Brain food key to exam success

By Teuila Fuatai

Stress levels for Bay of Plenty high school students will tomorrow reach new highs as the end-of-year examination period officially kicks off.

More than 9400 Year 11, 12 and 13 students from the Bay of Plenty region are getting in some last minute cramming before tackling NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams during the next month.

They join thousands of anxious teenagers across the country hunkering down for examinations.

First in the firing line are Scholarship drama students - their Friday morning exam is the first of what will be 120 gruelling examination sessions.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said special tutorials and revision periods were being run for students.

"We advise them as much as we can. We tell them to keep testing themselves and set goals."

Students also need to check they are not over-committing themselves, Mr Randell said.

"We talk to parents and recommend no more than 12 hours [of part-time work] each week."

Year 12 pupils at the school had also been holding special tutorials to help their fellow students.

Mission Nutrition nutritionist Rene Schliebs warns there's more to exam success than last minute revision, chocolate bars and strong black coffee.

Students hoping to last the distance - the final NCEA exam is on December 4 - need to keep their eating habits in check.

"The thing to remember is the brain relies on carbohydrates for energy," she said.

Students looking for a power-breakfast should begin their day with a bowl of porridge, a great source of B vitamins.

"B vitamins act like an anti-stress mechanism as well as providing energy for the brain."

And the best way to avoid an afternoon concentration lapse was to eat regularly, schedule in breaks and stay away from caffeinated products.

Snack foods such as almonds and sunflower seeds contained omega 3 fats which would help with being able to stay alert, Mrs Schliebs said.

For a real boost, Mrs Schliebs recommends a serving of salmon, which contains high levels of omega 3 fatty acids.

And students should also resist reaching for an afternoon chocolate bar or coffee when the going gets tough.

"That's just a great big energy hit and great big energy drop."

Instead, Mrs Schliebs recommends taking a break and doing some exercise to help with refocusing.

"Even if it's just half an hour each day, exercise is great for stimulating endorphins, which makes them [students] feel better, more alert and increases circulation around the body. It's better for the brain."

In total, more than 143,000 students are sitting NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship exams.

NZQA deputy chief executive qualifications Richard Thornton said the biggest exam was Level One English. More than 46,000 students were due to sit the exam on Monday morning.

As well as study, some Year 13 students also have their end-of-year graduation shenanigans to consider. A rumoured undie run, with students from Tauranga Boys' College and Tauranga Girls' College taking turns sporting their underwear at each other's schools, is due to occur any day now. Secrecy around the timing of the special event has kept students and teachers on their toes.

Exam tips - Staying Sane:

Eat regularly

Stick to mixed grain foods like Vita Wheat crackers, Vogels and Burgen bread

Snack on seeds and nuts

Take regular breaks and exercise each day


Staying up all night to study

Junk food

Fizzy drinks and other caffeinated products

Other students who are stressed out

Bay of Plenty students sitting exams:

Level 1: 4514

Level 2: 3583

Level 3: 2458

New Zealand Scholarship: 694

Total student count sitting exams in the Bay of Plenty: 9468

- Bay of Plenty Times

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