Teachers of French are complaining to the Qualifications Authority saying a NCEA French exam brought some students to tears.
They say a part of Thursday's exam was extremely difficult and the experience will put some students off continuing the language next year.
About 2500 students had to listen to and transcribe four readings in French. Teachers say the readings were too long and too hard, with words and grammar students will not learn for another two years.
The Association of French Teachers says its members were quick to voice their anger in an online forum where one said the reading was so difficult it made students cry.
The Qualifications Authority has defended the paper, saying exams need challenging material so excellence-level candidates can prove their skill.
The authority says it will ensure its marking of the paper is fair to students.