It's official — Brooke Ellis-Smith is an outstanding student.

Brooke left Te Puke High School last year and is now studying at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, but she is the toast of her former school as she recently found out she had received an outstanding scholarship in biology.

She sat the scholarship exam alongside her schedule of other NCEA Level 3 exams.

"Biology was always my favourite subject and always the one I did best in," she says.

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Only the top 3 per cent of Year 13 students are awarded scholarship and from this group the top students are awarded outstanding scholarship.

Across the whole country there were just 32 students who were awarded outstanding scholarship in biology.

Brooke prepared for the extra exam with additional study on a Friday afternoon from term 3 last year.

"Then the weekend before the exam I came in [to school] on Saturday and Sunday and just did scholarship work," she says.

She doesn't think she could have done much more to get ready for the exam.

"I felt I was pretty well prepared, but didn't know if I was going to pass or not because ... well, you just don't know."

She had looked over past exam papers and some of the top students' work from previous years and admits, at times, she wondered how she was going to write similar answers.
Brooke is now studying for a diploma in environmental management and hopes to go on to study marine biology to degree level and maybe even beyond.

"I've wanted to do marine biology since I was 8," she says. "I decided that I wanted to do it one day and never changed my mind."

She is particularly interested in studying marine mammals and conservation.

"It interests me because there is so much we don't know and so much to find out. It seems everything is endangered now."

While she hasn't been studying at tertiary level for long, she already realises there is more self management involved.

Amelia Fleming, Shaye-Anna Brown and Shane Brown were awarded scholarship in biology and Shaye-Anna was also awarded scholarship in photography.

■ NZQA Scholarship provides recognition and monetary reward to top students in their last year of schooling. New Zealand Scholarship assessments enable candidates to be assessed against challenging standards, and are demanding for the most able candidates in each subject.

Scholarship candidates are expected to demonstrate high-level critical thinking, abstraction and generalisation, and to integrate, synthesise and apply knowledge, skills, understanding and ideas to complex situations.