More than 160,000 students can check their NCEA results from tomorrow morning - but for some students there won't be many surprises in store.
Many seniors in Auckland, Waikato and Northland already know their marks, thanks to the NZ Qualifications Authority applying Unexpected Event Grades where students were affected by the months-long lockdown.
That meant they could choose to skip external exams and get marks based on work done during the year, including mock exams - an option taken up by many students.
But students outside those areas will still be waiting nervously to see how they fared.
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Secondary Principals' Association president Vaughan Couillault said it might be unhelpful to compare 2021 results across different regions - or even with 2020, when some schools had their best-ever results after students got bonus credits.
"Kids in Auckland had a fundamentally different learning experience to kids in the South Island," he said. "Maybe [we should] not compare apples with oranges, but compare Auckland with Auckland - not the rest of the country."
Mt Roskill Grammar School student Sylvia McDougall, 17, is pretty sure she knows what her Year 12 results will say when she logs in on January 20.
She skipped her external exams for Level 3 Chemistry and Calculus and Level 2 French, English and Biology, as she was "stoked" with the grades she had already gained.
Instead she focused on her Scholarship exams - English and Calculus - which had no unexpected event grade option. Those marks won't be out until February 10.
UEGs had been a blessing for locked-down kids, she said. Many Mt Roskill students' UEGs were derived from mock exams which started straight after lockdown, but those who didn't do well still had a chance to earn the grades they needed later.
"It wasn't just for the ones who were already excelling or were struggling; everyone got this second chance, and our teachers were really generous and kind."
Some people still sat externals for the experience, while others took specific exam papers to improve their marks.
"It just gave so much more flexibility and freedom to pick where they could focus on and where their strengths lay."
She has some friends in Christchurch who feel it's unfair that they had to sit exams as normal - "but we're also like, you had school and we didn't".
Mt Roskill principal Greg Watson was expecting similar results to last year, following a trend of improvement over several years.
Students at Mt Roskill had a range of experiences during lockdown, with some working to support their families, Watson said. "We needed to work to make sure that all our kids had the ability to learn online while in lockdown."
He believed NZQA had used the right methodology to recognise the duress students had been under and the learning they had done. The authority introduced bonus "learning recognition credits" last year to help students affected by lockdowns and lowered the threshold to achieve University Entrance, as well as making many students eligible for UEGs.
"Because of those unexpected event grades there will be more knowledge already about how going to go. It won't be quite the same sense of uncertainty around how the cards are going to fall."
Attendance at external exams had varied between subjects, with between half and two thirds of students showing up, Watson said. Some were targeting particular standards where they wanted better grades, while others had just wanted to pit themselves against the exam challenge.
Summer school would be starting on Monday at Mt Roskill to help those students who need more work to achieve the results they wanted, he said.
Vaughan Couillault said his school, Papatoetoe High, had a fair idea of results already but was eagerly waiting to see if they had made the right interventions to avoid disadvantaging students.
"We had 10-20 per cent of students turning up for each exam which is a great thing because it meant we'd done our job beforehand with UEGs."
The downside was that teachers had worked much later into the year getting students' marks over the line.
"People didn't get results for nothing. They were required to do the work, they just did it in a different way. That way was probably better for students ... but it was particularly brutal on the workforce."
NZQA says its call centre will stay open until 8pm tomorrow with extra staff to answer questions. Students can contact the centre by emailing email@example.com, calling 0800 697 296, or through the website's chat function.
Students who don't get the results they were hoping for can find out what options and support are available through the Student Exam Hub.
Marked NCEA papers were to be available online from January 25 so students could request reviews or reconsiderations.
That has now been delayed to January 31 to allow time for the online system to be tested as it's the first time scanned papers have been available online.