Stella and TJ Piacun were both wracked with nerves when they logged in to the NZQA website at 8am this morning to check their exam results.

They were among 140,000 students whose NCEA results were uploaded to the authority's website today - with one education expert warning that for some students the results could be difficult to take.

The twins, aged 16, both got a merit endorsement, but while Stella was disappointed, TJ was stoked.

Stella was hoping for excellence overall, having achieved great grades in the mock accounting exams held by their school, Lynfield College.

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But accounting let her down in the external exams - she received merit for both papers, leaving her eight credits shy of excellence overall.

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"I could have done better," she said, adding she had "high expectations of myself ... I really wanted to do well".

Stella hopes to study for a Bachelor of Commerce when she finishes Year 13, so accounting was her main focus. She didn't recall the exam being too hard but most of her classmates had also got merit.

Her merit wouldn't have a big impact on this year - "It just makes me more determined to try to get E-endorsed this year for Level 3."

For TJ, a merit was a big deal and better than he had hoped.

"I set my expectations low so then I knew I could do better than what I was expecting."

TJ said both twins had studied hard but Stella was "a lot more educated" and he had more of a sports focus.

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His big worries were English and biology but he got an achieved in both so he was happy, while good marks in food science and maths got him a merit endorsement.

That meant he could study biology in Year 13, necessary to study Food and Nutrition or Sports Science at university in 2021.

'Grades are not a life sentence'

The Piacuns' parents told both teens they would be proud of them no matter their marks.

"And [they said] to be happy with what I got because I can't change it now," Stella said.

Knowing their marks is a weight off their shoulders - and now they can fully enjoy the rest of their holidays, including a trip to Australia, before school starts on January 31.

But for some teenagers today's results could throw up serious questions about their future, which one education expert has warned can lead to mental health struggles.

"Grades aren't a reflection of your intellect, ability, or value as a human being," said William Guzzo, general manager of tuition company Inspiration Education.

"Grades merely give you a timestamp of how much you knew at a given point of time and aren't a permanent indicator of your ability."

It could be hard for adults to understand how students might be feeling, he said.

"When you receive terrible exam results, it feels like your whole life is closing in around you and there's literally no hope. It feels like it's just not worth trying or caring anymore."

It was important for the student to focus on what they could control, like making up extra credits through Te Kura summer school.

"As trusted adults, the best way we can help is by challenging this notion, and showing young people that grades are not the defining point of their lives, or a life sentence," Guzzo said.

About 140,000 students attended 119 external NCEA exam sessions in late 2019. Photo / File
About 140,000 students attended 119 external NCEA exam sessions in late 2019. Photo / File

What happens now?

Heavy online traffic was expected when the results went up - the NZQA site had 833,600 page views the day 2018 results were released.

NZQA's call centre is open till 8pm today, with extra staff on call to answer queries about results and offer guidance.

The call centre can be contacted on 0800 697 296, or via helpdesk@nzqa.govt.nz.

From January 22, students will be able to log on to the online exam platform and view marked digital exams, while printed exam papers will be returned to students from late January.

After receiving their marked papers, students have until February 19 to apply for a review or reconsideration.

There is no cost to request a review, while the fee for a reconsideration will be refunded if it leads to a change in grades. Students who meet income requirements may also be able to get the reconsideration fee waived.

NZQA will analyse the results in coming weeks and release a full breakdown of the statistics once all students have had a chance to apply for reviews.