Use of external aids / AI in external assessments | NCFE

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Use of external aids / AI in external assessments

This webpage will provide you with a reminder of the policies and procedures around the use of tools, particularly ones that use artificial intelligence (AI), that could provide learners with an unfair advantage in NCFE external assessments (a paper-based exam or online exam sat in exam conditions with no access to the internet), resulting in investigation, sanctions, and the possible disqualification of learners from external assessments.

The use of external aids, particularly in relation to spelling, punctuation and grammar – for example, dictionary, spelling and grammar-checking software, or other cloud-based or AI tools – is not permitted in any external online assessments. This is in line with JCQ’s Suspected Malpractice Policies and Procedures.

For learners sitting online assessments using a device at your centre, it’s the responsibility of your centre to ensure that all external aids (unless by prior approval as a reasonable adjustment requirement) are disabled prior to the assessment taking place, and that your invigilators are aware to look out for these tools being used. If you’re unable to remove external aids on computers which are to be used for an online assessment, you must notify NCFE immediately by email at [email protected].

We’ve created a short guide on how to disable external applications such as Grammarly (an external aid which supports with spelling, punctuation and grammar) from learners’ Google Chrome browsers, PCs and Macs. Please note that there are other similar AI tools available which are also prohibited, and these must also be disabled.

Access the step-by-step instructions.

Grammarly and Surpass

The Surpass system (our system used for external online assessments) has been updated to prevent learners from using Grammarly (one of the most commonly accessed external applications). Please note this does not remove or change centre responsibilities for invigilating these online assessments, ensuring they are completed in line with our regulations, and monitoring for other forms of potential malpractice and AI misuse.  

This update to the Surpass learner interface, SecureClient, will prevent it from being launched if the desktop version of Grammarly is running on the device. Therefore, to allow SecureClient to launch successfully, Grammarly will need to either be closed down or uninstalled before launching SecureClient, or after receiving this error message. You must ensure that you know how to disable Grammarly, so there is no impact on learners waiting to complete an assessment. For guidance on how to do this, please speak to your IT support team, or see our guidance on disabling AI apps.  

Grammarly is the most well known of these applications but is only one example of a supportive tool that learners may misuse during an assessment.

While we’re working with Surpass to block Grammarly, you must still ensure all other similar tools have been disabled so that no learner is unfairly advantaged during their online assessment. 

Learners’ responsibilities before assessments

For learners sitting online external assessments at a location other than your centre, via remote invigilation, it is the responsibility of the learner to ensure that all external aids (unless by prior approval as a reasonable adjustment requirement) are disabled prior to the assessment taking place. The step-by-step instructions linked above can be used to support with disabling external aids. If a learner is unable to remove external aids on computers which are to be used for an online external assessment, they must notify NCFE immediately by email at [email protected].

Learners must also ensure to access the most up-to-date version of the learner guide to remote invigilation before sitting any online external assessments.

Where can I find more information on NCFE’s approach to AI in assessments?

You can find more information in our policy and procedure documents, including:

You can also read more about our approach to AI in projects or assignments carried out in controlled conditions with access to the internet here.

What if an invigilator identifies a learner using an external aid during an assessment?

In this situation, follow the below instructions:

  • Report the incident to the designated person within your centre immediately.
  • Pause the assessment in Surpass and then remove/block the unauthorised software. If necessary, the invigilator should summon assistance.
  • At the discretion of your centre, a learner can continue with the assessment once the unauthorised software has been removed, but NCFE must be notified via the learner malpractice form with precise details of when and how it was identified.
  • The invigilator or designated person has the right to stop the external assessment immediately. This decision must only be made in exceptional circumstances where malpractice is irrefutable. Once stopped, no allowance can be given retrospectively if the decision is deemed invalid.
  • In all cases, the head of centre has a duty to report all potential malpractice identified to NCFE using the learner malpractice form.
Further support

If you have any queries on the use of external aids or AI in assessments, please contact our Customer Support team at [email protected].