NCEA Guide to Studying


A full NCEA guide covering general study advice as well as ways to improve academic achievement all year round, mainly for NCEA level 1 but applicable to Level 2 and 3.
Kerrin _
Note by Kerrin _, updated more than 1 year ago
Kerrin _
Created by Kerrin _ over 7 years ago

Resource summary

Page 1


High school can be a daunting experience looming on the horizon, or a difficult reality. Whichever it is, it is important to remember that while your five years at high school are important in developing who you are and your interests, they are a very mentally challenging and emotionally ruled five years. You are going to face challenges, difficulties and obstacles that will shove you down. My biggest tip for high school and life in general because high school teaches us a lot more things than just subjects, is to fall down seven times and get up eight. Below I have separated my advice for the academic side of high school into four sections; start of year prep, during the year habits, how to succeed in internals and final exam prep. This guide will detail useful ways to get the most out of your time and effort grade wise. It is specifically tailored to NCEA Level 1-3 but may still be used as general high school and study advice for all years and all systems of education. I have also included a list of websites and resources that I have found to be really beneficial in my studies that are again specifically tailored to the NCEA education system but could still be useful for all types of education and years. I have also added a list of general study ‘hacks’ to make your studying easier. I have created this guide to share my knowledge of the NCEA system and to give everyone who reads it the best possible chance of doing their best in high school and getting the best possible set up for their future education or pathway. I thought it would be particularly useful to have a guide made for success in NCEA as New Zealand is a very small country and I could not find a single guide for NCEA that was written by a student. I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

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Start of year preparation

Prepare before you even have to prepare. Here are a list of things that I use over the summer and before any standard that we do in class to get an extra leg up with understanding and achieving highly. Just one or a combination of the tips below will benefit you greatly and can easily be incorporated into your summer schedule. 1. Write a list of all the standards you will be doing during the year, clearly identifying which ones you will struggle with as well as the credits for each standard. This way you can see how many credits you can easily obtain and which ones you will need to work harder for. It also gives you a clearer picture of the workload ahead. Internal standards will be your priority at the beginning of the year so pay more attention to these in your preparation as they will begin as soon as the school year starts, however, do not neglect the external standards as yearlong preparation will lighten your study load at the end of the year. 2. Gather as much information as you can about the standards you will be taking. This can come from study guides, books from older siblings, notes from friends, the NZQA website’s annotated exemplars, work from previous years and even your parents. This will help you be aware of what each standard will consist of and what is required for each grade. In particular I suggest using guides and information specifically related to the standard such as the information from study guides. While information from parents and older siblings may be useful in obtaining a general understanding, I have found that the higher grades for NCEA are attained by knowing exactly what needs to be said and saying it in the best possible way. 3. From this information, highlight or write down specific things you think you might struggle with during a particular standard. For example if you are taking Level 2 Physics and are doing the PHYS2.5 internal on atomic and nuclear physics, you may struggle with how alpha and beta particles work or the process of nuclear decay. By identifying these areas you will be able to ask for specific help from your teacher and give yourself the best chance of getting the grade you want. You can also highlight general areas that you struggle in across multiple subjects, such as balancing equations across all the sciences or understanding significant aspects of texts that you study in a variety of writing based subjects such as English or Classical studies. By identifying these areas, you can see where your weak points are and it will give you the chance to get specific help from a friend or teacher(s), again leading to a faster solution and higher grades. Getting into the habit of identifying specific areas of confusion will be a great help as it is a necessary skill later in university and a skill that is recognised with respect by professors and other educators as it shows your own involvement with your learning. 4. If you have the time and access to them, reading the ESA Study Guides for your subjects will be extremely beneficial. Don’t feel like you have to remember everything that you read, you are only reading them to gain a base understanding of what is required at a higher level. This will help improve how quickly you understand and comprehend the information when you are taught it in class and it will also help you clearly see which areas confuse you. Since results tend to get better as the year goes along and as you get used to what it is required at a higher level, these will help you slip into the right frame of mind quicker so you can get the best results as soon as the year kicks off. The Study Guides are available in most NCEA subjects and are very useful in exam study later in the year so are good investments. If you are looking for that extra level and are capable of achieving it, I find that reading some extended material in a study guide made for a level higher than your own will be a huge benefit. 5. It is also essential that you read books for pleasure at your level over the summer. Studies show that if you read 4 or more books, you are able to settle into class routines more easily and maintain your reading and learning skills. It is important that you read books at your level. This doesn’t have to be your NCEA level, it is your ability level. If you are an NCEA level 2 student but can only read books studied at level 1, then read them. As you read more, your ability will increase and by the time the school year starts, you will be able to read and comprehend novels studied at NCEA level 2. On the other end of the scale, if you read a lot and can read novels at levels above your NCEA level, keep reading those and keep extending yourself by trying different genres or styles that you are not used to reading. Reading is important. Reading a variety of texts is also essential as it extends your ability and can be useful when doing standards such as unfamiliar texts in NCEA level 1 and 2 and reading responses. 6. Get all your equipment ready for the year. As I child, this was always my favourite part of the new school year; school stationary. If you, like me, love getting new books and pens then you can ignore this section. However, if you tend to not care about your workbooks and lose your pens, keep reading. It is important that you get all of the books required for your year ahead. In NCEA, the most common workbooks are either 2B8s or folders with refill pad. Make sure you have enough books to last the year and spares in case one gets lost or damaged or you fill one up. Write your name on them and place them in the cleanest part of your room like a draw you never use or in a box under your bed. With pens, buy blue ones and black ones in a ratio that suits you. Some people like to use blue pens over black pens and others like black over blue. Make sure you have plenty and of both colours. It will also be good to buy red pens for marking your own work as well as highlighters to identify key points or information. Put these in a pencil case, not loose in your bag where they might break/ get dirty and you end up throwing them out. I always keep the majority of my pens in a pencil case and then have spares in my bag in case I forget my pencil case or someone else needs a pen. 7. Have the right frame of mind. If the year ahead is keeping you up at night, try and have the right frame of mind. This can be achieved by imagining the year ahead as successful instead of telling yourself that you are going to struggle. Think that you will achieve and you will be more likely to do well. Tell yourself that you will fail and you won’t try as hard. It’s a mind game and thinking the right thoughts has a huge impact on how well you do as well as how much effort you give during the year so think positive and not just at the beginning; it is important that you continue this positive frame of mind right through until the NCEA examinations.

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In Class

Once school has started here are some habits that will improve your grades and help you achieve at high school. Remember these are habits and will have to be performed daily to get the maximum benefit. 1. Do homework/assignments the night you get it. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times but the significance of this habit is often forgotten. By completing homework the night you get it, you will be able to put the stress and anxiety of not completing it out of your head. On top of that, you cannot predict what it is going to happen the next day when you may have even more homework or other priorities. If you have the time, do it. When I say ‘if you have the time’ I don’t mean that if you have the whole night free. I mean that if you are doing anything unproductive such as watching TV or hanging out with friends, do your homework instead. You will be able to do things for pleasure once you have finished it. If you have sports practice, do it when you get home while you’re having dinner. Make the time to do it even if it means going to bed twenty minutes later. Homework is not just something your teacher hands you to make your life hell. It is for your benefit, to extend your understanding of work and to give you the best chance of getting good grades. The same rule can be applied to assignments that you are allowed to do outside of class. Do them as soon as you can to ensure that you have the rest of the time allocated to improve it or to do other things that become priorities as well as reduce the stress in your life. I’m not saying stay up to 3 in the morning to get an assignment that is only due in two months done in one night, nor am I saying give up all of your time for homework. I am simply saying that by forgoing a few things such as half an hour of time you spend watching TV, you will be able to do your homework and watch TV later. This is especially important for weekends as you have lots more time and tend to stay up later. Prioritize your work above pleasure but remember to keep time free for relaxation. 2. Keep your books tidy. If your books are tidy and organised, your studying will be more effective and you will be able to easily refer back to your notes. You can keep your books organised by colour coding, highlighting and underlining. Colour code things with pens. Write all your notes in black and all your exercises or examples in blue, or use different pens like purple and green to identify separate topics within a standard. Using different colours/ fonts when writing titles is also beneficial. Highlight all important information, also colour coding your highlighters by using one colour for things you struggle with and another for important things to remember, or different colours for different topics within a standard. Underline titles and dates in your book. This makes it easier to refer back to a specific day or lesson. Make sure you do record the dates and titles because it helps with keeping track of your learning and work. If it is possible, such as in maths, rule your books in half so that you have more space. In one half of the page you can do exercises and on the other you can write notes. Do any combination of the things I have mentioned to help improve your study but make sure the ways work for you. I underline things in different colours depending on what they are; dates underlined in red, main titles underlined in green and subtitles in black. However, I know people who only use one colour and draw a bubble around the title to distinguish it from everything else which works fine too, as long as it fits with how you work and can be done quickly. 3. Sit by the teacher. Up the front, next to the teacher’s desk is the best place to sit in the classroom. Not only is the teacher more likely to know you, but they can offer assistance all lesson round. It also develops good relationships between you and your teacher, a relationship which will be beneficial in achieving highly, especially if you are going for awards such as top in subject. If numerous people have the same grades as you in the class, your relationship with the teacher and the engagement you show in the classroom will make them advocate for you more. It also prevents you from being distracted as easily and provides more chances for conversations that will extend your understanding and increase your grade and general knowledge. 4. Ignore distractions. This can be from chatter around the classroom, friends trying to get your attention, people outside the class or thoughts on your mind. To ignore the soft chatter of people around you, zone in on your work and push other people out of your mind. If your train of thought wonders to their conversations, quickly reread what you are working on and keep writing. The more you do in class, the less you do outside of the class. If it is your friend that is distracting you by talking to you about things not relevant to the class, ask them to stop, but do it nicely. Try saying something like “when we finish this we can talk about...” or “we should really do this now or so and so will make us do it at lunch.” By trying to get them to do their own work, you will be freeing yourself from their distracting behaviour as well as helping them get a better grade. If they still refuse to stop, ask the teacher lots of questions, that way the teacher will be near you a lot, prompting your friend to work as they will be checking on their progress throughout the lesson, and you will also be improving your understanding. The teacher may then move on to talk to your friend, eliminating the distraction. If none of the above work, try to ignore them as much as possible or just tell them how important the assignment is to you. As your friend they should respect the things that are important to you. Try not to lose your temper with them as it could damage your friendship. This is even more important if you know that you distract your friend in another class. Because you do it to them, they may see it as permission to do it to you. Try not to distract those around you and it may just make others try not to distract you. If else fails, try to get through the lesson and see the teacher afterwards, ask if you can be moved away from your friend. For distractions outside of the classroom, again put them out of your head. Hopefully they will be gone in a few minutes and you can continue working. If it is your mind that is distracting you, try to leave everything that doesn’t have to do with the subject at the door when you enter the classroom. This can be relationships, other subjects, situation at home, other teachers or responsibilities. They will still be there when you leave the class. Focus only on the task at hand. Often putting lots of effort and attention into your work means that you can stop yourself from thinking about the other things, giving you peace even if it is just for an hour. Also try to leave your emotions outside of the classroom, especially if you are feeling sad or angry. These emotions will make you more likely to think about other things and you may be too upset to focus on the work. It also prevents you from having a good lesson, especially if you happen to enjoy the subject and get on well with people in the class. Often a good lesson can change your sad feelings into happy ones and lessen your angry ones if you let it. The best thing you can do to minimize distractions from your thoughts is to have someone to talk to about anything on your mind. This person can be a trusted teacher, the guidance counselor, your friend or a sibling. You don’t have to tell them your deepest darkest secrets, but it can help you stop persistent feelings and thoughts from distracting you from important work and you actually feel physically lighter and more capable. Talking is good and necessary. If you struggle with talking to people, write a letter or an email, or something that just lets you get issues and thoughts out of your head. 5. Make a routine. Our brains function best when we have a routine. Get up at the same time each morning, get ready in the same order each morning and leave for school at the same time each morning. This prevents stress and minimizes the time we spend thinking about what we’re going to do next and how we are going to get ready. At school, you have a timetable that is a routine. Other routines include after school activities; do the same things after school each week. Set time aside for homework each night and try to have dinner at the same time each night. Simple things that allow your brain to focus on more important things. A routine can also be made when talking to someone about what’s on your mind. For example, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I go to the person I talk to. You might want to talk once a week, or twice a week, or every day. Whatever it is, make a routine out of it. This will help you get used to talking about things on those days at those times and will prepare you for it. Soon you will look forward to these discussions and you can section your problems into the times between the discussions, you can set goals and focus on particular things. Routines become habit and they will just become a part of your life. 6. Ask questions when you need help and even when you don’t. You don’t just have to ask questions to you teachers, you can ask friends, parents, siblings or other people in your class. Questions clarify things you don’t understand and can only be beneficial. If you are too scared to ask it in front of the class, ask the teacher after class or if they are walking around, put your hand up and ask them then. Even if you completely understand something, ask questions about why it is that way, ask where it came from, ask who discovered it and keep extending yourself. In NCEA excellence is extended abstract thinking, in other words thinking outside of the usual scope, thinking about its relevance, its place in history or in society, its importance. Questions show that you are actively engaging in your own learning and the learning of the class. Depending on your teacher, if you ask lots of questions, usually you end up talking about different topics that are still related and that you can use to get higher grades. 7. If you still struggle, get a tutor. If asking for extra help from your teacher doesn’t help you to the extent you need, you might want to think about getting a tutor. This can be someone in your own year level or someone who has already completed it, as long as it is someone who knows what they’re talking about. Often getting a friend to act as a sort of tutor is enough, if this friend achieves very highly and is prepared to spend the time with you to help you. But if even that isn’t enough, getting a professional tutor is often necessary especially if you are failing subjects. 8. Check where you’re at. Keep track of your credits, including the final grade and standards you have completed. There is an app available for this called NCEA Student and allows you to enter all of your standards and the credits you have. It also has how many credits you have for merit and excellence endorsements both overall and in subjects. I highly recommend this. This is important as it will tell you how many more credits you need to get to pass and achieve endorsements which is directly related to the effort you need to put into studying and preparing for standards both internally and externally assessed. It is also important to know where you are in terms of your own success. If you are achieving at the highest level you can, then that is awesome and you should reward yourself, however, if you know that you can do better, it will tell you that you need to put more effort into your work in the future.

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Succeeding in Internals

About half of your standards will be internally assessed. This means that you will do them in class under supervision. They will be marked by your teacher and then moderated by another teacher to ensure fair marking across the school. I find internals to be very vague in terms of knowing exactly what is required for each grade; however, over the year I have learnt some tricks. Here is my advice for how to succeed in internals. 1. Know what you are talking about. It is essential that you are aware and that you understand the information you will be using in your internal. Whether it is a report in science, creative writing, a power point in history, the internet is your friend. Find information on the topic and keep reading it until you fully understand it and can explain it to someone else. This background info will mean that you can talk about it convincingly, which is what is required for excellence at NCEA level 1. To get this information, pay attention in class; a lot of what you will be writing about will come from information you are taught in the classroom, use websites such as those I have listed below; StudyIt has a huge range of resources for maths, English and science standards for all levels and use articles online or in books to get more information. 2. Use the NZQA annotated exemplars to get an idea of what is required for achieved, merit and excellence. These are extracts from students’ work that has comments by NZQA to say what they did right and what the student can do to improve the work. They are meant to assist teachers but I found them very useful to get an understanding of what I could do to improve my grade. 3. Go above and beyond in the detail of your work. Often for excellence, more work has to be done and more writing needs to be done and the writing has to be done to a higher level. If it isn’t specified exactly how many words are required, doing more than the recommended amount can be a good thing. However, if you choose to write more, make sure that what you are writing is relevant, that it develops your main points, that it shows deeper understanding, and is necessary for you. If you are just writing to increase the word count, don’t do it, the quality of your work is still better than the quantity but if you can write a lot and it is all relevant to your task, then do it as it will improve your grade. Another way to go above and beyond is to use information that you have collected by yourself. If the internal isn’t a research project which already requires you to find additional information, then by collecting information by yourself that wasn’t mentioned in class will also boost your grade. Use this information as evidence in your reports or links to the wider society as long as it is relevant. 4. If it isn’t relevant, lose it. As you can probably tell by my constant use of the word ‘relevant’ in the previous points, relevant information is the only information you should be using. Often students will put in information to increase the word count and make it look long and excellence worthy, but the content will be unrelated to their task or key points. MAKE SURE EVERYTHING YOU HAVE IS RELEVANT. It is even better to justify its relevance with a linking statement that connects your additional information to the topic, which shows that you understand its importance and relation to the topic and shows that you have added it purposefully and not just because you thought it might be related. If it isn’t related or you can’t justify why you have included it, scrap it. Throw it away and don’t use it. 5. Go above and beyond in the presentation of your work. Sometimes the presentation of your internal will count towards the final grade, especially in history and other social sciences. If you are given any specific requirements for how your work has to be presented i.e. font size, margin width, power point, printed, digital, follow these rules to the t. If it says all writing must be in size 12 Arial font then write it in size 12 Arial font. If it says it must be handed in printed double-sided, then print it double-sided. However, if no specific presentation instructions are given I suggest using the same font and size for all body text, the same font and size for all headings and the same font and size for titles. I also suggest keeping to a colour scheme if you are required to have it printed in colour or are allowed to have it in colour. If it is an option to type it, then type it as handwriting is messy and can sometimes be hard to read plus handwritten notes are longer and you have a greater chance of losing a page or two. Keep your internals in a clear file or in a sleeve in a folder if you will be transporting them in your bag so that they do not get damaged. 6. Hand it in on time. There are due dates for a reason. If you need an extension because you are away due to sickness a doctor’s note is required. For the longer internals, there will be check points, make sure you have your work checked off at these check points to make sure you’re on track to finish by the deadline. The night before it’s due, I suggest going over the internal one last time, printing it off if required and putting in your bag so you don’t forget it in the morning. If you like to be careful, print an extra copy and put it somewhere else for example your locker at school or give it to a more reliable friend in your class in case you lose it or forget it somewhere. You can always hand it in to your teacher at the beginning of the day or the day before if you are very concerned about it. Also keep a digital copy and one or two USB sticks so that you can always print another copy if necessary. Yes this is very over the top but you will not get the grades if you do not hand it in on the due date and all your hard work will be for nothing. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you are the most organized person and you’ve never handed in an assignment late, something will slip your mind as you will be preoccupied by other things, especially if you complete the assignment early and leave a few things to the last minute. I speak from personally experience. During my last History internal which I finished early, on the due date I had the panic moment when I realised that I had forgotten to attach my drafts to the physical copy. It could have cost me a lot more than a grade so I advise that you take no chances. 7. Resubmit if possible. If you got a not achieved, achieved or even merit, resubmit if you are offered it. Resubmissions are offered to students whose work is on the boundary between two grades. By resubmitting, you can get a higher grade. If it is offered to you, take it and try to add as much information as you can. Resubmissions can be oral, you will just tell your teacher what you want to add, or written, you will actually add more information. Not all standards will allow you to resubmit, however, so do not rely on this to get a better grade. Try to aim for the highest you can the first time round. 8. Re-sit the internal if possible. If you got any grade below an excellence I suggest you take the time to re-sit. Re-sits are offered to ALL students who took the standard and are only available if the school decides to do it. There will be a different assignment but will be very similar to the first one. These are only offered if many students who sat the internal failed. Usually the standards offering re-sits will be in maths or science subjects and the re-sits will usually be done during the mock examinations. Do the re-sit, even if you got a merit as you have nothing to lose; even if you get a lower grade in the re-sit, your higher grade will count. It is worth it. If you're aiming for endorsements, it is three or four credits you won't need to get from externals.

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Studying for and Achieving in Exams

This is a vital part of success in NCEA as each subject has 1-3 externally assessed standards which you will do twice**, once in the mock examinations your school holds and again in the NCEA examinations at the end of the year in November. Here are my suggestions for studying and how to overcome problems such as procrastination and anxiety. For mock exams: 1. Do the hard yards for your mock exams. These are as important as your NCEA exams, even more so if you are at level 1 and these are the first NCEA style exams you will be doing. By preparing as hard as you can for these exams, you are also preparing yourself for success in the November exams. Not only will these results count if you are too sick to sit the actual exams, but these are also the results that are counted for top in subject and other awards. If you are aiming for an award, these are very important exams. 2. Organise notes into subject piles. The first thing you will want to do is organize your notes into subject piles and then again by standards. This can be done by having a filing draw with different sections for each subject and then dividers for the different standards, or you can get a folder for each subject and use that to separate them, using dividers to separate standards. Organization is very important. It keeps all your notes in one place and puts everything you need together so that we you start to study, everything will be set and ready to go and you will not be tempted to distract yourself by tidying things and organizing. For NCEA science, I recommend going to the No Brain Too Small website which has many subject resources to help you study including flashcards and overviews that you can print out and study from. 3. Find the right study space. Your study space needs to be quiet, silent is best as these will be the conditions you will sit your exams in. Have plenty of space to spread out your books and work. If the work you are doing requires a computer but you don’t have a laptop or tablet, then you will need to have sufficient space around the computer. Make sure that the room with your computer in is quiet, away from distractions such as family members, roads, the TV etc. It is much easier to find a study space if you have a laptop as you can move throughout the house. Again, you will need to find a space away from family members and noise. Do not use your bed as your study space. Although this might work during the year, for exam study, you need hard surfaces and a chair as you will be studying for extended amounts of time and will need to have the right posture, one that can only be achieved by a proper seat. Spending long amounts of time in your bed will also affect your sleep at night as you will be telling your brain that your bead is for studying and thinking and being awake rather than sleeping. 4. Identify areas. Once you have organized your material and found a place to work, go through your books and end of topic tests to see the parts of each standard you need to work on. Write all of these down in a notebook so that you can prioritize your time accordingly. No Brain Too Small also has collated questions and answers from previous NCEA papers for particular topics within a standard which are extremely useful to practice on if you struggle in one area. 5. Read and process notes. Once you know the areas you need to spend the most time on, go through all of your notes, rewriting and summarizing them into revision sheets or flowcharts as you go. Flowcharts are great if you need to be able to link things to one another or need to identify particular things such as different types of chemical reactions. Revision sheets just need to be one or two A4 pieces of paper that have essential things that you tend to forget on them. These can then be turned into your own flashcards of things that you need to remember. Read them over a couple of times a day and you will be surprised at how much you remember. It is important that you re-watch any films you will be discussing and reread the written texts you have studied during the year to familiarise yourself with the sequence of events. Write down important quotes and draw flow diagrams showing the development of characters, ideas and how this it relates to societies around the world/ why it is important. 6. Download past papers. The NZQA has the past papers for each of the externally assessed standards for the past 3-4 years with the answers and reports which focus on common errors and reminders. Download all of these onto your computer or print them off at school. By doing the practice examinations, you will familiarise yourself with what is required for achieved, merit and excellence and what layout the exam will be in as well as how much depth you need to go in to achieve at the different levels. Mock exams are designed to reflect the NCEA format and will contain similar questions. 7. Take breaks. As important as it is for you to study, you need to take breaks. After every 20-30 minute study session, take a ten minute break. After another study session of 20-30 minutes, take a 20 minute break, preferably involving fresh air and exercise such as a walk on the beach or around the block, or simply by playing with your dog outside. Don’t forget to take meal breaks, and have time to unwind at the end of the day by doing something you enjoy like watching TV or playing a game or binge watching your favourite YouTubers. 8. Do, don’t think. Everyone suffers from the evil that is procrastination which can be very harmful to our grades. The best way to overcome this is to do without thinking about doing it. Command yourself to study without using your thoughts as you would to lift your arm or walk. If we tell ourselves to move our arm by actually forming the words in our head nothing happens, however, when we unconsciously tell ourselves to do it, our arm moves. The same works for studying, if we try to tell ourselves that we have to study, we won’t do it. Instead of trying to convince yourself into doing it, simply do it. Hide all things that you want to do instead of studying. Placing things like your laptop, phone and TV remote as far away from you as possible will help you to keep yourself from reaching for them. Preferably put them upstairs if you have a double storey house, or in another room. This works well if you’re lazy and the effort of having to get the object will stop you from wanting it and you can study instead. Another way to stop procrastination is to have someone else study with you. That way you can keep each other focused and on task (threats of physical violence often work, as do promises of food afterwards). 9. Reward yourself for studying. Give yourself a reward at the end of the day for studying. This could be watching a movie, watching a YouTube video while you take your lunch break, and even a day to do whatever you want if you have the time and are confident enough in your studying. If you have good self-control, you can even reward yourself with food as long as you’re not tempted to eat it all in one go and then have no other rewards. 10. Think positively and imagine yourself achieving your goals. I mentioned this as part of my prep for the start of the year but it also applies to your exams. Instead of dwelling on thoughts that you don’t know enough or that you’re going to mess up, think about how well you’re going to do and visualize yourself in the exam getting everything down and answering all the questions. Remember that you can only do your best, whether that is an achieved or a merit, you can only do what you can do. We’re not superheroes. So focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do. If you can only answer two of the three questions in an hour, then maybe you should just answer the merit and excellence parts of it so that you can get all three questions done in time. If you can’t answer questions using complex calculations, spend more time on the questions you can answer. Do what you can, ignore what you can’t. 11. In the exam, decide which order you want to do the standards in. I suggest starting with the one you can do the fastest, which is generally the one you feel most confident doing. For essays, I recommend planning them immediately and then doing the standard you are most confident in. This will give you more time to do the other standards than the suggested hour and will boost your confidence in answering the others. If you have time at the end, reread your answers and check for errors in calculations. Try not to leave before the 3 hours is up; use all of the time you possible have to get the best results. Remember you will not be able to come back into the exam room once you leave. Again it is better to cover all of your bases and be safe than to miss something and remember it as soon as you walk out of the exam room only 45 minutes in. For NCEA exams: 1. Set goals. Think about how well you did in the mocks and how well you want to do in the NCEA exams. If you did as well as you hoped, then you will only need to do minimal revision. However, if you know that you can improve, create goals for the steps you need to take to achieve the grade you want and the grade that you deserve. Goals should be achievable but challenging and small. It is better to set lots of small goals that you accomplish each day than to have a big goal that you never seem to succeed in. Decide what grade you want and make small goals as stepping stones to get there, such as more revision or focusing on a particular part etc. 2. Identify areas of concern. Based on the results from the mock exams you will have clear areas where you need to improve. Use these and your list from when you studied for the mocks, to see where you need to put in more effort for the November exams. Focus on these areas in particular when studying and get additional help from teachers, friends, siblings or parents to help make improvements. 3. Make a study timetable. After you have prioritized which subjects you need to focus on, you can make a study timetable for when you go on exam leave and for the time in-between your exams. Don’t leave everything to the night before. Study for a little bit each day so that you have a better chance of remembering everything you need to. Remember to include breaks, like you did when you prepared for the mocks, and give yourself time slots to have your rewards for studying. 4. Study in groups. Like I mentioned before, studying with others can help to stop procrastination as well as offers several different opinions and point of views on topics. You can share knowledge with each other, test one another, ask questions and offer advice and help. Helping others and explaining things to others helps to clarify your own thinking. A teacher of mine once said that if you couldn’t explain something to someone else, then you didn’t understand it completely. Try explaining things to one another and see if you understand it. 5. The night before an exam, especially the first one, can be panicky and send you to the verge of insanity. Trust me, been there done that. For one of my English exams, I was so nervous that I planned ten essays and went through an entire 100 page refill the night before, only to decide that I hated all of the essays in the morning and go through the whole process again. But it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be a mad rush to get as much knowledge into your head as possible. Memorization is achieved through repetition. Cramming doesn’t work. If you have followed my tips up until now, then you shouldn’t cram the night before, instead go through your notes one last time just before you fall asleep, focusing on the areas you are concerned with. Make sure you got plenty of exercise and go to bed at a reasonable time so that you fall asleep quickly and don’t stay up all night filled with worry and anxiety. 6. On the day of the exam, eat a very good breakfast and don’t drink coffee if it is a morning exam, even if you spent the whole night cramming (which you definitely should not do). Coffee will just make you want to go to the bathroom a lot more. Try to drink anything else in the last hour or two before the exam and go to the bathroom about 20 minutes before entering your exam. Revision on the day of the exam is important. Take one or two sheets of paper with you to school with a list of important things that you need to remember. This could be a possible essay plan, a list of formulae, a flowchart or just some key points. While you wait for your exam, read over these, test your friends on them and mentally prepare yourself for the exam. It is also important to not freak out or work yourself up before entering the exam. You want to go in there calm and ready. To do this, remember to visualize yourself succeeding and doing well. Remember that you can only do what you are capable of doing. Try to answer as much as you can to the extent that you can. Again, decide which paper you want to do first. I start with the one that I am most confident in or the one that I enjoy answering the most which is usually the one that I do the fastest. If you have to write one or more essays in your exam, I recommend planning those out in the first 5-10 minutes then going on to do the one you feel most confident with. Drink water slowly during the exam so you don’t feel faint or get a headache, but not too quickly or you will need to waste your valuable time to go to the bathroom. 7. After the exam, forget about what was in it. Write down your thoughts and feelings if you have to, but get it out of your head. There is nothing you can do once you leave that room. Instead, focus on your next exam. ** For art and technology subjects such as textiles, graphic design, photography etc, etc, there isn’t an exam. Instead, externally assessed standards are done in class under the supervision of your teacher and then packaged and sent away to get marked by NZQA. For these subjects I recommend the following: 1. Keep ahead of your work. Do as much as you can in class and stick to the teacher’s schedule, even taking it home to complete if allowed. This is important as all work is usually required to be sent away around the 1st of November. You don’t want to have to complete a year’s worth of work in two weeks. Not only will it mean added stress onto your pre-exam stress, but it will also take away valuable time that you could use to study for other subjects that have exams. It will also mean that the quality of your work suffers and you are more likely to get a low grade. Try to work efficiently and cleanly and take good care of your work so you don’t have to waste time doing it again. 2. Make sure you know exactly what is needed for each grade. Depending on the subject, different techniques will need to be used to get different grades. For Art practical, taking an abstract, deep thinking approach will get you the higher grades whereas for Design and Visual Communication (graphic design), showing detail views of your drawings and incorporating reasons and alternative designs will get you the better grades. Make sure you know what is required to get the grade you want so that you can do your work to that level. 3. Get your teacher’s input. They are there to help you and help develop your ideas. Ask them for assistance if you are struggling and ask them how you can make your work better. This will benefit you immensely.

Page 6

Study Hacks

1. Instead of the usual Google search, type into the web address bar. It will take you to Google Scholar which will only bring up articles related to what you search instead of the organizations and web pages that come up when you search it in the usual Google search engine. 2. If you need to increase the length of a paper, change the font size of the periods, commas and other punctuation to a bigger size which will add an extra page or so to a document. 3. To find a specific word or phrase in Microsoft word, go to the home tab of your document, click find in the top right corner. Type in the phrase or word you want to find. Select Find in Main Document and then click Find Next. You can also highlight the found words. 4. Using the above tool you can also replace words in your document for example if you misspelled a name throughout the text, you can simply mass replace it with the correct spelling instead of having to scroll through and correct them individually. 5. Depending on the version of Microsoft word on your computer, the next part will be different. Click the Office button at the top left side of your screen and then select ‘Word Options’ then change your auto save timer to every 1 minute(s) so that you do not lose any work in case your computer crashes or you accidentally exit without saving. 6. If you are searching for general knowledge, use Simple Wikipedia. The articles are much smaller and contain less information but are easier to understand and offer general statements. This will stop you from being tempted to use Wikipedia as a source as the articles are not detailed and do not contain much information, only a brief overview.

Page 7

About me

In case you feel that I am just a dumb adult who doesn’t know what they’re talking about and who did poorly in NCEA, here is some of my background and the reasons why I am qualified to give you advice on all things relating to NCEA: I am currently studying NCEA level 2 and have so far received all excellence credits on internals and End of Topic Tests. I achieved NCEA level 1 with excellence in 2015. I gained excellence endorsements for all six of my subjects; English, Maths, Science, Biochemical Advanced Science, History and Design and Visual Communications (DVC) at Level 1. I came top in subject at my school in my year level in English, History, Biochemical Advanced Science and DVC. I got mostly excellence credits with four merit and 5 achieved credits. I was a paid tutor in mathematics (mainly algebra) and tutor friends in all science subjects. Contact me: Email – Email me at Email me documents or essays and I can comment on them. Note that this may take time but I will try to get back to you in a day or two. I can assist in Level 1 English, History, Biochemistry (Microbes, Carbon Chemistry, Chemical Reactivity), Science and Maths and Level 2 English, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Classics and Maths with Calculus. Here is a list of sites and resources that I highly recommend using: For maths and science tutorial videos, go to (Also available on YouTube. Really amazing study tool) For science resources go to For help with English, science and maths, go to get reading lists based on your NCEA level/themes: For past papers, reports and annotated exemplars go to the nzqa.govt.nzESA books can be ordered online here: The NCEA Student app is available on Android and Apple devices.

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