NZQA Scholarship English


How should I study for this exam? Any tips for when you’re actually in the exam? also what’s the difference (in terms of quality required) between scholarship and outstanding scholarship.



Hi TIA! (@student)

NZQA Scholarship English is a lot of fun. Question 2 requires about 3-5 text mentions and Question 3 requires 12-15+ mentions of various texts. To start with, you need to make a list of all the poetry, short stories, movies, texts, books and plays that you have studied over the last 3 years. Go through all of them and highlight all the texts you have strong memories of which will be fairly fast to learn again. You should use all your texts from Year 13 (or the year you are doing the scholarship) as they are freshest in your mind. You don’t need to re-learn old texts in much depth but re-fresh on the plot, main themes and a couple of key quotes (say 5) per work.

The prompts for both Question 2 and Question 3 are usually very broad so you need to train your skill in quickly identifying thematic links between the works you are working with. Do this by skimming down lists of past paper topics for Q2 and Q3 and make 3-10 minute essay road maps. I would usually do 10 road map exercises for every 1 essay you actually go and write as a practice.

The unseen text is a crucial component of the exam which throws a lot of people. For this, make sure you revise a list of language techniques and also be confident discussing syntax (sentence structure), diction (word choice) and connotations of the words. The unseen text question usually presents you with 2 different paragraphs which need to be compared. Remember that there is no “correct” answer and you should be very creative with the links you make between texts. As long as you can provide some solid justification, you can be fairly aggressive with the types of links and comparisons you can make. I would suggest skimming both works at the start of the essay and getting a high level sense for the texts and then diving into the comparison once you have a fairly solid idea of the direction of your essay. Don’t wait till you fully understand both texts because you usually won’t in the first read and continuously re-reading just wastes time. As you start writing your paragraphs, you will understand more and more as you go.

When you’re in the exam, you should split your time proportionately to the marks available so 1/3rd of time on each essay. I would actually use a timer so you don’t need to waste time finding the clock in the room.

The most typical difference between outstanding and scholarship is length. Typically outstanding scholarships have essays that are 30-50% longer than scholarship papers. People can pass the overall scholarship while fluffing the unseen text question but usually an outstanding answer will also feature a strong performance in unseen text with fairly detailed analysis.