Special assessment conditions and assistive technology

Learn about special assessment conditions, which can provide extra help to students who need additional support to address various barriers to achievement in secondary school qualification assessments.

Level of compliance Main audience Other



  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Specialist Staff
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Boards

The process to apply for special assessment conditions for a student who requires use of assistive technology for formal secondary school assessments.

What are special assessment conditions?

Prior to seeking special assessment conditions, the student’s team would ensure that each student has an assessment programme that suits their individual learning needs and skills.

The following list of special assessment conditions shows the type of supports the students can apply for if required.

  1. Reader: reads content of the assessment aloud to the student.
  2. Writer: the student speaks their answers for the writer to transcribe.
  3. Alternative formats: Braille, large print or electronic format, signer (for deaf students).
  4. Use of assistive technology: use of the student’s usual assistive technology may be used to enable the student to complete the assessment (i.e. BrailleNote, Computer, Tablet, Seating system, RMHA system etc.).
  5. Extra time (in special circumstances): for assessments over 150 minutes.
  6. Other exceptional conditions: rest breaks, home supervision, special papers.

To be eligible for special assessment conditions students need to be able to achieve at Level 6 of the NZ Curriculum and they must have an identified specific learning disability or a medical/physical/sensory disability.

Can students use their assistive technology in formal assessments?

Using assistive technology for formal assessments may be appropriate for students in some circumstances. For example, the use of a laptop may be appropriate for an assessment of science conceptual understanding but not for an assessment to test the ability to write with a pen.

To ensure that assistive technology use is appropriate in formal school assessments such as NCEA, an application must be made for the student to have special assessment conditions.

Approval for all special assessment conditions is the responsibility of NZQA.

Special assessment conditions – NZQA(external link)

Special assessment conditions are approved when they allow students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding, without providing unfair advantage over other students.

How do schools apply for a special assessment conditions?

Applications are made by schools directly to NZQA. Details of the application process are available on the NZQA website. This website also provides a guideline summary and timeline that is helpful if you are applying for the first time. Specific documentation requirements to support applications are detailed by NZQA. This includes required documentation for students with specific disabilities/conditions such as deafness, dyslexia or diabetes.

Special assessment conditions – NZQA(external link)

Approval of special assessment conditions in one year does not necessarily mean that approval will be given in subsequent years.

Learning disabilities

There are two application pathways for students who have learning disabilities (which may be additional to a sensory or physical disability).

Pathways  Description

1. Alternative evidence pathway


Alternative evidence is collected by the school.

A variety of evidence is acceptable but evidence of teacher professional judgement is required to show that there is a disparity between the student’s subject knowledge and their ability to express this in a specific format. For example, a student’s ability to verbally discuss an answer, and their ability to record that answer in writing.

Please contact your School Relationship Manager (SRM) at NZQA for further guidance if required. 

2. Independent report pathway


Schools provide an up to date report by an independent registered professional, such as a New Zealand Council for Educational research (NZCER) level C assessor.

In addition, other reports from professionals, such as a speech/language therapist or medical professional, may be included to substantiate that the student's disability is a specific learning disability. For example, an assistive technology application form can be provided to support applications to NZQA. 

Whose responsibility is it to make the application to NZQA?

Applications for special assessment conditions (SAC) are made by schools on behalf of the student. Ministry of Education staff can support the process but are not responsible for the application.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback