For a lot of us, excellence is put on a pedestal by both our teachers and peers. 


It’s seen as an indicator of knowledge we possess about a pre-decided topic.



It’s not uncommon to get a few excellences here and there throughout the year. Consistently getting these grades can be a bit more of a challenge because really what is boils down to is habits and strategies that we use across our entire schooling experience.


In aid of bridging the gap between the here-and-there’s and consistency, we’ve put together 5 things that you can do which will better both your understanding and the overall grades you recieve for your assessments.


Check your surroundings


This applies to both within and outside of the classroom. Ask yourself, “is the reason I don’t get anything in class because I’m not using that time wisely?” For most of us, the answer to this is yes.  Whether this be the people we’re sitting with, the daydreaming, or watching Netflix at the back of the room, we often don’t engage with what’s going on as much as we’d like to think.  



Think about the days that your friend is away from school and you’ve been heartlessly abandoned in class and you have no choice but to direct your attention to the front of the room. You probably got a lot more done that day and found you engaged more with the content being taught.   Moving away to outside of class, think about the times you’ve sat down to study. Have you let yourself be distracted until your timer goes off, indicating the end of the study session? If you answered yes, then that time you had allocated for further knowledge-collection was probably wasted.  


The things holding us back isn’t always setting a time, but the use of said time. 


We don’t need to allocate an entire weekend to learning an assessment for the coming week if we’re using our time wisely and doing our best to eliminate distractions. The added bonus of this is that we can fully enjoy our time we spend doing other things such as socialising, or keeping up with whatever weird Netflix show is popular at the time, without the guilt of feeling like we should be doing other work.


Don’t trust your memory


You know that little voice in the back of your head that says you’ll remember that small piece of information later. They’re lying. You won’t.


NCEA is notoriously buzz-wordy, they love their i’s dotted and their crossed t’s. That little thing your teacher mentioned in regards to your standard could quite literally be the difference between a merit and excellence.


While you don’t have to take a transcript of your teacher every time you’re in class, ensuring that you are getting all the information you need is incredibly important for resulting grades. You don’t want to be the person who misses out because of one word or phrase (we’ve all been there).


Ultimately, your understanding of the topic is more important than the use of a certain word.


However, that feeling you get when you fully explain something but don’t use the correct terminology is something ideally kept to a minimum. Therefore, paying attention for that last 5-minutes of class is probably worthwhile.


Keep it fresh


Teacher’s have the luxury of being able to pick and choose when you do certain units throughout the year. Sometimes, this can result in learning external content at the beginning of the year because parts of that standard will be useful to other internals you’ll be doing later.


In cases like these, we often find ourselves re-learning entire standards at the end of the year as opposed to revising them. This is because we never return to the content throughout the year.



The occasional revisit to previous content is hugely beneficial in knowledge retention and general understanding of your topics.


This periodic revision throughout the year can take the form of testing yourself, creating/going over study tools (e.g. mindmaps, flash cards, flow charts), or even just having a discussion with a classmate about the topic.


The important thing here is bringing your knowledge back to the forefront of your mind, rather than letting it be lost to the recycle bin in your brain (alongside that embarrassing thing you did in year 9).


Stay informed


By this, we mean actually communicating with your teachers about what they’re expecting for an internal, because they’ll be marking it and have the option of being able to freestyle it a wee bit.



For externals, it becomes more important to become really familiar with the assessment schedules and often using outside sources such as the StudyTime checklists which can be a great help of knowing what you need to know. For even more in-depth information on externals and what they involve, be sure to check out the walkthrough guides which have gotten some great feedback from students and clearly gives you an understanding of what the externals entail.



Again, having a clear understanding of the topic itself is most important, but also having a grasp of the formatting and stylistic nuances for each standard is a really great way of being more prepared for the assessment-to-come.


Practice balance


We’d be silly to tell you that your grades will only come as a result of knowing content and how to format it. Other factors, such as mental health, stress, and general happiness greatly contribute to how you will perform in school.


Finding the time to check in on yourself can be hard sometimes. However, if we can practice balance between schooling, social life, working, and extracurriculars, we’ll often find we’re in a much better headspace to receive information and engage when it’s most important.



For some of us, this can mean taking more breaks, for others this can be actually committing to an after school study schedule.


Practice reflection and be critical of yourself to really get an idea of what you need to work on.


We’re all painfully aware that everyone’s educational journey is their own, and so what is most important to you will not be what someone else thinks. This is 100% okay and exemplifies just how important it is to have an understanding of yourself.


You don’t need to go on a pilgrimage of self discovery to do this, but asking yourself at the end of the day “what went well? What challenged me, and how will I overcome this?” Is a great step in engaging with your learning and in finding what you want to work on.


Finish up


Sadly, there is no magic ‘hack’ for being a straight excellence student. It really boils down to being consistent and treating each standard as though they’re equally important (like you probably did at the beginning of the year).


You may not find an overnight cure to the challenges you face, but you’ll be sure that the sooner you begin to address them in your learning, the sooner you can overcome them and find yourself better off.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is StudyTime?

StudyTime is an online platform dedicated to helping NZ kids make the most of high school.

We’re a combined team of tutors and students who deliver entertainment, advice and original resources to thousands of high school students every day.


Printed versions of our Walkthrough Guides, available for order now!