Stress levels are rising and time's ticking as secondary students prepare to sit their end of year NCEA exams.

The exams start next Thursday, November 9 and run through until December 1 for students sitting NCEA Levels 1, 2, 3 and scholarship.

Patrick Walsh, principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, said it was a stressful time of year for students as well as teachers but everyone was making the most of it.

"Our teachers held tutorials for students in the school holidays so it was nice to see the dedication from both sides."

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A number of senior students have already achieved their NCEA credits for the year, but Mr Walsh was worried this would put them off attending their final exams.

"It's a double-edged sword. It's great because students are passing earlier, but the downside is that it's hard to incentivise the need to show up to exams."

He thinks younger students sitting exams for the first time will be feeling the pressure more than the seniors.

John Paul College Year 10 student Adam Wong-Toi, 15, is in an enrichment class and had the opportunity start NCEA a year earlier then most of his peers.

"I'm pretty nervous, but our class has been exposed to what's to come for the exams and it's been our main focus for the year."

Year 13 student Eamon Walsh, 17, has been in this situation before and is not letting nerves get the better of him.

"There's no point in worrying about exams because your mind just freezes up and you get nothing done.

"It's important to balance study and free time and leaving it until the last minute won't help."

Mr Walsh said each year had been getting harder to prepare students for exam.

"It's becoming a real pressure cooker since NCEA have been pushing the exams closer, because it only leaves us three and a half weeks to prepare students for exams."

Rotorua Lakes High principal Bruce Walker thinks increasing the time students have to study before exams may not make a difference.

"It wouldn't be much better if there were a couple weeks added on. It would still be a stressful time, possibly harder for teachers to keep students focused.

"We just prepare them the best we can and emphasise that there is no point in stressing out."

Ways parents and whanau can support students sitting exams

Consult the experts: teachers understand how NCEA works and know how your child is progressing.

Provide a suitable study environment: students need a quiet, organised and well-lit space to study.

Balance study with free time: it's important that students remain in a positive frame of mind and stay relaxed. In addition to studying, encourage your child to get enough sleep, take regular breaks, eat well, get fresh air, and stay in touch with their peers.

Prepare, prepare, prepare: make sure you and your child know how they are going to get to their examinations, what the examination room rules are, and what they need to take with them (as well as what they can't). Remind them to carry their admission slips. Ensure they allow plenty of time to get to their examinations early and plan for what they might do if something unforeseen happens - for example, alternative transport plans in case of bus or train delays.

Know the examination timetable: NCEA examinations are national examinations so students do the same examination at the same time no matter where they live.

For an exam timetable go to http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/ncea/ncea-exams-and-portfolios/external/national-secondary-examinations-timetable/.