A Whangārei student sitting NCEA exams for the first time says while the nationwide lockdown made learning challenging and increased worry, it also helped strengthen her study skills.
NCEA exams kicked off this week for 4000 students in Northland, and 140,000 nationally, marking the culmination of what has been a massively disrupted year for students, with schools closed nationally for seven weeks when the country went into level 4 lockdown in late March to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Whangārei Girls' High School Year 12 student Sophia Soljak sat her very first NCEA exam on Tuesday and said Covid-19 had made learning "a lot more difficult".
"Just having that part of the year not learning as well as you are in the classroom. You can email the teacher but not being able to work with them and be able to ask a question in person was hard."
Soljak said she was initially worried about whether lockdown would affect her ability to gain the credits she needed, but she was relieved when NZQA introduced a system where students earn additional Learning Recognition Credits, based on the number of credits they achieve during the year and in the exams, to account for the impact of Covid-19.
Soljak also said because she had to be more self-motivated than in a classroom, it also helped when she was studying for exams.
"It's basically what study leave was doing where you work over things yourself. But one of the benefits of study leave is you can still go in to school, which we didn't get through lockdown obviously," she said.
Soljak - who is sitting exams in five subjects - said she was nervous but felt pretty good.
"I feel like I'm prepared for them," she said.
Soljak's exam on Tuesday was sat digitally. Students bring laptops into the exam and log on to a website where they can see the exam they are sitting that day. She said NZQA monitors all screen activity during the exam.
In Northland, 1474 students from 16 schools are entered to sit some of their NCEA exams online.
"I think they're definitely better. You can get a sheet for note-taking, which I think is very helpful. You're not using your arm as much and tiring out when you're writing fast. Plus, most of our work is online these days," Soljak said.
The exams, which started later than usual this year to give students more time to prepare, run until Wednesday, December 9.