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Thriving in Exams: Tips from the Pros

With mid-year exams looming, many students may be feeling the pressure. But these exams provide a fantastic opportunity to pinpoint learning gaps and strengthen vital study skills, as ACG Tauranga alumnae Caitlin Lines and Alex Brodie explain.

ACG schools - and their students - are among the top in the world when it comes to academic excellence, thanks to outstanding teachers, a supportive environment, and a globally recognised curricula. Caitlin Lines and Alex Brodie graduated from ACG Tauranga last year and are now blazing a trail in their chosen areas of study. The foundations laid at ACG have been critical to their success.

Lifechanging scholarships to world-leading universities

This August Caitlin will realise a lifelong dream as she steps through the gates of George Washington University to begin her studies in political science. It was a dream she never thought would become a reality, until she was offered a George Washington scholarship worth US$64,000!

“I was astounded. It’s a dream come true, and it still feels like an incomprehensible amount of money,” says Caitlin, who was also offered a US$23,000 Distinguished Scholar Award from the University of New Haven, a US$16,000 yearly scholarship from the University of Saint Joseph in Hartford and US$5000 from Flagler College in Saint Augustine.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to study overseas, and that’s one of the reasons I chose ACG Tauranga, because I wanted to have an international qualification. The Cambridge system is essential for international universities. It is a global qualification which is easily recognised and comparable.”

Laying the groundwork with world-class learning

Studying political science at a top US university (and achieving her ultimate goal of working at The White House or on Capitol Hill) won’t be without its challenges, but Caitlin says ACG Tauranga has prepared her well, and she can’t wait to take the next step.

“I know university will be a lot of work, but I have the advantage of good study habits that were essential for me to thrive in the Cambridge curriculum. ACG Tauranga has given me a stronger foundation than I could ever have imagined.”

Much of this groundwork is laid as students gear up for mock exams – and Caitlin says preparation is key.

“Starting early with your studying will give you a huge advantage and don’t stop asking questions until you truly understand each concept. It’s easy to be shown how to do a problem, accept that answer, and hope the next one looks similar enough that you can guess – but you won’t learn unless you understand how it was solved.”

And if exams don’t go quite as hoped? “Just remember that these are your mid-years which means you can still change the result of your mock and final Cambridge exams. If you come out of an exam feeling discouraged, you have an opportunity to refocus and study smarter so you don’t have to feel that way again.”

Equipping students for the future


Former Head Prefect Alex is taking a conjoint degree in her stride thanks to the educational grounding she gained at ACG.  Now studying a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in marketing and management) and a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in psychology) at the University of Auckland, Alex feels confident – and competent – to achieve her tertiary goals.

“Having experienced the NCEA system briefly, I believe the Cambridge curriculum lays a strong foundation, most notably with assignments. Learning to answer Cambridge exam questions has made doing my assignments much easier; the writing style used at university is very similar, so now it’s like an automatic process! The Cambridge curriculum also equipped me with the dedication I needed towards learning. At university, you’re ultimately responsible for yourself, and classes often require a lot of reading beforehand. Cambridge teaches you to establish good study routines and prepare for upcoming assignments.”

Top study tips from a pro

Alex is all too familiar with the pressure and angst that exams may bring, but she says there are a myriad of ways students can navigate the journey more confidently.

“For me, the best way to test my knowledge was to practice with past papers. Summarising my notes and using Quizlet for definitions also helped solidify learning. Exams are daunting, but the best thing you can do is have a positive mindset - and support your friends throughout. Exams always approach faster than you think, so try not to procrastinate as it only makes you more stressed out. Get ahead while you can.”