How does the NZQA Scholarship exam compare to IB or A Level exams?
NZQA Scholarship examinations are a type of exam available for New Zealand students which is designed to help students showcase their academic talent above and beyond the level of achievement required in NCEA, CIE or IB. Traditionally, NZQA Scholarship sits after NCEA Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Exams are usually 3 hours in length and are graded on a Fail, Scholarship, Outstanding spectrum.
In any given subject, the amount of available scholarships is approximately 3% of the total number of students sitting NCEA Level 3. In certain subjects like NCEA Calculus, where many competitive academic students opt to take calculus and calculus, being optional, is inherently self-selecting, obtaining a scholarship can be very competitive. In other subjects, like NCEA Geography, there are substantially less traditionally Level 3 candidates sitting the NZQA Geography exam as a proportion and therefore, it is typically easier to win.
There are a variety of levels of achievement for students sitting NZQA Scholarship above and beyond the traditional fail, scholarship, outstanding:
Students can be awarded “Top Subject Scholar” awards when they achieve first in New Zealand in a given subject. They are given $2,000 NZD/year for 3 years provided they achieve a B grade average or higher and are studying in a New Zealand university.
Students can be awarded “Premier Scholar” awards when they achieve Top 9-10 in the nation overall in New Zealand based on (i) the number of Outstanding Scholarship wins followed by (ii) the number of Scholarship passes. Students eligible for Premier Scholar win $10,000 NZD/year for 3 years, provided they study in a New Zealand University and obtain an average grade of B or higher. Typically students must win at least 3-4 Outstanding scholarships to be eligible to win Premier Scholar although given the award is based on relative performance of students, thresholds vary year by year.
Students can be awarded “Outstanding Scholar” awards when they achieve Top 40-60 in the nation overall in New Zealand based on (i) the number of Outstanding Scholarship wins followed by (ii) the number of Scholarship passes. After students are awarded premier scholar, the remaining students in this Top 40-60 bracket are given Outstanding Scholarships. Students eligible for Outstanding Scholar win $5,000 NZD/year for 3 years, provided they study in a New Zealand University and obtained an average grade of B or higher.
Students can be awarded NZQA Scholarship Single Subject awards where they achieve at least 1 NZQA Scholarship exam passes and are awarded $500 NZD (up to a maximum of 2 subjects garnering a prize of $1000 NZD). This is a one-off payment.
Students can be awarded an NZQA Scholarship award where they achieve at least 3 NZQA Scholarship exam passes and obtain $2,000 NZD/year for 3 years, provided they study at a New Zealand university and obtain a B grade average or higher.
Typically students must win 2-3 Outstanding Scholarships or at least 1 Outstanding Scholarship and 4+ normal scholarships.
While I was a student at King’s College, a fantastic academic school that doesn’t have a particularly strong culture of taking NZQA Scholarship exams, I decided I wanted to challenge myself and I picked up 12 NZQA Scholarship exams which was at the time unheard of. At the same time, I was finishing 7 A Levels in the same exam sitting so had to pursue a fast self-study approach where I focused on scholarship exams I felt I could pass on given the time constraints and ended up passing 9 of them including 1 Outstanding Scholarship in English. My NZQA Scholarships were English (O), Media Studies (S), Geography (S), French (S), English Literature (S), Chemistry (S), Economics (S), Statistics (S), Physical Education (S). I had never taken Physical Education, Media Studies, Economics or Geography before in any formal classroom setting and had never sat in a class for any NZQA Scholarship exams at all except for a few Chemistry seminars with my lovely teacher Doctor Huffadine.
I’ve been a big advocate for self-studying and exploring intellectual interests beyond the constraints of what traditional schools recommend pursuing and have been very excited by the academic movement that has been triggered in NZ schools around this notion led by many of our Crimson students.
One of our recent students, Soumil Singh, demonstrated the power of self-study in NZQA Scholarships with magnificent effect: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11620752
Another talented student of ours Rahul Sood, demonstrated the power of strong foundations in English when he achieved Top Scholar in Media Studies without ever haven taken a class in the field.
In recent years, many Crimson students and New Zealanders more generally have been opting to sit NZQA at younger and younger ages and without having an NCEA background. If you are a talented student in a particular subject area, it is definitely worthwhile considering NZQA as a way to challenge yourself, improve your candidacy, create some administrative headaches for your school (kidding) and be the best you can be!
Good luck with the exams!