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Before an Exam


Exam timetable

The NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship examination sessions are three hours. The exam sessions start at either 9.30 am or 2.00 pm.

The exam timetable is available to view and download here: 2021 NCEA Examination Timetable

Exam materials

Students are responsible for taking the correct equipment to the exam and making sure that it is working.

Bring equipment into the exam room in a clear plastic bag. Students can bring:

  • pens (black and blue colours are permitted) pencils and an eraser
  • an approved calculator for subjects where a calculator has been used during the year.

You can confirm what is allowed in a specific exam by reading the relevant assessment specification. To find this, see NCEA subject resources.

Calculators must be silent, hand-held, non-printing and work from their own power. Students cannot keep notes, routines or store files in the calculator memory. Teachers or supervisors will check the calculator memory is cleared before it can be brought into the exam room.  There is a list of Approved Calculators.

Emergency evacuation and student pack

Students are allowed to bring items for an emergency evacuation into the examination room in a clear, sealable plastic bag. This pack must stay under the chair and not be touched or opened without the permission of the supervisor. Contents could include a mobile phone (switched off) or other electronic device, keys, money, mask or other face covering, and medicines. 

Banned items

Do not bring the following items into an exam room unless sealed in the emergency evacuation pack:

  • blank paper or refill paper
  • correcting fluid
  • books, written notes or electronic notes
  • cell phones or pagers
  • English dictionaries, foreign language dictionaries, or te reo Māori dictionaries or translators
  • watches of any type (digital or analogue)
  • any electronic device which has the capability to store, communicate and/or retrieve information except approved calculators.


On the day of the exam

Arrive at least 20 minutes before the exam starts to find out the location of the exam room arranged by the school. If you arrive more than 30 minutes after the exam has started you will not be able to sit the exam or enter an exam room.

In the exam room
  • At all times, listen to and follow the instructions of the supervisor.
  • Sit at the desk allocated. The exam booklets at this desk will have been selected and coded specifically for the individual student.
  • Check all the answer booklets have your student NSN and Examination Code on them as listed on your Admission Slip.
  • When told, check that all pages in each exam booklet are printed correctly.
  • If you have a problem, you should put your hand up.
  • Students cannot leave in the first 45 minutes or the last 15 minutes of the examination, even to use the toilet.
During the exam

Students should:

  • not borrow equipment from someone else
  • not talk to, communicate with, or do anything to disturb other students
  • not read or copy another student's work.
Writing answers

Students should:

  • follow all the instructions on the front cover of the exam booklet
  • use only black or blue pen
  • not write in pencil unless instructed to do so. Work in pencil or erasable pen will not be accepted if a student applies for review or reconsideration
  • write neatly, so the marker can read the answers
  • cross out any work they do not want marked
  • not write or draw anything that may be regarded as offensive
  • not write to the marker or write in the part of the answer booklet 'For assessor's use only'
  • not write answers for one standard in the answer booklet for another. Where students fill up their answer booklet, they may request extra paper
  • fill in their details at the top of any additional sheets of paper provided and put them inside the answer booklet.
At the end of the exam

Students must stop writing when the supervisor tells them to. They must hand all material to be marked to the supervisor before they leave, if they take any work outside the examination room, it will not be marked.

Students can keep resource booklets and separate question booklets.

More Information

www.nzqa.govt.nz/ncea/ncea-exams-and-portfolios/external