The National Party is calling for a review of how senior school exams are set after yet another mistake emerged in a maths paper.
The latest mistake in an algebra question in the Level 2 exam for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) follows five mistakes in maths and statistics exams in 2016 and a 2017 exam that was so difficult that 118 maths teachers signed a letter of protest.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said through a spokesman that he would also ask the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to explain how the latest mistake occurred.
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Many students said they were "in shock" after sitting the Level 2 exam on Thursday because the calculus questions did not follow the format of exams in the past few years and the students said they "didn't know where to start" in answering them.
A Year 11 Epsom Girls' Grammar student who was doing extension maths this year and went into the exam expecting to get merit or excellence said she "left after 45 minutes because there was no way I would be able to answer any of the other questions".
"This has really impacted my confidence as I know level 2 results do matter and I'm now thinking whether I should sit level 2 again. NZQA needs to have another look at the level 2 maths papers this year," she said.
Another student said: "I felt so panicked in the exam I physically had to stop myself from crying... before that exam, I considered myself good at maths. That exam has ruined the subject for me."
NZQA deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly confirmed that there was a mistake in an algebra question in the exam and said: "Initial feedback from our marking panel indicates students were able to respond to the questions, but students may have felt the questions were more difficult at the Excellence level."
National Party education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye said the agency should be preventing errors in an exam-setting process which it says takes 18 months.
"There will always be people who think an exam is too hard for a variety of reasons, but I think the public should expect that there are no significant errors in our exams," she said.
"This is pretty serious stuff for young people. It can change the course of their lives if they don't get good marks, and we should never be afraid to refine and improve that process."
An independent review of the 2016 mistakes in the maths and statistics exams found that the most serious mistake was inserted in a late change in the exam-setting process.
NZQA accepted the review panel's recommendations including a final and formal independent check before approving each exam for printing, and referring late changes to be dealt with at senior levels of the agency.
Kaye said the latest mistake should again be referred to an independent reviewer outside NZQA with a wide brief to review the whole exam-setting process in the context of a review of all NCEA units which is already under way.
Kilkelly said NZQA itself "will review its quality assurance procedures to find any improvements for this kind of question".
National Party agriculture spokesman Todd Muller has also criticised NZQA over a question in a Level 3 English paper that asked students to "discuss the way the writer explores ongoing change" in a magazine article quoting a poll saying that two-thirds of the public blamed farmers for deteriorating water quality.
"There needs to be some balance in how our education system portrays farmers. We have the most sustainable farmers in the world but this rarely gets mentioned," Muller said.
Kilkelly responded: "The wording of the question does not ask students to evaluate the content of the article – rather, the question asks them to consider the style of the text and the linguistic devices the author uses."
Meanwhile 132 students have said they are going to a Facebook event called "level 2 math students storm NZQA headquarters", planned for 4pm on December 5. Another 236 said they were "interested".
However one of the two students at St Peter's College in Gore who are hosting the event, Molly Haines, said she would not actually be travelling to Wellington for the event.
"There might be a few students in the group who decide to go, I don't know," she said.
"Me and my friends just came out of the exam and we were joking about it because there's been lots of things about storming things lately so we thought, let's set up a Facebook page."
She said the top Year 12 maths scholar in her school attempted every question but was "not very happy about it".
"I had a go at about four of the questions," she said. "The others, we had no idea what was going on."