NCEA exams begin, 20,000 students sitting online tests

Caleb Stanley-Dwyer (left), Christopher McLellan, Alexander Telfar, and Lawrence White (front) at a Wellington library have been preparing for today's level 2 physics exam. - Photo: John Gerritsen

The first of 119 NCEA and Scholarship exams are being held this morning marking the start of exam season for about 140,000 secondary school students.

The Qualifications Authority is expecting to mark more than a million exam booklets, as well as 48,000 online exam entries from this year's exams, which will finish on 3 December.

The authority has been making more exams available as online. Education Minister Chris Hipkins said about 20,000 students from nearly 200 schools would be sitting online exams this year, up from 6700 students last year.

One of the schools offering digital NCEA exams is Burnside High School in Christchurch.

Deputy principal Alan Robertson said the school had participated in a trial of online exams last year and offered internally-assessed exams and mock exams online earlier this year.

Mr Robertson said the school was providing digital exams for English at levels 1, 2 and 3 and 190 students had opted in.

"There seem to be a number of advantages that the students who have opted into it are picking up on. It tends to be those students who are pretty adequate typists, so therefore it's a lot faster for those students and then the ability to edit their information as they go rather than on the paper version having to scribble out and start again seems to be a massive advantage for a lot of those students," he said.

Mr Robertson said the school was taking a cautious approach to rolling the exams out more widely and had taken care to ensure its wireless internet connections were working well and would support the exam.

The president of the Secondary Principals Association, Deidre Shea, said it would probably take some time before most students were sitting their exams online.

"My sense is that it will be a very long time before everybody does it but certainly for a majority to do it will require much better infrastructure in our schools than we currently have and I don't know when that might be the case that all students have the ability to have equitable access to devices in order to sit things online," she said.

Avoiding distractions

Teenagers were studying hard at the Ruth Gotlieb Library in Kilbirnie, Wellington, this week ahead of their NCEA exams.

Among them were a group of boys from nearby St Patrick's College preparing for today's level 2 physics exam.

Caleb Stanley-Dwyer, Year 11, said it was hard to stay on task with distractions like social media and he was not sure that studying in a group was going to help.

Elizabeth Lafaele (left) and Naria Aukisitino studying at the Ruth Gotlieb Library in Kilbirnie Wellington.

Elizabeth Lafaele (left) and Naria Aukisitino studying at the Ruth Gotlieb Library in Kilbirnie Wellington. Photo: John Gerritsen

"It's a struggle doing all these boring subjects when you could just go on social media and see what everybody else is doing," he said.

"It's good having my mates here because some things are quite hard, but it definitely turns into a distraction once you get I think more than two people, you don't get much work done."

Another member of the study group, Christopher McLellan, was more optimistic about how their study session would go.

"All of us here are doing the physics exam so we can ask them about questions that we may need help with and not all of us are in the same class so we might have learned different things so that's also useful," he said.

In another part of the library, Elizabeth Lafaele and Naria Aukisitino from St Catherine's College, were studying for next week's level 1 te reo Māori exam.

Elizabeth admitted to feeling a bit nervous and said studying at the library was helpful.

"I like to study with friends because it helps me look forward to it and keep steady, concentrate better and focus," she said.

Naria Aukisitino agreed that the library was a good place to prepare for exams.

"What really helps me is that I have heaps of sleep and am just somewhere quiet and good to study, and especially with friends," Naria said.

The president of the Secondary Principals Association, Deidre Shea, said parents and Whānau could help teenagers get ready for NCEA and Scholarship exams over the next three weeks.

"Make sure that your young person has enough sleep and they've got the space to sit down and do their quiet revision and study and ensure they've got that timetable of when their exams are clear, everybody knows about it so that they're there in good time and ready to do their best," she said.