NCEA is one heck of a rollercoaster, and sadly, it’s not a very fun one. There’s plenty of bumps and jolts that don’t make any of us feel good. But like with any rollercoaster, eventually you get off. And as someone who’s about to do that (finally), I thought I’d pass on some advice to future NCEA students so that their ride has as few nasty bumps and jolts as possible. So, here we go.
1) Take every opportunity, even if now it seems like a boring or silly thing to do.
Being a Year 13 in 2020 means that my time at high school is almost over, and because of the pandemic, a lot of things have been cancelled very suddenly. “I won’t sign up for that this year and just do it in Year 13” is a common thought among many NCEA students, including myself, and now many of those things we’d waited to sign up for in Year 13 have been taken away from us. Moral of the story? Sign up for things as soon as you hear about them in Year 9! Whether it’s house events, school quiz teams, sports clubs, anything, seize those opportunities while you have them, because come Year 13 you may not have the chance. You WILL regret not signing up for this stuff later on - even if you and your friends think that joining the science club is nerdy and weird now, you won’t later, I promise.
2) Get your notes done before doing anything else.
This is more of an exam-focused piece of advice. As this is my fourth year of doing NCEA (I did a few Level 1 subjects in Year 10) I think I have a pretty good understanding of how prepared you need to be to do well on the externals (ew). Getting all of the notes written for your subjects before the exams (ideally before mocks) will not only save you time during study leave at the end of the year (to write LearnCoach jokes and become TikTok famous, among other things like actually studying) but believe it or not, it’ll also give you a bit of an understanding of your subject content before you launch into doing real practice papers. TL;DR: get your notes written before doing practice papers. Of course, everyone has a different way of studying that works for them, but I’m just a ‘veteran’ NCEA student trying to help some younger kiddos out *shrugs*.
3) Keep a personal record of your credits for every year.
Kamar is great for a lot of things, but keeping an up-to-date track of our credits is not one of them. Teachers often forget to load our hard-earned credits onto Kamar unless we constantly remind them to do so, then they end up getting annoyed at us for nagging them. Solution? DIY (after all, it’s in our DNA). At the start of each year, make a table in Excel or Word or even on paper, whatever works for you, then ask each of your teachers what assessments you’ll be doing in your classes and fill these into the table. You can sort it by subject, the number of credits each assessment is worth, the level of difficulty, your choice! What’s great about doing this is that it gives you a decent overview of what you’re doing in each subject, then you can mentally prepare yourself for the [fun!] year of work you have ahead of you. Also, you no longer have to wait for your teachers to input your grades into Kamar to see how you’re doing! As soon as your teacher tells you what your grade is, colour in that assessment on your table (using different colours for N, A, M and E). You’ll be surprised at how helpful having a table like this is for tracking your progress throughout your time with NCEA.
4) This is coming from someone who doesn’t like sports.
You have probably heard this advice from your parents, your teachers, your favourite YouTubers… pretty much any adult you talk to about exam stress will tell you this. Well, as reluctant as I am towards sports, I thought I’d try going for a few runs and bike rides during study leave and lockdown. The verdict? This advice is really useful, and your parents actually know a thing or two. Doing frequent little bits of exercise throughout study leave will help clear your head and make you way more productive when you study, plus it’ll give you a break from sitting at a desk for hours on end (because nobody likes doing that, seriously). Even if it’s something as small as walking your dog around the block, or even walking around your garden every half an hour or so, little and often is key. As well as improving your academic performance, you might feel a bit better after doing it. Woah!
5) Participate in every LearnCoach thing you can!
I’m SO gutted that I only discovered LearnCoach at the end of Year 12. Not only is it one of the most helpful NCEA study websites out there, but you can also get paid (!) by them for doing well in their many NCEA-related competitions. There are few things better than getting paid to make fun of something you hate. Join the LearnCoach NCEA Comedy group on Facebook and sign up to receive Dean’s weekly NCEA Comedy Competition emails. And just enter as much as you can! Even if you think your NCEA jokes are rubbish now, over time through practice you will get better and you will win some money! Plus, you get prize points just for entering, even if you get last! It’s a win-win!
Take on these five bits of advice and I’m almost certain that your NCEA rollercoaster ride will be as stress-free as it can be. But even only taking on one piece of advice here will save you of a few hours of mental breakdowns and lots of tears. And the good news is the ride will be over before you know it.