Good maths students appear to have passed last year's controversial Level 1 maths exam, despite concerns expressed by 118 maths teachers.

The NZ Qualifications Authority says more than 70 per cent of students passed all three parts of the exam, which left some students in tears in November.

Christchurch student Evie Yeo, who sat a Level 2 maths paper as well and said it was easier than the Level 1 exam, has passed Level 1 with excellence.

"I managed to pass all the maths exams (thank goodness!!) and passed maths with an excellence endorsement!! I am super stoked!" she emailed.

Advertisement

The teacher who co-ordinated an open letter expressing concerns about the exam, Kāpiti College head of maths Jake Wills, said his good maths students also passed.

"I'm very well pleased with the results we got from our students this year. The results look really quite good, and I have heard from one or two students that they were quite happy with their results," he said.

But he still believed there were problems with the exam, including at least one question which required knowledge that was part of the curriculum for Level 2, not Level 1.

"There were definitely concerns about the exam, but I am extremely optimistic about the process going forward from here and engaging with NZQA," he said.

NZQA deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly rang Wills today when she issued results for the maths exam - three months ahead of the normal release in April.

"NZQA has taken the unusual step of announcing these provisional results early so we can respond to the concerns teachers raised with us in the open letter," she said in a press release.

"Early in term one we will work with regional and national mathematics associations to discuss these results with teachers, talk about how the standards are assessed and their feedback on the assessments. We will involve the Ministry of Education, as the owner of the curriculum and standards."

The results fell below expectations in only one part of the three-part exam, covering equations, tables and graphs.

Results were:

Investigate relationships between tables, equations and graphs (Standard 91028): 71.2 per cent passed, compared with between 78.1 per cent and 84 per cent over the past five years and an expected pass rate (Profile of Expected Performance) this year of 77 to 82 per cent.

Apply geometric reasoning to solve problems (91031): 73.5 per cent passed, compared with a past range of 71.5 to 75.6 per cent and an expected pass rate this year of 71 to 77 per cent.

Demonstrate understanding of chance and data (91037): 78.4 per cent passed, compared with a past range of 74.7 to 80.2 per cent and an expected pass rate this year of 75 to 81 per cent.

Wills said the low pass rate in the tables, equations and graphs paper reflected a major change in the exam format which had been "very well signalled" in advance.

"That one was not the one that we had the greatest level of concern with. It was the geometry one that we had the greatest level of concern with," he said.

But the pass rate in the geometry paper, which included the question that teachers felt required Level 2 knowledge, was within the expected range.

Wills said the marking schedules for exams were always adjusted because some students always came up with valid answers which the examiners had not foreseen.

His open letter, signed by 118 maths teachers, said: "Mathematics exams should not detrimentally erode students' confidence and self-efficacy in mathematics. Even if the marking schedule is adjusted to reflect the difficulty of the paper and allow these students to pass, the damage has already been done."

Kilkelly said the Profiles of Expected Performance (PEPs) were "indicators, not targets".

"They are important monitoring tools used to ensure fairness and consistency in marking year to year. Results do from time to time fall outside the PEP range," she said.

"NZQA does not adjust results to fit within PEPs. In a standards-based system like NCEA, students are marked on what they can demonstrate they know in relation to the standard.

"PEPs guide us on where adjustments need to be made to the marking in relation to how much evidence ought to be expected from students, in order to make sure that this is reasonable and fair."

All 168,000 students who sat NCEA last year were able to access their results on the NZQA website from 7am today. The authority said more than 60,000 students logged in to check their results by 11.30am today, including almost 28,000 in the first hour between 7am and 8am.

Ōtāhuhu College student Shaneel Lal couldn't access his NCEA results on the NZQA website today and had to find them on the college website. Photo / Michael Craig
Ōtāhuhu College student Shaneel Lal couldn't access his NCEA results on the NZQA website today and had to find them on the college website. Photo / Michael Craig

Ōtāhuhu College student Shaneel Lal, who sat Level 2 science subjects, said he could not access his results on the NZQA website.

The authority has advised other students having problems to ring the NZQA call centre on 0800 697 296, saying staff "can reset passwords if required and stay on the line until the student has successfully logged in". The call centre is open until 8pm tonight.