Some Tauranga students have launched into NCEA practice exams this week, with one Bay of Plenty principal saying that some students are "struggling with anxiety" around achieving high-enough grades to get into restricted-entry university courses.
Meanwhile, another school leader says some had returned to school "well-focused" post-lockdown.
Otūmoetai College principal Russell Gordon said during lockdown school staff made it clear they would need more face-to-face time with students before end-of-year exams.
They made the call to revise the structure of practice exams from previous years to increase the amount of in-class time before the end of term.
Morning classes would go ahead as usual, and two afternoon periods were blocked out for assessments. In previous years there was no class time for senior students during this period.
"This additional contact time is to ensure that students have enough time to understand the relevant subject material in sufficient breadth and depth so that they can give of their best and achieve to their potential in the end-of-year exams.
Practice examinations for some subjects could be complete across multiple days, while others needed to be done in one block.
The assessment would run for six days starting on Thursday, he said.
He believed this move had been "well received" by students who were also relieved with the ministry's decision to delay exams by two weeks.
The NZ Qualifications Authority announced last month that end-of-year NCEA and scholarship exams have been delayed by two weeks because of the disruption from Covid-19.
They will be held between November 22 and December 14 and portfolio subjects will also have their due dates pushed back a fortnight.
18-year-old Otūmoetai College student Hannah Walpole said lockdown was "definitely worse this year" and said she lacked motivation when it came to school work.
Hannah, a school prefect, was taking level 3 physics, chemistry, biology and English.
She was also in the midst of studying for the SAT test, which was taking place this weekend. The Tauranga teenager was hoping to gain a tennis and academic scholarship to attend college in the United States.
"Because I am in level 3 it is obviously a hard year. Learning on your own is really difficult ...
"When you try to study you get stuck, and you don't have a teacher to ask the question to. Then it takes way longer, which also decreases your motivation."
She had already gained university entrance, but it was now her focus to pass level 3 with excellence endorsement.
She said the revised practice exam model at her school would take "a little bit" of pressure off senior students.
"If I got back to school and I had to do what we had planned for mock exams, I don't think I would have been ready at all.
"I am still stressed, but it is definitely way less as what it would have been."
Despite the disruption caused for some, Hannah was pleased with the ministry's decision to delay end-of-year exams because extra time in class was "really valuable".
"It is a good idea to give everyone a fair opportunity. It is a difficult time for all kids at the moment," she said.
"For Auckland, it would be really tough, because there is nothing like in-class learning."
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said the students who had returned to school were "well focused", but a "small percentage" had made the call not to return until alert level 1.
These students were learning at home using Google Classrooms, he said.
"Often that is just through increased anxiety around Covid-19."
School assessments had begun this week and would count for derived grades if NCEA externals couldn't be held, he said.
The school had also extended deadlines for internal assessment in order to support students affected by lockdown, he said.
"That has also given them extra time with their classroom teacher to support them through those internal assessments that are required.
"It is a balance between having to meet deadlines and being sympathetic to students who require face-to-face support."
Those completing assessments for technology subjects would be feeling "a heightened level of urgency" due to the lockdown.
"With NCEA externals being delayed by two weeks, those students will have the opportunity to complete those more practical portfolios."
Mount Maunganui College principal Alastair Sinton said in general senior students were "tracking well" to complete NCEA, with a "good return rate" post lockdown.
"Students were keen to get back into the classroom."
While lockdowns "impact learning in different ways", Sinton said it was the removal of support networks and uncertainty that was of the most concern.
The school had prioritised "ramping up" support from guidance teams, deans, senior leaders and the careers counsellor.
"NCEA changes have gone some way to supporting student progress," he said.
"It has meant we have had to make some compromises around our graduation ceremony and some students have had to amend their summer employment plans but otherwise, students appreciate the extra time to prepare."
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said the "vast majority" of year 11,12 and 13 students were on track to gaining NCEA.
But some students were "struggling with anxiety" coming out of lockdown, particularly those who were aiming to get into "highly competitive" university courses like law, medicine and engineering.
"They are really anxious to hit those high grades so they don't end up being disadvantaged when applying for these courses," he said.