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Setting up the IPads

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

  1. Which apps do we need on the iPad? 
  2. How do we distribute Digital Question Papers 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?

To answer this, see the pages on reading/accessing Digital Question Papers and about Digital Answer Booklets

How do we distribute DQPs and print?

At time of writing in October 2021, SQA's policy is that devices cannot access the internet during an examination. This prevents us from using any cloud storage such as OneDrive, or any secure assessment platforms, and in my view is not a realistic policy for schools in 2021/22. 

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.

We hope that the internet policy will be amended to permit restricted access to the internet, i.e. to permit access to the assessment in a secure location but prevent the candidate from accessing anything else on internet. This was allowed in 2020-21 for remote assessment.

How can we secure the iPad to prevent access to the internet or other sources?

For obvious reasons, it is important that candidates cannot access information on the internet or files:

  • 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 can adapt the learner's own device, or use an iPad which has been set up specifically for the exam.

There are three main options:

  • Use an online assessment tool that is designed for administering digital assessments, such as or ChromeEx.
  • Configure the iPads with the apps, security and settings you require with your school's Mobile Device Management (MDM) system.
  • Set up the iPads manually.

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 as our Mobile Device Managment (MDM) solution. An MDM is a type of security software used to monitor, manage and secure mobile devices that are deployed across an organisation.

Within Meraki, you can do many system level tasks that are harder to do manually on an iPad. We recommend that you:

  • Restrict the app usage to only those required;
  • Remove all functionality 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

iPads have a feature called Guided Access which locks the iPad into a single app and therefore prevents the learner from accessing any others. So if you were using PDF Expert or ClaroPDF to access the question paper, you could set up Guided Access to stop the candidate from accessing other files or the internet.

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

Although Guided Access prevents the candidate from using other apps, it still allows access to the internet from within the app. This is good news for Siri, but it also means that the user can get access to files in cloud storage on for example DropBox, Google Drive or SkyDrive. Therefore, access to any such storage should be disabled by either removing the Dropbox (or other) app from the device, password-protecting the drive, or preventing wi-fi access completely.

Also, if the question paper is not in 'question-and-answer format', the learner may need to use a PDF reader to read the paper, and a word processor or writing app to write their answers, and so locking them into one app only is not helpful.

You therefore need to restrict access to other apps and to the internet in other ways.

Steps to securing and iPad for an exam

  1. Back up the iPad (if required).
  2. Delete all the apps on the iPad that are not required in the assessment. This leaves only the apps required for the assessment.
  3. Delete all photos, music files, videos, contacts, reminders and other documents.
  4. Clear the browser history.
  5. Remove access to Mail, Contacts and Calendars: Settings and remove all the accounts from 'Mail', 'Contacts' & 'Calendar'.
  6. Remove the 3G SIM card (If the iPad is a cellular model).
  7. Turn off access to the school Wi-Fi - using the school network settings and check that there are no other wi-fi internet access points available (unless you intend to use Siri speech recognition).
  8. Turn off Bluetooth: Settings > General > Bluetooth.
  9. Prevent access to the built-in iOS Apps, iTunes Store and web sites:
    1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions.
    2. In iTunes and App Store Purchases, prevent apps from being installed, deleted or purhcased and require a password.
    3. In Allowed apps, restrict the apps you don't want, e.g.. Safari, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes, iBookstore and installing and deleting apps. Note this still leaves Mail, iMessage, Calendar and Contacts that the pupil could access the internet to find previously hidden answers, which is why you need to prevent access to wi-fi or the internet.
    4. In Content Restrictions, don't allow films, TV Programmes or apps. Limit web content. Don't allow Sirit to search the web. Don't allow multiplayer games, friends or screen recording.
    5. Under Privacy select Location Services and turn off Location Services, then Don’t Allow Changes.
    6. Under Privacy, work your way down the other apps (Contacts, Bluetooth, Speech Recognition etc) and set them to Don't Allow Changes.
    7. Under Allow Changes select Passcode Changes and Account Changes and select Don't Allow Changes (this prevents anyone adding a new mail or other account).
  10. Turn off the spellcheck and writing tools unless the candidate has permission to use them:
    • Settings > General > Keyboards > Turn off Text Replacement, Auto-CapitalisationAuto-Correction, Smart Punctuation, Check Spelling, Predictive. 
    • Note that the candidate can easily turn them back on if they know how. To prevent this, if the candidate only needs to to use one appyou can use Guided Access. For example, if the candidate requires a question-and-answer paper with ClaroPDF or PDF Expert, or a DAB in Word, Guided Access can lock them into it and prevent them from accessing the Settings.
    • If the candidate needs to use two apps - one to view the DQP, and another to write into a DAB, Guided Access cannot be used and so the candidate could access the Settings.

Hopefully you should now have an iPad with:

  • no stored files, emails, photos, videos, sound recordings or other documents;
  • only the apps which are required for the assessment;
  • no spellchecking, AutoCorrect or other spelling tools unless their use is permitted;
  • no access to the internet or wi-fi.

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