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HP-Prime storing PDF just killed its use at my university :(

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I write this note to the HP people monitoring this list. For two years, the HP-Prime has been a mandatory item for our two hundred second-year students. Recently, a colleague found a student with a PDF in his HP-Prime, which contravenes the no-formula-sheet policy in our exams and is banning the HP-Prime for use from this point on. This may have a cascade effect. I have been a strong supporter of HP-Prime in our classrooms and request a way to prevent from this to happening, lest we lose the HP-Prime altogether. Help will be appreciated. RyC.

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This situation has already been thought of and supported since the first day of sales with the Prime. ANY modern graphing calculator, and quite a few scientifics, can  store a large amount of data. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just ignorant or lying.



In this case, the student used a program that can convert PDF files into a series of images that can be displayed from a program. There are plenty of valid use cases for this in quite a few exams worldwide actually, but we did plan for people wanting to have more control over what the students can and cannot do from the start.


On the HP Prime, the solution is called "Exam Mode". A professor or exam center can lock units down with full control over what is allowed. For example, you can block any non default programs/apps completely. Or you can allow anything the student has, but wipe it automatically after the exam (so calculations done during the exam are gone). You can even block specific individual functions if desired (like for a 15 minute quiz). It is the most flexible exam restriction system on any calculator - period.


To see exam mode, there are several ways to get to it. Press SHIFT-HOME and then page down two pages. Alternatively, press and hold ON and ESC keys. Or, press and hold ON and the "E" key (E for Exam). All three go to the same place. (Note, if if doesn't look like this, make sure your calculators are up to date. Like Cell phones, the calculator is constantly getting new features and refinements added. It is good to be up to date. This also ensures that all the students will have the same experience)


basic mode.png


On this page, you can use the "Basic" exam mode, or define a custom setting with speicific things allowed or disallowed. That configuration can be saved, and then automatically installed onto a students unit when the connect it to the HP Connectivity Kit runnin on a PC. For example, the Netherlands has a national exam, with specific things disabled. They provide that file to students who can install it on the calculator. There is a "proctor code" provided to the students at exam time to start the exam. This starts the saved configuration, locks the units, and 3 LED lights at the top blink in a specific pattern. Any student that doesn't have those blinking lights, or if the lights are in a different pattern, is not in the authorized exam mode.



"Basic" mode sounds like what you want. Go ahead and press the START button on that screen. It will then take you to a screen with a slider to start the exam mode.


step 2.png


"Basic mode will:


  1.  Create a zip file of the current content of the calculator. That file is saved to memory as "Backup Before Exam". Thus the memory of anything prior is "Hidden".
  2. Erase the entire calculator except those backup files. You cannot access or restore that backup file while in exam mode.
  3. Turn on an orange title bar in the calculator and describe what happened. It also shows the version your student is running to make sure everyone has the same experience. Here is an example of what the one I just started looks like:
  4. step 3.png
  5. Begin blinking the green light. That blinking Green light is a visual notification of the exam mode running. There is no possibility to control lights using software the student can run.
  6. When the student connects to a USB, the exam mode will be disabled. For extra security, requiring them to plug in before exiting the exam area is recommended if there is concern.
  7. When the calcualtor goes out of Basic mode, the orange bar goes off, the blinking stops, and the memory in the calculator is wiped once more. The backup is restored, and the calculator is identical to what it was before!


In short, that sounds about perfect for your use case. However, we'd love to help out more if needed and to understand concerns. I will link to a document with more info and you can contact us directly by email for more assistance. We would love to be able to aid or provide additional support to your school.


I would truly be sad if your students were denied use of the HP Prime for a simple lack of knowledge regarding a built-in solution that actually would enchance your exam security above what it was prior. Also, remember the ANY graphing calculator will have similar ways to store data - NONE have as capable or as customizable security for the exam compared with the Prime.



Here is a link to a document from HP that describes the solution with some nice pictures.


The email given in the document, "" will get you to people that can offer additional support if needed. We'd love you hear from you about your schools use! Thank you for being a strong supporter!



Although I work for the HP calculator group as a head developer of the HP Prime, the views and opinions I post here are my own.
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