Pressure, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high for secondary students with NCEA exams mere weeks away.

While always a stressful time for students, one local principal says he's seeing the pressure get worse as education becomes more and more "high stakes".

Senior students across Rotorua will go on study leave at the end of this week with the first exams beginning on November 9.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said there was a heightened level of anxiety among students, but counsellors and teachers were on hand to help out.


"The stress and pressure students feel does appear to have gotten worse as education is regarded more and more as high stakes.

"The cost and competition at universities is filtering down to the secondary levels and students are feeling pressured to go above and beyond to get into the courses they want, especially if there is a limited intake."

Mr Walsh said teachers had been holding extra tutorials for students at lunch time, after school and on weekends.

"The tutorials are there to help those students who are struggling. On the other hand, we have other students entering the exams pretty relaxed as they have already gained enough credits to pass the year.

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Rotorua students' tips for pre-exam stress

"The downside of this is some of these students are strategically not turning up to their exams. It happens every year and in these cases all we can do is stress to the students that they won't be able to do that at university and even if they have passed the year, they should be trying to get endorsements for their individual subjects."

Rotorua Lakes High School principal Bruce Walker said his school was busy identifying students who needed extra help to achieve their necessary credits.

"It's getting to crunch time and naturally, being human nature to procrastinate, some students are not as prepared as they had hoped to be. That said, a lot are on top of everything and we have been impressed with their handling of the pressure."

New Zealand Qualifications Authority deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly said about 146,000 students would sit exams.

"Examinations are a big part of achieving NCEA and students should continue to concentrate on making sure they know their subject matter, when and where their examinations are, and what they need to do to achieve their goals."

More information about NCEA exams can be found on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website - see
Five tips for the support team
• Speak to teachers: your child's teachers know what is happening at school and how your child is progressing.
• Provide a suitable study environment.
• Balance study with free time: it's important students remain in a positive frame of mind and keep relaxed.
• Prepare, prepare, prepare: make sure you and your child know how they are going to get to their examinations, what the examination room rules are and what they need to take with them. Remind them to carry their admission slips. Allow plenty of time to get to examinations early and plan for what you might do if something unforeseen happens - for example, alternative transport plans in case of bus delays.
• Know the examination timetable.