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Setting up the IPads

To use an iPad in an examination you need to consider four questions:

  1. Which periperals and apps do we need on the iPad? 
  2. How do we distribute Digital Question Papers and Digital Answer Booklets to the iPads and print completed papers and answer booklets?
  3. How can the iPad be made secure so that candidates cannot access information on the internet or elsewhere?
  4. How can we turn off support tools such as spellchecker when the candidate doesn't have permission to use them?

Which apps do we need?

See the pages on reading/accessing Digital Question Papers and about Digital Answer Booklets

Do we need keyboards and mice?

Yes, in our view. The standard iPad has a relatively small screen so by using a hardware keyboard, the pupil can see more of the examination on screen, and some students prefer and are more confortable with a hardware keyboard.

Or pupils could use the iPad Floating Keyboard or Split Keyboard which take up less screen area.

Teachers have commented that bluetooth keyboards are not always reliable and so it may be better to use USB wired keyboards.

To connect a standard USB keyboard to an iPad, you'll need a USB Lighting or USB-C adapter.

Some learners do find it easier to select and edit text with a mouse or other pointing device compared to the touch screen.

You can use a USB hub to connect a keyboard and mouse at the same time.

How do we distribute DQPs and print?

At time of writing in July 2023, SQA's policy is that devices cannot access the internet or network - "other than a restricted exam network" - during an examination. This prevents us from using cloud storage such as OneDrive or Google Drive. In my view this is not a realistic policy for schools and so we hope that it will be reviewed. 

You could distribute DQPs to each device and collect completed responses with a USB stick, but this is not a practical or very secure option.

You could perhaps set up iPads in advance with only those apps required and the required files. This might be feasible for a small number of students and examinations but again it is not really practical for most schools.

We hope that SQA will change the internet policy to permit restricted access to the internet so that iPads can be configured and resources can be distributed efficiently, whilst prevent the candidate from accessing anything else on internet. 

How can we set up the iPads with the permitted settings and apps, and secure it to prevent access to the internet or other information?

For obvious reasons, it is important that candidates cannot access information that could help them in the examination:

  • Stored on the iPad or on the internet
  • or on other electronic devices that could connect to the iPad.

In Scotland, SQA state that it is the school's responsibility to ensure that candidates cannot access any electronic sources or files via the internet or on USB drives or mobile devices. You could adapt the learner's own device or use an iPad which has been set up specifically for the exam or consider an online assessment system.

There are three main options:

How can we turn off support tools such as spellchecker if the candidate does not have permission to use them?

In an external-assessed examination, any writing tools that may help the pupil, such as spellchecker,  Auto-Correct, predictive text or Siri dictation must be turned off unless you have requested permission for the student to use them through the SQA online AAR request system.

For internal National 3 and 4 literacy assessments, spellcheckers and other literacy supports can be used.

The easiest approach is probably to use a commercial online assessment tool or your Mobile Device Managment (MDM) system (if you have one) to set up 'exam iPads’ where access to the web and files is restricted, and the iPads are set up with only those apps and settings that are permitted for the candidates in the exam. If you only have a few candidates, you could set them up individually.


Securing the iPad with an MDM platform

Here at CALL Scotland, we use Meraki for our Mobile Device Managment (MDM) solution. An MDM is software tool to monitor, manage and secure mobile devices deployed across an organisation. Other MDMs used in schools and local authorities are LightSpeed and Jamf.

Within MDMs, you can do many system level tasks remotely that are harder and far more time-consuming to do manually on an iPad. We recommend that you:

  • Restrict the app usage to only those required for the examination;
  • Remove all functionality on the iPads and then go through and allow anything that is required;
  • Enable web content filtering and add your list of allowed websites (blank in some cases);
  • Disable the installation of apps;
  • Disable Siri (if not required).

You cannot disable WiFi or bluetooth within the MDM so restrict the WiFi at a school level on the network, i.e. block the MAC address of the iPad(s).


Securing the iPad manually

Guided Access

iPads have Guided Access which locks the iPad into a single app and so prevents the learner from accessing any others. So if you use PDF Expert or ClaroPDF to access the question paper and/or digital answer booklet, you can set up Guided Access to stop the candidate from accessing other files or the internet or changing settings on the iPad.

For 'question-only' papers where the candidate types or dictates responses in a separate document, you can use a PDF digital answer booklet in the ClaroPDF or PDF Expert apps, within Guided Access. 

Siri dictation will still work via the internet to recognise speech and convert it to text when Guided Access is on.

(You can use also Assistive Access that permits the pupil to only access specific apps, so this is a possibility if you need both a PDF reader and another app. In practice, we don't think it's suitable for exams because the pupil cannot see both the PDF question paper and their answer document on screen at the same time.)

Although Guided Access prevents the candidate from using other apps it can still allow access to the internet from within the app. This is good news for students who want to use Dictation, but it also means that the user may be able to use the iPad's Define/Lookup dictionary and access files in cloud storage from within the app on for example Google Drive or OneDrive. Therefore, access to any such storage should be disabled by either removing the relevant Cloud  app from the device, password-protecting the drive, or preventing wi-fi access completely.

Some learners may prefer to use the Word version of the SQA answer booklet or even just a simple editor such as Notes. In this case, Guided Access is not suitable because you need a PDF reader to view the question paper and Word, Pages or Notes to write responses. 

Configure the iPad for Guided Access

  • Backup any files you want to keep from Files. Delete all content in Files.
  • Copy the Digital Question Paper and/or Answer Booklet to the relevant app folder in Files on the iPad.
  • Open the file(s) in the app.
  • Set up the app with the pupil's preferred options, e.g. colours, text-to-speech voice.

Go to:

  1. Wi-Fi and turn it off.
  2. Bluetooth and turn it off.
  3. General > AirDrop and turn receiving off.
  4. General Keyboard and turn off the spellcheck and other writing tools, unless the candidate has permission to use them, i.e. Auto-CapitalisationAuto-Correction, Predictive Text, Check Spelling, Shortcuts, Smart Punctuation, Enable Dictation. 
  5. General > Dictionary and untick all the dictionaries. Dictionary definitions are not allowed in examinations.
  6. Control Centre and disable Access within Apps.
  7. Accessibility and set up the accessibility tools that the pupil requires.
  8. Privacy & Security and turn off access to Photos and the Camera for the apps you are going to use (so the pupil can't insert photos).
  9. The settings for your PDF app, e.g. PDF Expert, ClaroPDF or OneDrive and turn off access to for example the Local Network, Photos, Camera, or Document Storage.
  10. Accessibility > Guided Access, set a password and turn Guided Access on.

For the examination:

  1. Open the app, check that the question paper and/or answer booklet are there. Triple click the Home button and turn on Guided Access.
  2. Give the iPad to the pupil.
  3. At the end of the examination, take back the iPad, exit Guided Access, copy the completed files from the ipad and print.

This information is provided for guidance - we are not network security experts and so you should consult your technical specialists.