NCEA Maths Level 1 exam heavily criticised as being “impossible”

21st November 2017

In 2016 the NCEA Level 1 Maths Common Assessment Task (MCAT) for year 11 students caused anger among teachers and parents. The exam was deemed to be too difficult and many students were left upset after facing questions that they said were not covered in their learning throughout the year. Sadly, it seems that lessons have not been learnt and yesterday’s NCEA Level 1 Maths exam has come in for even more criticism this year.

Complaint from teachers

Furious teachers are reportedly drafting a letter of complaint to the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Qualfications Authority as they say that the exam posed questions that students had little chance in answering correctly. All three papers – Tables, Equations and Graphs, Geometric Reasoning and Chance and Data – have been criticised. Teachers say the exam contained duplicate questions, unnecessarily long instructions and testing work not taught in the syllabus.

What the students say

Across social media, parents have been revealing that even kids who were confident maths students were shocked by the level of difficulty and they felt that much of the exam was impossible, seemingly testing skills that they had not been prepared for.

One maths extension student said, “The exam was nothing like what we had practised in the mock exams or what had been covered in the curriculum.”

NZQA stands by the exam

As reported by the New Zealand Herald this morning, NZQA is standing by the exam.

“The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is confident in the quality of the examination, which met the specifications clearly signalled to schools in advance of the school year,” said deputy chief executive assessment Kristine Kilkelly.

NZQA announced they will make the exam paper available online at 5pm today.

In 2016, a major error in a Level 3 Statistics exam left a question impossible to answer. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the paper had not been reviewed correctly before publication. Then NZQA confirmed that no student would be disadvantaged due to the error. However, concerns were raised over the knock-on effect the impossibility of the question had on students trying to tackle other questions in the exam.



  1. SarahBlair 27/11/2017 at 4:29 pm

    My daughter sat this exam and I was left with a rather upset Eden afterwards, she usually is good at maths but this was not anything that she was expecting!!

  2. Bevik1971 27/11/2017 at 3:58 pm

    Hmmmm still not sure about the NCEA exams – was a bit different when I was at school and I’m not sure what it will be like when my 5 year old needs to go through all of this in a few years time. I’m hoping not too stressful for her

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