Rotorua students are gearing up for practice exams this week, with one school leader saying some year 13 students were "struggling with anxiety" around achieving high-enough grades to get into restricted entry university courses.
Another said some had returned "fired up" and are "trying to do the best they can" post lockdown.
John Paul College student Charlotte Hall said some of her peers were feeling "a lot of pressure" to achieve highly in practice exams due to the uncertainty of final exams going ahead.
She was preparing for five external exams at the end of the year - including physics, calculus, English, economics and drama.
The school's head girl hoped to secure a spot studying engineering at the University of Auckland next year, but was feeling nervous due to the competitive nature of the course.
She said this year's lockdown was "kind of difficult" for senior students because of the timing, with many feeling "tired" after returning to school.
"For some subjects, we lost a bit of traction just because of the nature of the subject," 17-year-old Charlotte said.
"Coming back to school, most of my peers are feeling like their motivation levels are down. Even if we are pretty prepared in our subjects, everyone is exhausted."
Senior students had started preliminary exams, which would run until next Thursday.
"Depending on what people want to do next year, these marks really matter for our universities. They could be our final grade, there is uncertainty around that.
"It is just a waiting game which is kind of tricky, whether we will go into another lockdown."
Despite the uncertainty, Charlotte said school staff were providing students with "lots of resources and advice" to help them stay on track.
End-of-year NCEA and scholarship exams had been delayed because of the disruption from Covid-19, the NZ Qualifications Authority announced last month.
The dates for all exams will be moved back two weeks, to be held between November 22 and December 14, according to a statement on NZQA's website. Portfolio subjects will also have their due dates delayed a fortnight.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said the "vast majority" of year 11,12 and 13 students were on track to gaining NCEA this year.
"There is a few that are on the margins of potentially not getting NCEA - but we think we will get them over the line," he said.
Last week school staff members met to assess the progress of every senior student working towards the qualification, he said.
But he said some students were "struggling with anxiety" coming out of lockdown, particularly those who were aiming to get into "highly competitive" university courses like law, medicine and engineering.
"They are really anxious to hit those high grades so they don't end up being disadvantaged when applying for these courses," he said.
"They are focusing on getting scholarships and endorsement."
Walsh said additional tutorials and catch-up work had been put in place for students in the coming weeks to "lessen their anxiety and give them more confidence and they will get through".
Students taking part in technology subjects also required additional support because they did not have access to specialist facilities in lockdown, he said.
"They have put in additional workshops for them in the afternoons, evenings and are opening up the weekends and holidays for those students to come back to complete their projects," he said.
Preliminary exams were also under way at Rotorua Girls' High School this week.
Principal Sarah Davis said students who had returned to school were "really fired up" and "trying to do the best they can".
However, some students were experiencing "a little bit of anxiety ... and sadness" about school events that could not go ahead at alert level 2.
And some immuno-compromised students were continuing to learn from home, she said.
Davies said catch-up programmes would take place next term to "absorb the impacts" of missed face-to-face learning in lockdown.
"We are feeling for higher-achieving students going for endorsement. We want them to do the very best they can - but they have lost a package of learning at a time which is pretty important," she said.
"We will be trying hard in term four to get those students where they want to be for next year."