Students around the country were able to breathe a sigh of relief yesterday after finding out if their hard work during last year's exams had paid off.

Results for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) were made available on the NZ Qualifications Authority website at 7am to a total of about 168,000 students across Levels 1, 2 and 3.

A total of 5435 students in Hawke's Bay sat examinations, with 2438 in Level 1; 2081 in Level 2 and 1552 in Level 3.

Deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly said the release of NCEA results had gone well, with more than 60,000 students logged in by 11.30am, and up to 28,000 in the first hour.

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"NZQA manages results release carefully and we plan well to ensure students are able to get immediate access to their results through our website," Ms Kilkelly said.

She noted that, as expected, many students had used mobile devices to log in and check their results.

Former Napier Girls' High School student Elizabeth Larkworthy said she was happy with her results, having passed Level 3 with an excellence endorsement.

She took five subjects; of which she got an excellence endorsement in Biology, History and Classics, as well as a merit endorsement in Physics, and Statistics.

"I didn't find any surprises in them. It was all what I was expecting, but I found Classics and History the easiest as they are my favourite subjects."

The 17-year-old will head off to the University of Auckland this year to study a conjoint degree in Health Science and History.

"I feel like I probably could have worked harder, but given the amount of work I ended up putting in, I think that it is pretty impressive."

Hawke's Bay Secondary Principals' Association chairman and Taradale High School principal Stephen Hensman said not a lot had come through yet regarding a breakdown of school results, but he believed principals would have access to it by the end of the week, all going well.

"In terms of individual data that has come through, so I'm really pleased about that for students that they're getting access to their results in good time."

He noted that most schools will be confirming courses late next week, so this allows students to have some confidence about which courses their results give them entry to.

The opening hours of NZQA's call centre were extended until 8pm, with extra staff on hand to answer specific queries students and their families may have about NCEA results.

Tamatea High School principal Robin Fabish is pleased with his school's NCEA results overall, noting that their pass rates across the levels are similar to 2016's good results which were the best in the history of the school.

"We still have to improve our University Entrance pass rate but only 30 per cent of students in our country go to university, so I believe our focus on ensuring our students have meaningful pathways is more important for Tamatea High School.

"Our teachers have worked really hard to achieve these great results and our smaller classes mean that we can help our students to be successful in their goals. I am really grateful to our teachers for the commitment they show to our students – many of whom overcome incredible challenges to succeed," Mr Fabish said.

Regarding NCEA results, the system may be completely transformed by a review this year that will tackle problems identified in the terms of reference such as "the impact of over-assessment on student wellbeing and teacher workload" and "assessment-driven teaching and learning".

Although, as an "advocate of the NCEA system", Mr Fabish does not believe this should be the case.

"I recently read Rosemary Hipkins' (NZCER) book about NCEA and it was good to be reminded that there was no golden age before NCEA – the old examination system meant that 50 per cent failed school certificate, which was okay when you didn't need qualifications to get a job. The old system also meant that nearly everything was assessed by examination – internal assessment offered in NCEA is a more appropriate method of assessment for some things."

He believes NCEA gives lower decile schools like Tamatea High School the opportunity to counter the failing experience that the old system of School C was and help to support disadvantaged students.

"It gives us the flexibility to look at what is really important to be learning [like problem-solving and collaboration] and design programmes that support student success and their future options."

Sacred Heart College's Deputy Principal, Marysia Airey, said she was delighted with student achievement for the 2017 academic year.

"Overall, the results are very pleasing and reflect the hard work put in by students and staff, not only last year, but also recognises the foundational work since the students were in Year 9."

Ms Airey noted that over recent years, Sacred Heart achievement has been significantly better than national averages and early indicators show that this is likely once again.

"Further analysis is required as staff return to work but it appears that the external examinations and the marking process provided assessments that were rigorous but fair."

About 343 Hawke's Bay students will be able to access their Scholarship results on February 13.