For those who are about to sit their very first exam for the very first time, the 30 minutes before the timer starts is when the nerves really begin to show. Whether it's nervous fidgeting, blankly staring into nothing, or chatting non-stop, the time between lining up outside the door and the clock starting is a time when panic and fear can set in. Cira Olivier finds out what efforts Tauranga schools have gone through to relax these nerves as much as possible.
More than 400 students are preparing to sit the NCEA Level 1 English exam at Otumoetai College alone in a process described as a "well-oiled machine".
Next Wednesday, the same students will sit the exam and the same number will sit their maths exam the week after.
They will join 8771 students across the Bay of Plenty as exams run from next Friday to December 3.
Students will line up outside the hall 30 minutes before the exam, called in as each row is filled in a process described as a "well-oiled machine".
Stress and anxiety during this period depended on each child and principal Russell Gordon said this year was similar to other years and the pressure was constant throughout the year.
But this year was different as Year 11 and 12 students were given seminars on how to study after the months of teaching them.
"We've given them actual tools that they can use to make their revision efficient and effective," Gordon said.
Teachers offered tips and the school also had a mentoring programme, in its second year, where Year 13 students were available during lunchtime twice a week to help junior students with questions they might have.
Student Kyle-Russell Dunsumuir, 17, was one of the 12 academic mentors.
Each student was specialised in a different subject and Kyle-Russell, who would do health science at the University of Otago next year, said it was as helpful for the 12 mentors as it was the students they helped.
He would know because he was one of the students last year.
"You're in a position to impart knowledge or help people with insight into what it was like."
He said the pressure others felt was determined by whether or not they needed to gain certain credits externally and he noticed his motivation each year had dropped when he had gained enough credits internally.
The advice he would offer his younger self would be to maintain motivation throughout the final stretch of the year.
This was a win-win in his eyes because the foundation of knowledge of the older students was strengthened and younger students may learn something in a more comfortable setting.
It will be the third year the school will trial digital exams with about 30 media students but the school did not have the capacity - back-up generators and multiple internet sources - for every exam to be done digitally.
There are 234 students from nine schools in the Bay of Plenty entered to sit some of their NCEA exams on digital devices. There will be 33 of the exams to be done digitally.
Tauranga Boys College senior school deputy principal Rob Gilbert said the school had spent "enormous" amounts of money on the state-of-the-art WiFi system which managed each of the 2000 students with two devices each.
But although the platform was available, the digital technology exam would be the only one to be done digitally because there was no means for the boys to practice the test online.
Gilbert said the school strived for excellence and wanted to give each boy the opportunity to achieve it, whatever that may be for each student.
"It's an anxious time for students," he said, but mock exams provided feedback, and exam leave gave the time to practice.
Mount Maunganui College is all-go at the moment with study groups, tutorials and countless emails between students and teachers.
Principal Alastair Sinton said the stress, which is non-avoidable, was managed through an open relationship between staff and students.
"Our students are used to asking for help when they feel things are getting a bit much and our staff are really approachable."
Last year, there were 25 breaches relating to NCEA exams in the Bay of Plenty, and 407 across the country.
The majority of these were students failing to follow instructions, such as having a cell phone, notes or other unauthorised material in the exam.
Breaches are generally reported by examination centre managers, markers or schools and each is followed up.
NZQA deputy chief executive assessment Kristine Kilkelly said any potential breaches are handled using a confidential process which follows natural justice.
"By far the majority of students work very hard to prepare for their examinations and comply with all rules," Kilkelly said.