Year 13 history students fear they may fail their exam because many didn't know the meaning of the word 'trivial'.
Wednesday's NZQA Level 3 history Causes and Consequences paper asked students to analyse the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with Julius Caesar, with reference to the causes and consequences of a historical event.
They were given this quote from Caesar: "Events of importance are the result of trivial causes" and asked to write their paper.
Students are now petitioning NZQA asking for their essays to be marked based on the students' content and own understanding of the event because many did not understand what 'trivial' means. The word means "to be of little value or importance".
Taieri College student Logan Stadnyk told Stuff he knew the meaning of the word but many of his classmates thought it mean "significant".
The petition says the essay's inclusion of the word 'trivial', which they describe as an 'unfamiliar word,' caused confusion among the students.
"The word, which many students were not particularly familiar with, meant that student's had to write the essay based on their own understanding of the word. Many of which were different to what the word actually means; meaning that the true potential of many students are going to be covered (sic)," the petition reads.
"Please do not feel threatened for this is only a petition to recognize the hard work and efforts put in by many across the country."
An NZQA spokesperson said the language used in the essay was within the expected vocabulary range for an NCEA Level 3 history student.
But candidates will not be penalised for misinterpreting the meaning of the word.