Teachers have slammed a Year 11 maths exam that has been deemed "far too difficult'' for students and which reduced some to tears in the exam room.

The NZ Qualifications Authority has come under fire for its MCAT (maths common assessment task) test students sat last week.

The exam required the first-year seniors to apply algebraic procedures in solving problems and is worth four credits.

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However, teachers and students alike have rallied in their disappointment of the NZQA for putting out a test that was unfairly difficult and did not represent what students had been taught in the lead-up.

MORE: Sandy Pasley: Difficult maths exam will be reviewed

Principal at Lower Hutt's Hutt Valley High School, Ross Sinclair, said he would be making a formal complaint to the NZQA about the issue.

In a newsletter to parents on Friday, Sinclair said: "This was the first high stakes external assessment for the country's Year 11 students this year and NZQA got it wrong.

"The examination was set at a level that was far too difficult - by one account two curriculum levels too high.

"It has caused strong Mathematics students to doubt themselves, has undermined students' confidence in both the examination process and their (good) teachers, has reduced students to tears in the exam room and made several have doubts about whether they have a Mathematical future."


Sinclair, who is the chair of the Greater Wellington Secondary School Principals' Association, said he had spoken with other principals who also raised their concerns.

"I have been asked by other principals to prepare a formal letter of protest to NZQA. Each of our schools has experienced the same dismayed reaction from our students - we will make that clear to NZQA,'' he wrote.

"They got this wrong and for those of our Year 11 students who read this - be assured that this was a poor examination and not your (or your teachers') failure to prepare adequately and well for this exercise.''

A spokeswoman for the Authority said tonight they had received some feedback in the last few days and would be responding to those complainants directly.

In a statement, the NZQA said the assessment was developed by an experienced team with expert knowledge of mathematics assessments. The papers are also reviewed by several secondary school teachers currently teaching.

"This is part of the rigorous quality assurance process that backs all NCEA assessment to ensure that all students are assessed fairly and that the NCEA qualifications they earn are credible."

The Authority also said that a benchmarking exercise was carried out before the assessment took place; with a marking schedule given to official markers.

"This exercise involves checking 1000 student booklets to see how they answered the questions. If necessary - for example if we find that a question was more difficult than expected - the schedule may be adjusted so that we can be sure all student work is marked consistently and fairly and that no student is unfairly penalised.''