22 Nov 2021

Exhaustion, strategic choices behind NCEA exam decisions

5:35 pm on 22 November 2021

Auckland teenagers are citing exhaustion, busy-ness and strategic thinking as reasons for skipping some or even all of their NCEA exams.

21790139 - writing hands of students at course

Photo: Photo / 123RF

Exams began today and in Auckland, Northland and Waikato, students who miss one will get an unexpected event grade calculated by their school instead.

The rule recognises the extreme pressure many students have been under, especially in Auckland where schools were forced to shut in the middle of August.

The unexpected event grades would also apply in instances where the grade was better than a student's NCEA exam result.

Auckland teenager Rosie Risbrook sat today's level 2 physics exam and said it was good to know she could fall back on her unexpected event grade if necessary.

"I was doing an electricity paper and there was a question I just totally blanked on and I was like 'it's okay, it's okay you've still got that grade so it's fine' which is really much nicer," she said.

Risbrook said she would skip one of her exams.

"Usually I would take five exams but I'm planning to take four this year because I'm happy with my biology UEGs. I did quite well in those mocks [exams] so to take away some of the stress for other subjects like physics and maths, which I find harder, I'm not doing my biology ones," she said.

Year 13 student Mercy Timu Moe said she would sit all four of her exams, starting with calculus next week where she wanted to do better than her unexpected event grade.

"I didn't get the grade that I wanted in calculus, that's why I'm having a second shot at my exam, just hoping to get a higher grade on it, but at the moment I'm feeling pretty confident, just not trying to stress myself out too much," she said.

She said some of her friends had decided they had enough going on in their lives and would not attempt any of their exams.

"They're working part-time, also having responsibilities at home which is why they're saying they don't need to do the exams because they did so well in the mock exams," she said.

Principals have told RNZ the long months of lockdown learning sapped the motivation of many Auckland students.

Year 13 student Jess Darnley said that feeling had prompted some of her friends to ditch this year's exams altogether.

"This year a lot of people who I know would usually aim very high for exams have really lowered their expectations because we're just so over it after this mess of a year, so I found a lot of people are not going to be doing exams at all and they're just planning to take all of their UEGs," she said.

She said the unexpected event grades meant she could concentrate on her Scholarship exams.

"I've got some unexpected event grades which I'm definitely going to be using for my exams and those have really helped to relieve the stress of everything so it means I'm only doing I think two or three actual NCEA exams for my subjects that I'm hoping to get a good grade in, but yeah the UEGs have been really good for helping relieve the pressure," she said.

It's not clear how many students across the region will miss exams and take unexpected event grades.

Glenfield College principal, Paul McKinley, said it would make good sense for many students but he expected a good number would still sit their exams.

"I think it's more sort of 50/50 and that's what I hear from most schools around Auckland," he said.

"Kids are strategic with their thinking. If students have an excellence already for a UEG and they can't better that, they may not sit that exam because they may prioritise their studying and their learning to focus on the subjects where they need to shift the merits to excellences."

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