Currently completing her final year at ACG Strathallan, Vicky Quinn was understandably apprehensive when school closures came into effect at the end of August. And with her Cambridge A-Level examinations only weeks away, the Year 13 student has been highly appreciative of the school's efforts to ensure as little disruption as possible at this critical time.
Part of the school's 'business as usual' approach was to hold online mock exams to benchmark student learning and identify areas where further revision is needed. This 'exam prep' has been incredibly beneficial to Vicky, who will begin a Bachelor of Commerce, double majoring in Information Systems and Marketing, at the University of Auckland next year.
Having been part of the ACG Strathallan's community since moving to New Zealand with her family in 2019, the high-achieving 18-year-old believes the online mock exam process held its challenges but was ultimately an extremely positive experience, as she explains below.
How did you feel when you heard that mock exams would be going ahead during lockdown?
I was a bit surprised because I knew it would be very hard to regulate. That was probably my biggest concern. However, I understood how the mocks would provide feedback for our upcoming A-Level exams and give us more clarity and focus for final exams revision.
Additionally, I have friends in Australia who had a similar exam situation, so I knew it was possible to do them successfully online, which was reassuring.
How did you find the online mock exam experience?
It was unlike anything the school has done before, so I think everyone was apprehensive initially, but it all went remarkably well. After Strath announced mocks were going ahead, I focused on preparing as I usually would for any other exam.
Did your teachers provide any additional guidance or support in the lead-up to the exams?
Yes, my teachers are all fantastic, and they are always available to answer questions. They are aware of the online learning environment and have adapted their lesson plans accordingly to ensure we are able to complete all the work. They have a perfect balance of checking that our work is done and trusting us to do it ourselves.
Did you find there were any specific challenges with sitting online exams?
The pressure of actually sitting in an exam room wasn't replicated in the comfort of my bedroom. This made it a bit harder to get into 'exam mode', focus on the task at hand and get motivated to complete it to the best of my abilities. However, I created little rituals to get me in the right headspace for another exam.
Do you feel these mock exams have been helpful preparation for your upcoming A-Level exams?
Yes – they were so beneficial!! In the lead-up, I set study blocks to maximise my time, with scheduled leisure and fitness activities to stay balanced and retain perspective (which is very easy to lose in lockdown!) This set-up has definitely provided me with a better approach to studying and managing my time for final exams.
Of the subjects you are taking, which is your favourite?
I honestly love all my subjects. I love that I have a balance of creativity and analysis with English Literature and Business Studies while also having a logical side with Computer Science and Economics.
How have you been enjoying your final year at ACG Strathallan?
I've been incredibly busy, but I've really enjoyed it too! I made a pledge to myself to get involved in as much as possible to make the most of my last year. Strath provides amazing extracurriculars and activities, so I've been involved in several committees, including 40 Hour Famine Chairperson, Pink Breakfast Vice-Chairperson, and a member of the McLaren House, School Ball and Environmental committees. Plus, I was the coach of the Year 9 and 10 netball team, completed my Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award, was a Computer Programming Club mentor and continued to tutor younger students (a Year 8 student in Maths and English in 2021).
Do you have any advice for your fellow students while lockdown continues?
Although we are missing human contact with friends and teachers, I believe we can all make it the best it can be by focusing on the positives and reaching out to connect with others. We should remember that we can get through this together!