Top Tips for NCEA Special Assessment Conditions (SAC)

What are Special Assessment Conditions (SAC)?

Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) provide extra help for approved students studying for NCEA to remove barriers to ensure they are fairly assessed. SAC are used for both internal standards and external exams. SAC include:

  • Additional time to complete work/exams
  • Rest breaks
  • Reader or writer or both
  • Separate accommodation
  • Use of technology (e.g. computer)

Why might a student with autism need SAC?

SAC may be needed for a student with autism for the following reasons:

  • Handwriting is difficult to read.
  • Handwriting is very slow.
  • Behaviour is disruptive to other students.
  • Require regular breaks.
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviours may take up assessment time.
  • Organisational skills and time management skills may mean they do not finish the assessment in the usual time allocated.
  • Concentration skills may be impaired in assessment situations.
  • Sameness in routines (e.g. if the student usually has a teacher aide they will probably need one during exams).
  • Sensory issues associated with the exam conditions (e.g. large room, bright lights, sound of others’ breathing, clock ticking, scratching writing sounds, room with different lighting) may overwhelm the student.
  • Heightened anxiety, impairing student’s ability to demonstrate knowledge.
  • Anxiety management techniques may disrupt other students (e.g. breathing techniques).

What SAC are students with autism likely to get?

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) categorises autism as a medical condition. Students with autism are likely to qualify for separate accommodation, but the application should specify all categories that apply – Learning Difficulties, Sensory, and Physical. If a student with autism has learning difficulties and sensory sensitivities, they need only make one application, specifying all the areas they need SAC.

What does it cost?

It is possible to apply for SAC without any cost to families. While some students have an assessment from a registered professional, SAC applications can be made with school evidence (also known as alternative evidence).

Also read: Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) for NCEA Exams: How to get free help with alternative evidence.

What is school evidence?

School/ alternative evidence is information gathered by the school through teacher assessment and observation, at no cost to the student or their family.

How do students apply for SAC?

Schools are responsible for applying for SAC, but parents provide historical information and reports. A key document for families is the Student SAC Historical Record. The ideal time to start completing this form is Year 9.

When do students apply for SAC?

14 March: Applications close for First Time applicants with Learning Difficulties.

Students with Learning Difficulties applying for SAC for the first time MUST meet this deadline.

All other students may apply at anytime during the year up until the day of the final exam.

2 April: All students with previously approved SAC need their schools to have completed an annual needs analysis and to Rollover their existing SAC entitlement or request changes.

1 July – 24 August: Schools talk with students to decide what entitlements are needed for each external assessment and attach the choice to the exam sessions.

1 October: NZQA online applications open for 2017 SAC.

December: Sensory/Medical/Physical SAC applications for the current year close on the last day of exams

What happens next?

Once schools have applied online, students can immediately start using the SAC, as the NZQA takes it in good faith that the requested SAC are necessary. If the SAC are later not approved or are changed and the student disagrees with the decision, the school has 15 days to dispute the decision by submitting new information to support their objection.

Altogether Autism thanks NZQA for their assistance. For more information, go to

Listen to Altogether Autism being interviewed on Radio New Zealand:
How parents can get exam assistance for special needs students

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