The culmination of a massively disrupted school year kicks off on Monday when NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams begin around the country.
It's been quite a year for the 140,000 high school students preparing for 120 exam sessions, 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. Auckland students spent a further three weeks learning from home after the August Covid-19 outbreak.
Exams are being held 10 days late because of the impact of Covid-19 on learning this year.
Among those preparing for exams is Liza Apisaloma, head girl at Ōtara's Tangaroa College, a decile 1 school whose principal, Davida Suasua, told the Herald in May that she feared some students might not return after lockdown because they'd be asked to get jobs if the pandemic put parents out of work.
Some friends hadn't returned to school after the lockdown, said Liza, 17.
Online learning was hard - but she was able to stick with her NCEA level 3 subjects of
music, drama, physical education, history and tourism, and her plans to join the Navy as a steward next year.
"I found it difficult keeping up with online learning, because you're usually coming to school and seeing your work on the board, but with the lockdown you'd see it all in your emails.
"And it's like, spammed, and you're like, 'Wow, so much work' [but] we also found a deep respect for our teachers during the lockdown, for all the work they did."
Fellow Year 13 student Makana Uele said some internal work had to be rushed because of Covid-19 disruption, however, teachers had also helped students catch up and get on top of missed credits.
Students will earn additional Learning Recognition Credits, up to set limits, based on the number of credits they achieve during the year and in the exams, to account for the impact of Covid-19, NZQA has said.
Eighteen-year-old Makana, who studied calculus, physics, chemistry, English and digital technologies in preparation for a bachelor of environmental engineering at the University of Auckland next year, felt for friends who didn't have internet at home or who needed to look after younger siblings during the lockdown because their parents were essential workers.
"They missed out on a huge part of their learning … I think Covid-19 has emphasised the flaws within our education system towards our Pacific communities."
For Donzaleigh Levi, Covid-19 had both disrupted her plans and provided new opportunities.
The 17-year-old, who studied social studies, physical education, health, biology and maths before she starts a degree in medical imaging at Unitec next year, was able to take part in work experience helping at Covid-19 testing stations.
"There's never usually opportunities like that."
At the same time she had to stop part-time jobs to help care for young family members.
"I just tried to have a positive attitude towards [the situation]."
She was carrying that on ahead of this week's exams.
"I'm kinda nervous but I'm pretty sure I'll do well."
Liza said she saw 2020 as a time everyone had a chance to reflect on what was important and to grow.
"We've become resilient, because we've been through a lot this year. I mean, an
epidemic - who would've thought?
"Among not going to church and funerals that we couldn't attend, our school ball and school events - we've gone through all of that and made it.
"We're still here."