NCEA: Education expert offers teens top tips for getting through exam season

student taking NCEA exam
If you're feeling overwhelmed, a former teacher is here to help. Photo credit: Getty.

Thousands of high school students will be spending this week with their heads bent over books as NCEA exams began on Monday. 

The month of externals can be stressful for those in years 11-13, with long hours spent studying, sleepless nights and endless cups of coffee and lollies. 

Former Otago Boys math teacher Dave Cameron now is the CEO and founder of NCEA online learning platform LearnCoach. 

He's offered some of his key tips for getting the best results for exams - with your sanity intact. 

Just start

Analysis paralysis (feeling overwhelmed), procrastination or feeling bored will not go away until after you start learning. There's no trick, just start.

Only learn what is in the exam

The internet (or worse, textbooks) give you a lot of irrelevant points to learn. Use NCEA-exam resources so you only learn examinable material. Parents, this is one to let your teenagers be responsible for.

Repetition, repetition, repetition 

Try to learn everything as fast as you can, then repeat the learning (and repeat again). You will remember a lot more than if you 'do it once, do it right'. Repetition has the added benefit of making sure you don't run out of time before you've covered everything. LearnCoach also has a handy feature which allows students to watch relevant videos to their subject, being able to repeat, pause and rewind lessons and download notes, in their own time.

Read all the past exam questions

Exam questions always seem confusing the first few times. However, similar exam questions come up every year. If you've seen the last 3-5 years, you'll know what is likely to come up this year and the questions won't feel so hard anymore.

Check the exam answers

Even if you think you can get the right answer, checking the exam answer sheet (also called an 'Assessment Schedule') can show you how to get higher marks. For example, in Physics, you can receive marks for correctly rounding your answer. Or in Maths, you can go from a Merit to an Excellence by adding an explanation sentence to your answer. If you've done the hard work, it's worth collecting all the marks.