Students who don't know what the word "trivial" means won't be marked down for concocting their own interpretation in an NCEA exam.

NCEA Level 3 History students were asked to write an essay on the Julius Caesar quote: "In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes."

Students were now protesting the use of the use of the word saying they didn't know what it meant.

More than 2000 people had signed a petition asking NZQA to mark the exam based on students' own definitions of the word trivial.


The petition said a lot of them weren't familiar with it... one student thought it meant "significant".

NZQA said the language used in the question was expected to be within the range of vocabulary for a student at that level.

However, it said if students had addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, they would be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis.

NZQA said they would not be penalised for misinterpreting the word trivial.

But, a student who sat the exam, Scott, told Newstalk ZB's Leighton Smith the complaint was "trivial".

He said it was a common word, and one he learned when he was young, from his parents.

The ones complaining were just worried they would miss out on an excellence grade, he said.