NCEA exams are being ditched by thousands of teenagers across the motu, after another year with Covid lockdowns saw many students default to their derived grade or unexpected event grade (UEG).  

The NZ Qualifications Authority is allowing schools to make use of the unexpected event grade rule, which automatically gives students a grade if they miss an exam. Previously known as ‘emergency grades’, the UEGs are derived from work students complete, with evidence, during the year. 

Only 55 percent of students in Auckland, Waikato and Northland attended the first four days of exams, NZQA told RNZ.

Last year the national average attendance was 86 percent.

Re: ran an informal poll on Instagram to see how many students sat their end-of-year exams this year. Out of the 616 people who responded, over half (330) said they had not attended their exams. 

The exam period began November 22 and runs until December 14.

We wanted to hear more about how some senior students were feeling about it all. 


Quincy Brown-Fainu’u, Year 13, Mt Albert Grammar, Tāmaki

Quincy says she is glad to skip exams as lockdown has taken a toll on her mental health.

“I just feel like since lockdowns started I lost motivation with what I wanted to do next year and schoolwork in general,” says Quincy.

She is grateful for the second chance the UEG provides but says the hastiness of it being introduced suddenly was overwhelming.

“I feel like it was rushed on us and it had a huge impact on our students and our mental health as well,” says Quincy.


Zachary Naufahu, Year 13, Wellington High School, Pōneke

Zachary put in the hard mahi early and was able to pass through his internal assessments so for him, he says, “it feels no different than it would without UEG.”

But he says he felt a lot of uncertainty, and not receiving enough advice on how to do assessments from home caused him undue stress.

“That put a huge amount of stress and anxiety on my shoulders,” he says.

“I hope schools take advice from students in how to respond with Covid lockdowns, students’ voices are most important and it’s a fragile time for them so they deserve what they need,” says Zachary.


Jazz Collier, Year 11, Bethlehem College, Tauranga

Online learning can be very difficult for young learners, Jazz says. It wasn’t really a time where she learnt much, “it was more just revision.”

She says the pressure to cram in a whole lockdown's worth of work when she returned to school was the biggest stress.

“It really did put a lot of pressure on us as students to feel the need to learn everything in a four-week period, basically re-teaching ourselves,” says Jazz.

With two more years of high school to go, she hopes the learning experience will be easier with more face time with teachers.

“I hope it just goes a lot smoother, and that because of Covid and possibly losing teachers, that we still have the availability to go to them next year,” she says.


Austin Charleton, Year 13, Rosmini College, Tāmaki

Austin says he was satisfied with his UEG results and after a “mentally draining” lockdown period, and is happy to stress less over his exams.

“It's just given me the opportunity to not stress,” he says.

He said online learning was the major obstacle. “It was quite difficult to understand and grasp what you're meant to be learning.”


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