Program will monitor NCEA plagiarism.

The country's exam body is considering introducing digital technology in a bid to stamp out cheating.

As more than 145,000 students prepare for a month of externally assessed NCEA exams, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority is assessing whether to introduce software called Turnitin.

The scanning tool, used by universities and polytechnics, matches assignments against millions of internet pages, electronic journals and other submitted assignments. A report helps staff judge if work has been copied.

NZQA deputy chief executive Richard Thornton said Turnitin was one of several tools the authority was looking at in the school digital transformation programme.

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A decision would be made next year. It comes in response to a call from principals who say the integrity of the qualification needs protection.

"There's been a bit of criticism of NCEA with its internal assessment," said Secondary Principals' Association president Sandy Pasley.

"I think it's in everybody's interests to be able to say to the community, 'Look, we've got rigorous processes in place to ensure NCEA is a very good qualification'. Students can scan what they have done and markers can spot any copied sections and can easily tell if there's any plagiarism."

The NZQA's 2014 report on NCEA noted 19 students breached authenticity rules, which included plagiarism and impersonation.

Pasley said Turnitin would provide a "good bank" of what's been submitted by every pupil and give NZQA confidence internally assessed essays were genuinely the students' own work.

The association wants NZQA to meet the cost of supplying the technology to schools.

"For our school, it was going to cost $5000 so that's why I said to NZQA if it's at all possible to make available for all schools it would be fantastic."

Auckland University of Technology introduced the software into select courses a decade ago.

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An AUT spokesman said it enabled markers to ensure academic work handed in by students was original.

NZQA will not be allowing smart watches into exam rooms during the NCEA tests, regarding them as an electronic device.