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Add Text Boxes with Adobe Reader

Ideally you should create assessments and prelims with form fields using a PDF editor such as Acrobat Pro, but if you do not have such software, you could consider this alternative.

Adobe Reader and PDF

Teachers can create a PDF version from most word processors or publisher sofwtare with a click of a mouse. In Word, go to File > Save As and choose PDF instead of Word docx format.

This is all that needs to be done for ‘question only’ papers, where the students type up their answers in a separate Digital Answer Booklet, or in a word processor.

Because you must buy the PDF editing software, install it, learn how to use it, identify staff who are going to add the answer boxes, and create a workflow, this can present a barrier to taking forward digital assessments in your school.

An alternative is for staff to draw in text boxes using the Comment and annotation tools that are available within Adobe Reader itself. This doesn’t involve additional cost or software.

 

Text Boxes

Open the PDF you have just saved from Word in Adobe Reader and click on Tools > Comment.

Choose Add text box and draw the text box into the paper.

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Hit CTRL-I to open the Text Box Properties and set:

  • Border Color = red;
  • Fill Color = white to cover any handwriting guidelines, or No color if you want it to be transparent.
  • Then tick Make Properties Default.

Double click in the text box and adjust the Text Style to your preference, e.g. Arial, 12 point, black.

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Tick Boxes

You cannot insert tick boxes with Adobe Reader, so alternatives are:

  • Draw in a Text Box and ask learners to type an ‘X’;
  • Ask learners to use the Highlight tool to mark the correct answer;
  • Ask learners to use the Pencil tool to mark the correct answer;
  • Ask learners to use the Circle tool to mark the correct answer.
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Hints and tips for learners

  • Double click on a Text Box to insert your answer.
  • The Text Box will expand as you type more lines (unlike Form Fields) so make sure it doesn’t cover up the next question.
  • You can’t hit the TAB key to move between text boxes.
  • There are no tick boxes – you have to type an ‘X’ into the box to indicate your answer.
  • To switch off a drawing tool like the pencil, click on it in the toolbar.
  • The Text Box will already have the font, size and colours set but you can change it if you want. Select some text and hit CTRL-I to open the Text Box Text Properties.
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  • You can also change the font style by right clicking on selected text ad choosing Text Style.
  • Spellcheck any suspect words by right clicking on the word, or press F7.
 

Text Boxes compared to Form Fields

Figure 1: SQA DQP with answer boxes (form fields) created using Acrobat Pro

Shows a DQP with 'tick box' functionality

Figure 2: A DQP with Text Boxes created with Adobe Reader

Shows a DQP with no 'tick box' functionality

Some disadvantages of using Adobe Reader Text Boxes for answers are:

  • it does not give the students quite the same experience as an actual SQA DQP;
  • there is no ‘tick box’ functionality and so students must type a character instead or use a drawing tool to mark the answer;
  • students cannot TAB between text boxes;
  • it is possible for the learner to delete or move answer boxes;
  • you cannot turn off the spellchecker - this tool may not be permitted for some candidates.

The use of prelim papers with ‘form field’ answer boxes created with a PDF editor such as Acrobat Pro is therefore the best solution, but it does require investment. Using Text Boxes with Adobe Reader may provide a satisfactory procedure that can be undertaken by any subject teacher, immediately.