You are in:

Create An Assessment with Microsoft Word

Many staff make their own assessments using Microsoft Word or another word processor or desktop publishing program. You can use the resource 'as is' or convert it to PDF and add answer boxes.

We have created some example Word templates for you to download and edit in Word, Google Docs or Pages:

You can get Digital Answer Booklets in Word format from SQA but the front page doesn't display correctly in Word Online, Immersive Reader or Google Docs and they aren't accessible for Screen Readers so we recommend that you use the files from us. Our DQPs and DABs work with Immersive Reader and Google Docs and are more accessible.

Below are some hints and tips for making your own assessments in Microsoft Word.

CALL can provide professional learning on creating and using accessible assessments. Contact us for details.

Make your assessments accessible

Digital assessments must be accessible to all learners including students with disabilities or additional support needs. This is not only so that students can participate in the assessment: it is also a legal requirement under educational, equality and accessibility legislation.

  • Heading Styles. Use Heading Styles to format and structure your documents. Add page numbers to the footer or header.
  • Layout. Keep the layout simple and avoid floating images and graphic elements. Left-justify and avoid multiple columns if possible.
  • Interaction. Leave space for learners to type in answers or use formats (e.g. Microsoft or Google Forms) that are interactive.
  • Styles and formatting. Use Styles and formatting tools for indents, bullet and number lists - avoid tabs and spaces to space the text.
  • Font and spacing. Use a san serif font of at least 12 point ideally with 1.5 line spacing.
  • Colour. Use high contrast colours and avoid green and red text.
  • Readable text. All text must be selectable so it can be read with a computer text reader.
  • Alt text descriptions. Images must have 'alternative text descriptions' for visually impaired students who use screen readers or electronic braille displays.
  • Tables. Ensure that tables are accessible.
  • Accessibility Checkers. Use the Accessibility Checker tools in Word to review and improve accessibility.

Technology-based Assessment Arrangements - Digital Assessments Must be Accessible has more information and Craig Mill has created a series of quick guides explaining how to create an accessible Word document and export it to a range of formats. 

In our templates above we use Word Headings so that it's faster and easier to format the paper, e.g.

  • Heading 1 style for each section;
  • Heading 2 style for the questions.

By using Headings, the assessment is structured which makes it is easier for learners to navigate. For example a student can use the Word Navigation Pane to see the full list of questions; or a student using the Narrator Screen Reader can skim through each question to find the one they want.

To apply a heading:

  1. In Microsoft Word, click on the 'Home' tab and under the 'Styles' section, click the small arrow in the bottom right corner and the 'Styles' pane will appear.
  2. Type in a question, and then click on the 'Heading 2' style - this will 'apply' the style to the sentence you have just typed.
  3. If you want an answer box, copy and paste the tables provided in the template. 

Copy and paste questions from a PDF

You can copy questions from previous examination papers and paste them into your assessment.  

  1. Go to SQA website, download past papers for your subject and level and open them with Adobe Reader or your PDF editor.
  2. Find the text of a question you want to use, select and copy it.
  3. Go to your Word file, right-click and paste with 'Keep Text Only' so that it doesn't carry over any PDF text formatting - you'll add your own formatting later.
  4. When you paste text from PDF into Word it puts in paragraph marks at the end of each line, so go through the text and replace any unwanted mark with spaces. (Click on 'Show/hide invisibles' in the toolbar to see the paragraph marks.)
  5. To copy an image or graphic from the PDF, try clicking on it - if it gets highlighted, just copy and paste. If the image doesn't highlight, click on Edit > Take a Snapshot and draw round the image, then copy and paste in the usual way.
This video shows how:

Don't take a snapshot of text and paste it into your file because the text will be a picture and won't be readable with a text reader - you must copy the text as text and any images as images. 

Convert a PDF to Word

If you have an electronic PDF past paper or have scanned a paper into PDF you can try converting it to a Word file for editing. Your PDF editor will probably have an option to export to Word. If you don't have a PDF editor try these:

Adobe PDF to Word online

Adobe's free PDF to Word converter can convert the PDF into Word. This works quite well - see below.

Open a PDF in Word

You can also open a PDF in Microsoft Word itself - find the PDF and open it and Word will convert it to an editable document.

Some observations:

  • The online Adobe PDF to Word converter seems to give a more accurate conversion especially with pages that have a slightly more complicated layout and many images.
  • The online Adobe converter creates red text boxes from answer boxes.
  • You will still need to carefully check and edit the assessment and make sure it is accurate and accessible.
  •  You may actually find it quicker to copy and paste the questions you want one at a time.

Save the PDF as plain text

If you plan to use several questions from a PDF paper, or the complete text (e.g. for an English Reading paper), it may be quicker to save the paper as a text file rather than as a Word file. The advantage of this is that you don’t have spurious Word formatting mucking up the paper.

  1. Convert the PDF to Word using the online Adobe tool.
  2. Click on File and choose Save a Copy then choose Plain text instead of Word Document. 

Once you have saved your text file, right-click on it and choose to open it with Microsoft Word. Edit it in Word, convert to PDF and then add your answer boxes.

Add answer boxes with LibreOffice

With Word, you can't create a PDF with answer boxes (form fields), but you can do it with the free LibreOffice Writer, so you could edit your assessment in Word, open it in LibreOffice Writer, add the answer boxes, and export it to PDF. No need to buy a PDF editor.