End of year NCEA exams begin tomorrow for high schoolers, with more than two-thirds of schools offering exams online this year thanks to a digital push due to Covid-19.
More than 120 exams will be held for pupils enrolled in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), which are usually sat by year 11 to 13 students.
About 140,000 students will take part, and about a quarter of those will sit the end of year exams online.
The exam period was due to start earlier this month, but was delayed to allow more teaching time because of classroom time lost to lockdowns.
All students will be kept 1.5 metres apart, exam rooms will be cleaned regularly, and masks can be worn but are not required.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said this year 58 exams are available online, and about 35,000 students from 300 schools are expected to sit them online. Last year about 20,000 students took them online.
"It is more important than ever that students attend their exams this year," says Kristine Kilkelly, the NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Assessment.
This year, to recognise the disruption Covid-19 had on the school year, students can be credited some of the points they need.
Students outside of Auckland will be given an extra point for every five earned throughout the year, and students from Auckland will get one extra for every four earned. The amount of extra points available to each student ranges between 8 and 16, depending on the level of qualification and if they're in Auckland or elsewhere.
Some University Entrance requirements have been lowered, and certificate and course endorsement requirements have also been lowered.
Hipkins said the government has had students' welfare as a top priority, but this year's learners faced extraordinary challenges.
"I want to congratulate students for their hard work during a year of unprecedented disruption, and I wish students all the best as they begin exams."
He said whānau support and encouragement was important to students' success, and recommended using a study plan, planning regular breaks to exercise and relax, and talk to someone if the pressure gets too high.
The principal of Ōtāhuhu College, Neil Watson, said it's been an unusual year for everyone, but exams should go ahead basically as normal.
He said that despite everyone's best efforts to keep teaching and learning, students may have missed up to a term's work.
Allowances have been made for the disruption, to help students achieve their qualifications, but they have missed out on invaluable lessons, Watson said.
On its website the NZCEA provided tips for studying and managing exam pressure as well as a checklist to ensure students are set up and ready for digital exams.
NZQA said students who had dropped out of school during lockdown, or who need extra help to achieve their goals will be able to sign up for summer school with Te Kura (formally the Correspondence School), who have created extra places.