COMMENT:

While a lot of the focus at the moment is on the teachers, spare a thought for the students.

Thousands of senior students are starting to sit their NCEA exams from tomorrow.

Because NCEA combines internal and external assessments, for many students, credits achieved throughout the year may mean a reduction in pre-exam stress - they may already have a good chunk of their credits. But for others, this is crunch time, they'll need to pull out all the stops.

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I can only hope these exams go more smoothly than previous ones have. It's a system fraught with issues every year, despite the assessment procedure being around 16 years old.

In that time it has managed to fill headlines with tales of woe: claims of inconsistent marking standards, questionable credit distribution, students leaving exams in tears, walkouts, complaints.

And the complaints have not just come from students either, but teachers and schools too.

Thankfully NCEA is being looked at by this current Government, but not in time for these students.

So what has the class of 2018 got to contend with?

Well, according to a spokesperson for school counsellors, anxiety and stress levels among students are at the highest yet. A "plague of anxiety" she called it.

School counsellors are seeing more students stressed, and unable to feel reassured. Some students report that their parents have become obsessed with 'excellences' and that 'achieve' is the new 'fail'. That's an awful lot of pressure, for kids already facing a tense and tough time.

So how to help students navigate these tricky next few weeks?

Experts say preparation is key - learning as many key phrases as possible, learning the basics until you know them inside out, studying from previous exams.

And as for when it comes to sitting the real deal, the pros say attempt every question, showing an attempt rather than leaving questions blank, might earn you some basic points along the way for at least showing your workings.

But also important is to breathe, unplug from social media, exercise, get sleep, eat well, stay hydrated, and accept that exams are not the be-all and end-all - that sometimes just doing your best is good enough. That one day high school will be a distant memory, and that you may well end up being so much more than what a piece of paper said about you.

So to all the students prepping for tomorrow and the coming days, good luck!