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Personal computer

Rules and procedures for the Higher School Certificate examinations

Print version of this leaflet (PDF)

If you have further questions, please contact the Student Support Services Branch on

(02) 9367 8117



This leaflet should be distributed to students approved to use a personal computer, their parents, presiding officers, examination supervisors, computer coordinators and Year 12 coordinators.

All students approved the use of a personal computer are expected to use the ExamWriter software for all their examination responses. ExamWriter is a secure word processor with only the approved features available. It is specifically designed for use in examination situations.

Security features include: no access to other programs or files; recording and reporting attempts to access the internet, files on external devices such as memory sticks or email; restricted copy-and-paste facilities.

Other added benefits: details such as student number, course and examination centre are typed once, and the program will place these details automatically on every page of the student’s work.

ExamWriter is available from Schools Online/Downloads/Board Developed Software. Support materials are available at the same location. Schools are permitted to use ExamWriter for internal assessment tasks for any student. It is advised that students approved a personal computer be given ample opportunity to practise with the software.

For students unable to use ExamWriter in one or more courses, permission must be sought from BOSTES to use another word processor, including evidence why ExamWriter is not feasible. In these approved cases, the student’s access to functions must be limited to those which can be replicated by handwriting. For example:

Students can: (✓) Students cannot: (✗)
  • cut and paste
  • underline, bold and italicise
  • use spell-check or grammar check
  • use auto-correct or auto-text functions
  • create automatic graphs by entering data

Language examinations

Additionally, in Language examinations, the following rules apply.

Students can: (✓) Students cannot: (✗)
  • type in English
  • change the keyboard to type any response in a non-character based language, such as French or Modern Greek
  • type in a character based language, such as Chinese or Japanese where using a keyboard provides the student with character options or associated words from which to choose

Students who need to type in a language other than English and require a different keyboard input language must seek approval from Student Support Services Branch to use a program other than ExamWriter.

What type of personal computer can be used?

Either a notebook or desktop computer, connected to a printer directly or via a network. If a notebook is used, the student should be seated near a power point if possible and the notebook plugged in. If this is not possible, the battery must be fully charged before the start of the examinations. The computer must be set up in the examination room and ready for use before the examination starting time.

Should the student be seated in a separate room? Where should the supervisor sit?

All students approved to use a personal computer are automatically approved small group supervision. The supervisor should sit where he or she can see the screen(s), without intimidating or distracting the student(s).

Setting out

The section and question number should be typed at the top of every page. When instructed to use a separate writing booklet for each question, the student should start a new page for each question.

Multiple-choice questions

The question number should be put on the far left of the page, followed by a full stop, followed by a short space, followed by the student’s answer, for example:

  1. A
  2. C
  3. B

Short-answer questions

The setting-out depends on the way the questions are set out. See examples below.

  1. $32.50
  2. 64%
  3. 78 km


    1. Charles Darwin
    2. Finches
    1. Ada Lovelace
    2. Charles Babbage
    3. The differential engine


  1. The Asian economic crisis
    1. diversification
    2. development of new markets
  2. The union movement

Essay questions

The student should put the question number at the top of the page. Each essay should start on a new page.

What about saving?

ExamWriter software automatically saves the responses at regular intervals. Students approved the use of another program must save their work regularly.

What happens at the end of the examination?

After the ‘stop writing’ command is given by the supervisor, the student must stop typing.  Click Finished and print the file produced by the software.

It is not necessary to save the student’s work to a storage device and send it with the printed answers. (That is, only the printed answers are required.)

After thoroughly checking the printed examination response is correct, the computer coordinator, supervisor or appropriate teacher MUST ERASE ALL SAVED WORK from any associated storage device or network.

If the student is using a computer that is NOT connected to a printer, the student should transfer their answers onto a flash drive or CD and give this to the supervisor. Together, the supervisor and student (and an appropriate teacher, if necessary) should take the flash drive or CD to a computer connected to a printer. The student should check the printed file.


What happens if the computer crashes during the examination?

If a computer crashes during an examination, the supervisor, Presiding Officer or principal should call the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards immediately on (02) 9367 8117. If it is possible to retrieve the student’s work, a BOSTES officer may give approval, if appropriate, for the student to be granted the time lost during the incident to allow them the full examination time to complete the examination. Please note this does not mean additional examination time.

If it is not possible to complete the examination, or if a student is able to complete the examination following a crash, but feels that their examination performance has been affected, he/she should submit an illness/misadventure application.

What if the supervisor sees the student opening another file or document, or transferring information from a pre-existing file or document into his or her answers?

Should this occur, the supervisor and/or Presiding Officer should follow the procedures for Breach of Examination Rules/Malpractice.

If you have any further questions, please contact Student Support Services Branch on (02) 9367 8117 or studentsupport@bostes.nsw.edu.au

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