How to Succeed in 2016, No Matter Your NCEA Exam Results

Today, NCEA results will be released for around 150,000 students around the country. Like any results-based system in life, there will be winners and losers; successes and disappointments; fist-pumps and tears.

In life it’s important to deal with whatever comes your way in the best way possible, whether it is success or perhaps not as good as you had hoped. Just like famous sportspeople bounce back from defeat, or move forward from a big win with a level-head, knowing they still need to train hard and improve for the next challenge. With that in mind, here are five tips for  dealing with NCEA exam results in the best way possible.

1. Realise exams are not the be all and end all of life – even if your results were good

It’s important to work hard for exams, but at the end of the day an exam is not always an accurate measurement of understanding or intelligence. It’s the equivalent of assessing your rugby ability by testing you on your goal kicking skills, when you play as a forward. There are so many other factors that come into play, such as the questions you get in the exam, how quickly you work, anxiety, the outside environment, and often luck. All students have experienced the euphoria of recognizing practice test questions on an exam paper, and all students have experienced the horror of seeing nothing familiar at all. Exams are a fact of life, but don’t fall into the trap of letting exams define your intelligence or worth as a human being. Even if your exam results were excellent, you should not read too much into just a grade. The same goes for the way you perceive exams. Although it may be tempting to draw conclusions about your potential, remember that there are other factors at play.

2. Value effort, not ability

There is a wealth of modern research around the notion that valuing effort rather than outcomes or ability develops the best mindset in students in the long run. One of the main researchers in this area, Carol Dweck of Stanford University, has spent over twenty years in the classroom, and has concluded that the main determinator of long-term success is one’s mindset towards failure and a focus on process rather than outcome. Now, that is not to say you should blindly work hard and take no notice of your results. As Dweck said herself, “You also need to acknowledge when you are not learning effectively, and then work on finding new learning strategies”.

3. Learn from mistakes and don’t be afraid of doing so!

The biggest lie you have been told is that failing is bad. Modern psychological research shows that the most effective way to learn is by making mistakes and correcting yourself. Research is also now showing that the brain is an incredible organ, capable of changing and becoming more intelligent. This only happens by learning from mistakes, not being afraid of failure and putting in effort. Use your mistakes to form the steps to climb higher than before. One student we know went from Achieveds and Merits in Level One, to Merits and Excellences in Level Two to Excellences and DUX in Level Three. We have worked with lots of students who have had similar shifts in grades to this. It is possible.

4. Make sure that in 2016, you are studying for the right reasons

Incentives and rewards are great in theory, but it’s probably not going to help you in the long run. Research has shown that intrinsic (internal) motivation is much more effective than external motivation from other people. The best thing you can do is start to reflect on why you want to do well in 2016. You might need a particular score to get into the course of your dreams, or want to prove to yourself that you can get a Merit Endorsement. Do it for yourself.

5. Go through your papers.

In previous years we have known students that were marked up from a Not-Achieved to a Merit after reconsideration. NCEA markers only have 1-2 minutes to mark each paper, and human mistakes can be made. It’s worth checking them out and showing any sections in question to your teachers. Not only does this create the potential of improvement, it also allows you to see where you went wrong and again, learn from your mistakes.

In Summary

Exams can be terrifying, and results can often be disheartening after such hard work. Keep in mind that the way you move forward is what really counts.