment arrangement by disabled learners and/or those with additional support needs. We are also exploring the risks of permitting restricted access to the internet in externally assessed coursework and exams. However, we understand that this is an issue that affects the sector and consideration of our policy regarding enabling internet access is only one aspect of the wider problem. The situation is complex and we need to ensure any decisions made, and solutions identified, are based on research evidence, is equitable and fair to all learners using a range of devices.

It is for this reason that our position on not allowing internet access in SQA externally assessed coursework (unless permitted in the conditions of assessment) and exams remains unchanged for 2023 - 24. In the absence of sufficient controls, there are several risks associated with introducing internet-enabled devices to assessment settings that could compromise the integrity of our assessments. All these risks are yet to be fully understood, but some examples include compromising assessment standards by introducing opportunities for malpractice; requiring centres to configure individual devices and placing undue pressure on exam invigilators to monitor assessment conditions.

The prohibition of internet access applies to all instances where ICT may be used in externally assessed coursework and exams including:

• National 5 Administration and IT
• Higher Applications of Mathematics
• where Digital Question Papers (DQPs) are being used
• where learners are using technology as part of an assessment arrangement
• where learners who do not have an additional support need have requested to use ICT to complete assessments.

When using ICT devices, you must ensure all devices comply with the requirements set out in the ICT Security checklist, including the prohibition of internet access. In externally assessed coursework, you must ensure that use of ICT does not compromise the specific conditions of assessment for the course. Where ICT is being used as part of an assessment arrangement, you must ensure that you continue to follow our guidance on assessment arrangements while enabling each learner to have the appropriate ICT set up for their exams.

We will continue to keep you updated about our position on this matter.