The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is standing by an NCEA level one maths examination which was released to students throughout the country earlier this week.
Students, teachers and parents have voiced concerns over the exam which many believe was unusually difficult.
In a statement released online, NZQA says it's confident in the quality of the examination which met the specifications available to schools in advance of the school year.
“All NCEA assessments are aligned to the standard and the New Zealand Curriculum.
“The Level 1 Mathematics examination was set by a team of experienced mathematics teachers, for the right curriculum level, and is consistent with the specifications for the standard.
“Students may find some questions in examinations more difficult than others, especially those parts of the question aimed at excellence. Parts of the examination will be challenging, but students often do better than they expect.
“Each year we update our assessment specifications. Teachers are familiar with this process and will check the assessment specifications for changes.
“These assessment specifications include changes to the format of examination questions, as was the case in one of the three standards assessed in the Level 1 Mathematics and Statistics examination yesterday.
“We provide ongoing communication about examinations through a number of channels including publication of resources about particular standards, including examples of the types of questions that will be asked.
“We also send emails and circulars to schools. This examination was featured in the workshops run by the New Zealand Association of Maths Teachers and supported by NZQA earlier in the year.
Tauranga Boys' College deputy principal and mathematics teacher Stephen Tisch says while he feels for the students, he too stands by the paper.
“There was some surprise from students, more around the presentation of the questions,” he says. “They didn't look like questions they'd seen before.
“I'm a maths teacher myself, I've had a look at the questions and the underlying content is the same, it's just that the question looks new.
“Students would need to take a moment to understand what the question was asking and that's been an issue for a lot of them because it didn't look like what they expected it should.
“Through my look through it I don't see new content there, it's just they would have to pause and take a moment before pressing on.
“The examiner seems to have wanted them to go a bit deeper into the question.
“I had an accelerator class of year tens who are doing NCEA a year ahead, and we had a good talk about the exam yesterday.
“When I showed them how to work through the question the scales fell off their eyes and they realised they can actually do it but it was because the question looked different.”
He says he finds a big challenge as a teacher, in not knowing what the exam will be.
“We obviously want to set our students up to succeed and we want them to do the best they can and if we knew what the questions looked like we would tell them.
“We know what the content is going to be and we try to equip students with the tools that they will be able to solve those problems with.
“I hope students efforts are acknowledged when the papers are marked.”