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Before I get into the post, a (quick) announcement: I'm leaving this blog! But don't worry, I'll still be blogging over at Daydreaming Ink, my new blog. Basically, I just wanted a fresh start, and I'll go into it in more detail on my first post there, on January 1. Hope to see you there! 


It seems only fair that this would be the last post here. After all, I have to include any last minute reads I squeeze in to make myself feel better about the reading slump this year was (I feel so old, not reading heaps of books as I used to). I have yet to complete the A-Z challenge, but I shall post updates and we'll see if this ends up happening.


Wow, I actually read a decent amount this month?! For now, it goes to Restore Me because how can anyone compete with a comeback to the Shatter Me series, love of a few years ago?

Runner-ups:

- Queen of Air and Darkness
-


The Towering Sky (The Thousandth Floor #3) by Katharine McGee
First Sentence: "There has always been something otherworldly about the first snow of the year in New York."

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton,  James Patterson, David Ellis (Ghostwriter)
First Sentence: "The House Select Committee will come to order..."

Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
First Sentence: "A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids."

The Triple Package by Amy Chua,  Jed Rubenfeld
First Sentence: "It is one of humanity's enduring mysteries why some individuals rise from unpromising origins to great heights, when so many others, facing similar obstacles and with seemingly similar capabilities, don't rise at all."

[Warning this one is a potential spoiler, skip if you have yet to read QoAaD]Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) by Cassandra Clare
First Sentence: "There was blood on the Council dais, blood on the steps, blood on the walls and the floor and the shattered remnants of the Mortal Sword."

You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes
First Sentence: "You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam."

Infamous (Beautiful Idols #3) by Alyson Noel
First Sentence: "Spotlight magazine exclusive!"

Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2) by Laini Taylor
First Sentence: "Kora and Nova had never seen a Mesarthim, but they all knew about them."

Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi
First Sentence: "I don't wake up screaming anymore."

Violets are Blue (Alex Cross #7) by James Patterson
First Sentence: "Nothing ever starts where we think it does."

Zenith (The Androma Saga #1) by Sasha Alsberg, Lindsay Cummings
First Sentence: "Endless darkness."

 ( #) by
First Sentence:

Average page count per day:


Total page count:
(up to Zenith): 5067

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Okay well this year has FLOWN by?! I can't believe we're already at the end of 2018. I have barely any school left (a few years but still in the long scheme of things),... Having 'proper' exams has certainly kept me busier than I would've liked but this is also partly my own fault due to my (now cured) binge watching obsession and desire to procrastination (because it's cool but my bad, I no longer believe this).  This is one of a series of 2018 wind down posts; you can view reasons why I am grateful for this blog here. The other posts, Looking Ahead and December Wrap-up aren't live yet.

I'm gonna use this post as a platform to talk about this year's goals, my highlights (blogging and life), and discuss what's to come since I'm leaving and you guys should remain in the loop about that! Without further ado:
i. reflecting on mmxviii goals (yes the format is just to feel cool)Here are the goals I set at the start of this year, along with notes about the completion of them:
1. 2+ blog posts a week except on hiatuses

(I finally used a gif here!!! But anyway.) This one was a big fat FAIL. What a joke. By my count, there will be a total of 58 blog posts completed and published in 2018 (keep in mind a lot of the first few posts were things like weekly wrap-ups too, so I wouldn't really count those as proper posts either). I'm hesitant to set a similar goal for 2019, but I might just go with "try to post regularly" which can be interpreted ambiguously I guess. It'll be even busier than this year, that I'm certain, but I'm going to try and manage my time better so I frequent the blog more.
2. NO backscheduling; if I don't have a post done in time, I'll post it a week later or when it's finishedThis one, I adhered to; much easier than last year since I wasn't as strict about post frequency, and didn't make it my life's mission to do 365 posts for 365 days (stupidest idea ever). As stated above, since I didn't keep my two posts a week goal at all there wasn't a point to backscheduling. But just as a fact, I have several posts which I need to write which are on my calendar that just keep getting pushed back, and I was quite proud of myself for finally writing pt. ii of NZ Education Issues a few weeks ago, which you can view here (I pushed this post back week after week from April).
3. Less Blitzes/Tours; I'm only going to do them if they're about books I care aboutIn 2018: zero book blitzes/tours! (No wonder my blog traffic was so static.) I wanted to step away from doing these because even though they were pretty much zero effort for me I wasn't promoting content I was genuinely interested in. So I stopped altogether, though I think I might do some in 2019 on the odd occasion, and to make it more worth my time, actually go digging for books I'm actually passionate about.
4. More discussion postsYuss!! Another success. I wrote ten this year, which isn't a lot (hang on, in 2017 I wrote 37... does that mean I don't win?) but it was more a focus of my blog for sure, though that's mainly due to a lack of posts. So I'll count this one as a completed goal but the fix for 2019 is just to post more, because I have plenty of ideas waiting to be thrown out into the world.
5. Comment on more blogs frequentlyI didn't comment on other blogs a massive amount in 2018 (I wish I had stats for this!) but then again when do I ever? Sorry fellow bloggers, I'm super lazy and I know I should do it more, but effort. I did try harder to comment on other blogs, achieving this through unfollowing pretty much all blogs on Bloglovin and going onto Wordpress to find blogs I was genuinely interested in to follow (and even then, only commenting on posts of theirs that attracted my attention in order to leave meaningful comments). This worked for me because it created a connection between me and other bloggers and gave me incentive to comment on their posts because I wanted to read the content rather than feeling forced to do so.
6. Set aside more time for blogging

I definitely class this one as a fail, but hear me out. I did do one thing right here; I had blocks of time which I devoted to blogging, and these often stretched past an hour. The problem is, with every one of these (I am forever indebted to my dad for providing me with such nice office space to do this, btw) were two or more sessions of bland internet surfing where I could've been blogging. Sometimes I did stuff related to school, but mostly this was just a massive waste of time. I'm trying to plan more in 2019, so I'll try and make computer sessions just for blogging.
7. Make graphics for blog postsYes, and no? Yes: weekly wrap-up graphics (which I barely used since I gave up on that pretty quick), monthly wrap-up graphics, and the "until next time" at the end of each post (by far my favourite, not because it looks great but because I completed something I'm satisfied with and use often). No: review graphics (this is the reason I haven't posted a review here at all this year, in case you've been wondering about the lack of those on here even though there are a bunch on goodreads). My aims for 2018 were really only these four things, so 3/4? But I'm pretty disappointed about the reviews thing because it's the rating graphic that stumped me as I wanted something unique here; I even made two header graphics for my reviews of Nevernight and Godsgrave, which I might use in 2019? Ah well, something for 2019 I guess! Just so you know, I'm also planning on making divider graphics, and as for anything else... you'll see.

That's it for goals: is 4/7 a pass? Next up is a reflection on the yearly challenges I did.
A-Z Book Challenge
I was a bit disappointed I didn't complete this challenge last year, but I'm giving it yet another shot this year. I have all the necessary books to complete it (I haven't yet read them all though as of writing this post), so all I gotta do is read! I'll check back in to see if I do complete it, or it's another thing to add to my long list of fails.
Goodreads Yearly Challenge
I don't wanna talk about this,,, a massive fail. My reading goal each year has gone down, from 2014 when I first did this challenge, 250 {completed}, to 2015, 210 {incomplete, I didn't even make it to 200}, 2016, 150 {complete}, 2017, 125 {complete}. All of these years I pretty much expected that I could do what I did the year before, but ended up lowering and adjusting them towards the end of December when I finally confronted reality. This year, I aimed for 100, but no. I've reset it to 50, which I know I'll get, but it's quite disappointing that I didn't even get 100. (What's sadder than that is for next year's goal I'm thinking 75 because I gotta read more, but I'd ideally like to read 100+).
Ebook Challenge
An accurate description of the time I've spent on my iPad when I could've been reading on kindle:
(instagram). Disappointing, I know! I was thinking, I'll read more on my iPad when I go away this summer and there's no wifi, but that's yet to happen as of writing this post so we'll see, we'll see. I aimed for 25 books here but so far I've read 5. It may rise to a few more, but I'd say 2/3 maximum, and I'll update you if/when that happens.
ii. highlights of this year
If you thought I was done... Nope, not yet. I'm sorry this is so long!! But I've been enjoying dragging out my posts for a bit longer if just so that I feel I've accomplished more (this probably isn't helping). Did I forget to mention that this isn't all gonna be positive? Oops. Well. Let's start off on a negative:
1. my twitter being deactivated
This was... not fun for me. I don't even use Twitter that much, but at that point in my life I was using it a lot as a tool to keep myself updated about certain things which occur around the world; the deactivation funnily enough occurred around a convenient time in that I was unwillingly one distraction less during some stressful months. And recently I rejoined Twitter with a new account (@caszriel_) when things had calmed down, and I guess it's the fresh start I wanted but also I want my old account back please!
2. following more people on Wordpress and being (relatively) active on their blogs
I was able to interact with so many cool people this year! Maybe it was partially due to my own lack of consistent posting, but I found time to read and comment on a bunch of blogs which was a really enjoyable experience. In 2019 I'd love to become closer to these people and discover more amazing blogs.
3. making amazing memories with amazing people
Oh man. While it was sad not to have classes with some people who I'd been casual friends with in 2016/2017 the independence of the timetable for senior classes and lack of a 'core class' group of people you encounter in 5/8 classes made it so much better for me, even when sometimes I hated the lack of streaming since I had classes with people who had previously been kept out by the streaming (I'm sorry but I just really don't like these people okay), but I wouldn't trade it because firstly, less classes total (6), more like a genuine high school experience, and 2017 was not great. But kinda and also not related to this are all the amazing people I hung out with this year who helped make my year awesome. Because true friendship doesn't suffer the bounds of having none/few classes together or even being at different schools. I'm so thankful for all of you who helped cheer me up when I wasn't having the best time, and being around to listen to my stupid rants. (And to everyone reading this post, I love you too 4. getting through my first year of formal examinations
At the start of 2018 I was pretty excited for this year. Yay, exams (yes I know I'm weird) which I can actually study for online with past papers. Also, I didn't think anything could be worse than parts of 2017 (hey, I wasn't wrong). Proper assessments!! (Yeah I feel like every year up till this year has been pretty wasteful education wise but that's just me,) the externals were mostly fine but I can never say I'm looking forward to results coming out on January 15. Internals got extremely stressful at some points just because not all of my teachers are the greatest or sympathetic to your many extracurricular commitments (in June I had SO much music stuff I was out of one class for around two weeks straight because of that and that ate up all my lunch times and pretty much all after schools that weren't already occupied). For 2019 I'm motivated and hoping to amp up the workload and go for a lot of scholarships, so bring it on!
5. 2018 in general; discovering new music, getting back into tennis (passionately)
I was not expecting 2018 to be so good. I had an amazing time and it's gone pretty fast! I love that I've been able to listen to more country music and discover all these amazing artists, and also reignite my love for tennis (Roger Federer is the best guys). Here's to 2019!
iii. what's to come?
I'll elaborate in more detail in at the top of my final post of the year, December Wrap-up (live 12AM EST 31st December) but basically, I'm leaving this blog... But making another one? I'll be transferring all my Bloglovin' followers and meanwhile you can find it here. I'd also really like to start making designs and stuff on etsy/society6 and I'll keep you guys updated about that!

How did you find 2018? Was it better/worse than previous years? What are your most memorable moments, positive or negative? Did you meet all your 2018 goals?

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I won't be here much longer but why would I miss out on an opportunity to be excited about 2019 releases? I'm thinking of doing the monthly "books I'm excited for" again, so let me know what you think because I'm a bit on the fence.
My top picks of 2019How can I decide? There are so many books out there, but for this section I just picked books (mostly from series) I'd heard of prior to researching for this post that I'm super hyped for. So I kinda doubt there will be any debuts here, but more on that below! Quick note: different editions may have different release dates.
Defy Me (Shatter Me #5) by Tahereh Mafi — April 2, 2019
This one's fresh in my mind since I read Restore Me so recently, but I NEED it following the end of Restore Me. April 2 is right before my autumn holidays, and it couldn't come sooner.
Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle #3) by Jay Kristoff — September 5, 2019
I'm still waiting for the UK cover to be released but here, have the US edition. This series captured my heart in January this year, so of course I'm stoked for book three! Mia Corvere, I wonder where you will take us next.
Nexus (The Androma Saga #2) by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings — May 7, 2019
As I'm writing this post, I pretty much just finished Zenith. So of course I can't wait for Nexus, even with an ending that left me reeling, but satisfied.
Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1) by Cassandra Clare — November 19, 2019
After Queen of Air and Darkness's ending, I want answers! We may have to wait until 2020 for those to come, but why not fall in love with James and Cordelia in the meantime? It's giving me The Infernal Devices flashback vibes.
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas —February 7, 2019
After The Hate U Give, who wouldn't be excited? I absolutely can't wait, and I still need to watch The Hate U Give movie, which releases late January here. Angie Thomas deserves way more recognition!!
Untitled (Three Dark Crowns #4) by Kendare Blake — September 3, 2019
I still need to get my hands on a copy of Two Dark Reigns to truly be excited about this book, but still. I'm so glad there's gonna be more of this series! I hope an information reveal comes soon though; there's very little information out there about this book.
King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo — January 29, 2019
It's the hype that has me adding this here, and I know I need to finish the Grisha Trilogy and read Six of Crows but I'm still super excited for this book from what friends have told me?
Other top 2019 releases

Are there any books that you think I've missed that desperately need to be added? What are you most excited for in 2019?

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Well, it was thanksgiving *fairly* recently, and although I don’t celebrate, I’ve felt a need to be grateful so here, have this post! I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently especially as I prepare to reboot this blog and move to Wordpress. I’ve tried similar projects in the past, moving from one place to the other; it’s never really worked out, but I’m hoping it does this time, and I think it will because I’ve realised how much the blog means to me. There are a few key reasons, and I’m sharing them below:
1. It’s my own personal corner of the internetThis is a really big one, and I probably could’ve split it into many categories but why not keep it as one? I love that I get to express myself, my opinions, my thoughts on books here. I don’t have to censor myself, or edit out my personality in the robotic way school likes to make you do. Here’s an example from recent times: I wrote an essay about a book as a practice for exams, and in the feedback I got, there was a circle around a passage in which I’d written “so” (for rough context the sentence the word was derived from was something like “I love books, so I’m willingly to spend money buying them” (I know that’s not exact but I’m trying okay)), and above it the teacher had written “through”. This comment annoyed me more than I would’ve expected; I didn’t mean “through”, I was fully aware of what I meant when I used the word “so”. I don’t feel that I have to be perfectly grammatically correct all the time, especially when it detracts from me getting my point across. Also, I’m such a freak about this kinda of stuff? I’m obsessed with correct capitalisation and spelling, which crosses into grammar sometimes (but only if it’s extremely bad). So I feel somewhat insulted when my grammar is brought into question. Technically, English isn’t my first language, but it’s definitely my dominant one.

Anyway, moving on from that mini-rant, what I’m trying to say here is that all the content on this blog (except guest posts/blitzes etc but you get my point) is written by yours truly, without supervision. I don’t have to report to anyone, or make changes based on other people’s opinions; if you don’t like it, don’t follow me! It’s that simple. Of course I’m always striving to make my content better and more enjoyable for the people who do read my blog, but I don’t feel that I need to sacrifice my personal voice for a prim, proper, formal tone in these posts. I like being myself! It’s only recently that I’ve realised how much that part of this blog means to me; being able to express myself is so important to me especially as when I was younger I felt that a lot of the time I wasn’t allowed to say what I actually thought and was stuck in a world of pretending to be who people wanted to be. This blog definitely helped change that feeling, and for that I’m so grateful.
2. I can talk about whatever I like (without being judged by other people)Kind of following on from my first point, which is really an umbrella for everything to come, I can talk about things without being judged! It’s such a great feeling, especially when a lot of people still think reading is nerdy and uncool (I’m sorry us readers are more intelligent than you). I know the focus of this blog has shifted a bit from books as I’m using it to explore all of my interests more, but books are the reason I started this blog, and are a major catalyst in me being able to use it as a platform to speak out about anything and everything. The glory of all this being online is you don’t have to witness people laughing at you; all the adoration and hate is private, and as I’d like to think this community is quite positive I don’t feel that hate is a huge part of it; it probably exists, but in a small dark chasm paid attention to by only a select number of people.
3. Free. Books??!!Yay, I finally thought of a point which is less related to point number one! In 2016, upon starting high school, I decided to take a chance and reach out to some NZ publishers and ask if they were interested in sending me books in exchange for promotion and a review. Well, it worked. I feel guilty because I am always infinitely behind in reading the books they send me (this holidays might be yet another opportunity to catch up which I should take instead of reading the latest books from the library I haven’t returned yet but should) but I do really appreciate them and try to fit reading into my busy schedule. If you’d told 2013 me, who read more books in a year than I probably ever will for quite awhile now, that I would be getting free books in a few years, I would’ve laughed in your face for sure. Dreams can become reality! So I’m going to keep on dreaming despite what others tell me.
4. The communityIt’s funny because I’ve never felt like I’m part of this community; I don’t really have any close friends to show for it. Nevertheless, I’ve always felt really included especially when commenting on other people’s blogs. On Instagram, I had some fairly close friends through the editing/fandom community but there was always a strong sense of negativity surrounding the community and I’m not the greatest with keeping in touch with people online as I’m trying to cut back on screen time, mobile devices in particular so I guess we drifted easily. But I’d really like to get closer to people here, and possibly also establish links with them through bookstagram; we’ll see. Regardless, I appreciate everyone here for constantly making me feel welcome even as I’m little more than a stranger to a lot of you.

I can’t think of anything else right now, so I’ll just end it here, but thank you too to everyone who is reading this post; although I don’t get many comments I see proof of your existence through the engagement and also followers on my book related Spotify playlists. Is there any aspect of book blogging/something else you do which you’re really grateful for?

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{This post has been in the works since forever (the publication of part one, to be more specific), and now that I've finished my second last exam of this year I've decided to go ahead and spend more time on it. It's such a massive rant, and I even go as far as to suggest some "solutions" to the issues of this system (I'm so extra I know, don't come @ me because I'm not an education system expert okay I just know what works and doesn't work for me as a student). If you don't mind that, read on!}

Hey, I'm back with another post totally unrelated to books! Due to the popularity of my last post about my issues with the NZ education system, I'm back with part two, except this one is entirely geared towards high school (the final three years to be exact). If you haven't read "part one", my general explanations yet, you can do so here.

My main issue with the high school system is NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) run by the NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority). This is an exam system used nationwide with the exception of a few schools, which do other programmes such as IB or Cambridge. But for this post I'll be focusing on NCEA, which is what my school uses, and it'll cover topics such as how exactly the system works, why I don't like it, and alternatives to this system.
What is NCEA?You could probably google it for a concise definition (but don't quote me on the accuracy of that statement), but I'll try and explain it without making it sound too confusing. If you already know what it is/are or have done NCEA, feel free to skip ahead to the next section because you should also know all of this!

For your last three years of high school, the majority of your school work is geared towards getting NCEA standards, of which there are three levels. In the first of these years, Year 11, you're working towards Level One, in Year 12 (the most important year) you work towards Level Two, and in Year 13 Level Three. It's also possible to "skip ahead" in some cases, but that's another story.
CreditsEach assignment/exam, which I'm gonna call a task, earns you credits (usually between two and six per task). NZQA likes to think that each credit is roughly equivalent to ten notional hours, which is class time as well as homework. You can get your credits at four levels: not achieved (you don't get any credits, but they show up on your learning record under not achieved credits), achieved, merit, and excellence. These levels just show how well you did at the task as there is different marking criteria to see what level you're working at.

In order to pass the year, you need to gain eighty credits. However if you are trying to get a level two or three certificate and you've already done a lower level, you can 'take' twenty credits from that level so you only need sixty credits. Likewise, if you have credits from higher levels and you are trying to get a lower level endorsement, you can use those credits too.
EndorsementsFor high achievers, there is an option to try for merit or excellence endorsement. There are two types of endorsement; certificate, and subject. Subject endorsements are considered harder to get. Certificate endorsement is where you get fifty or more credits at merit or excellence for a merit endorsement/fifty or more excellence credits for an excellence endorsement. This just means your certificate will say something like "John Doe achieved NCEA Level One with Excellence Endorsement".

Subject endorsements are endorsement on a smaller scale, in individual subjects. The courses of most subjects are usually around 20-24 credits, with a mix of internal (assignments, reports, research projects, performances, tests) and external (exams) assessments. To get a subject endorsement you need 14 excellence credits, with at least three internal and three external credits.
External Exams
I felt that this needed its own section as the way NCEA does it is quite different from a lot of other systems. With externals, you sit up to three papers in one subject and have three hours to complete them. Wait, what? Yeah, you read that correctly. It varies from subject to subject, but you can usually be entered in up to three external standards, which you sit in the three hour long exam. They're all marked individually too, so there's no bonus for doing more papers than other people; if anything, it's a disadvantage because there are gonna be people who spent ninety minutes on a paper and did better work than you if you spent one hour on a paper. Each paper is worth a certain amount of credits, usually ranging from 4-6.

Results come out in January, and if you're unsatisfied with your mark you can apply for a reconsideration, which is basically where a second marker remarks your work. If your grade is lifted, you get refunded the price ($20.40NZD per paper), otherwise your paper is returned and your money kept by the big bosses. If you're sick for the November exam, or feel that you've been influenced by events out of control such as (and I quote) the bereavement of a family member or close friend (look, I'm sorry, I don't want to make fun of this, but WHO EVEN USES THE WORD BEREAVEMENT ANYMORE (if you do please don't be offended I mean you no harm)), no worries! You can apply for a derived grade, which is where you get given the mark from your mock exam.
NZQA Scholarship Exams
NZQA also has the option of scholarship exams for high achievers, generally offered in year thirteen and sometimes year twelve. These are three hour long external examinations in which you can gain the award of Top Scholar, an outstanding scholarship, or a scholarship. I won't go into it any further, but if you're really interested search it up.
What's wrong with NCEA?
So there you have the basic rundown of the system. There are several key issues I have with it, and I'll go through them one by one.
  • external exams
My main issue with the external exams isn't that they exist (I actually really like exams), it's the way they're marked. For essays, out of 8, and for most other exams, out of 24. 24??!! As someone who is used to being able to get at least 40 points in an examination I fail to see how you could possibly differentiate well between the abilities of students with such small scale marking. The other thing is, a lot of the marking is subjective and you don't get marks unless you include evidence on the assessment schedule (a.k.a. what the writer of the exam wanted you to get from the paper).

Not everyone sits the same external standards. You don't get penalised for not attempting one paper as they're marked individually (in fact in many ways, not attempting is better than a not achieved because the paper just disappears from your NZQA record of achievement). Yes, this has been an advantage to me in History because I would've died doing all three papers (plus I hated the NZ significance one okay), but it's also been a disadvantage in subjects like English where I know many talented individuals who only attempt two papers as an attempt to do better in those two and sacrifice the third. I just think that it's stupid because why should people be disadvantaged by putting themselves under more pressure and doing three papers? Why should people not be penalised for not attempting a paper? It makes much more sense, since all papers test different areas of a subject, that you do get penalised for not doing a paper (or they could just follow my killer suggestions and combine the papers into one exam that everyone who takes externals will receive because obviously that's a far better method). 

How could this be fixed? Easy enough, I think. Redo the format of the exams so that it's marked out of 100 (cmon, 50 at least!) so it's percentage based rather than fitted to a curve: top 10% get excellence, next 10% get merit (if you really want to, next 20%), top 20/30-35/40% get achieved. Wait, does that sound harsh? I don't think so, because in other exams, 60/65% is the rate of pass, 80% merit and 90% excellence! But of course NCEA has made it so that by getting just over 1/3 of the paper correct you can pass... leaving the pass rate around 33-37.5% completion of paper. Also, if they really desperately wanted that curve, they could just go off people's scores and do the whole top 10% of people get excellence, etc! It's just that this way there's more room to differentiate between the scores of people, it's not so difficult to go up by one point, and you get a much better idea of where people are at. It's super easy to scale because it's unlikely that a whole lot of people are going to get the same mark to the extent where they are 10% of all students taking that paper so the excellence mark is raised, which is currently the case with marks out of 24. Also, what papers you take in the external shouldn't be optional; all available papers should be combined into the one exam (look, even with the current mark system that would total 72 marks, so even sticking to the current format could potentially work!) so that there aren't disadvantages or advantages of completing less/more papers. Everyone learns different stuff, you say? Well, maybe internally, but the end of year exam should be the same. It's designed so that you get to discuss what you've learned in class in the more humanities type subjects such as English, History and Drama (one of the only things I like about it), and there's no reason that would change with the new format.
  • english essay marking
Fine. I admit I've never actually had my essay marked in a proper external, yet. So we'll see how that goes after I get my results back in January, and I may just update y'all about that: positive or negative. If you really want me to do let me know in the comments! Anyway, moving on: the thing with essay marking is that it's really subjective. Of course, there's no solution to this. But what teachers and markers alike can do is stop making assumptions into students' knowledge or judge them for their essay style. In English class, students aren't taught how to write essays. We are taught about the content of a book, or rather a teacher's opinion on the book (and how we can stick that in our essay for bonus points). I'd like to hope that by this age, people have seen and done enough to form their own opinions on books written before the 21st century and that there is no need for a teacher to break it down sentence by sentence, plus add their opinion? What I'm proposing is that instead of focusing so much on what we're going to write about, in class we focus on HOW to write an essay and just apply it to the text we're studying. This would also reduce the subjectiveness of marking based on essay style, because everyone would've been taught a definitive, "NZQA approves" base. I know of teachers who mark harshly on essay styles they don't like because they expect everyone to have been taught English the way they teach it, which I think is total rubbish. And a lot of the time, essays and work written in class is marked based on how your views align with your teacher's, which shouldn't even be a factor of the marking.

How could this be fixed? Again, the scale needs to be expanded. Eight points is not nearly enough to differentiate between good and bad essays. There could be a large marking scale of say, thirty, and markers marked different aspects of the writing out of say five: grammar, use of evidence, structure, personal voice, comprehensiveness, etc. Alongside this could be the use of a check marker: currently, you can only get your work check marked if you apply for a reconsideration (I'll go until detail about that later). But by having a check marking system in place each essay would filter out subjective marking because unless you were unlucky at got two subjective markers the difference in marks would be quite evident (also why there needs to be a larger scale, to allow more difference). And again I don't think one exam should entirely consist of the essay; lets combine written, visual and unfamiliar text into the one exam!
  • reconsiderations and resubmissions
I think NCEA asked for this one. If you think your worked was marked unfairly, you can apply for a reconsideration (external). Some internals let you do resubmissions if you have made a minor error which the teacher believes the student could spot on their own (wait a minute, how could a minor error lift you up an entire grade? I'm not sure I comprehend). In this case, NZQA is pretty much saying "yes! There are double standards! If you think you've been subjected to one, pay and we'll reconsider your result (but it probably won't change because we're like that)!" Disagree if you like, but I think the whole idea of reconsiderations basically implies there are double standards. Yes, markers can make errors, and in that case definitely apply (through a different channel would be appropriate though, such as the way you apply for derived grades which is through your school). But it seems a lot of reconsiderations are applied for not in math, the subject of black and white marking, but subjects like English and History where it's quite literally up to the marker what they choose to give you.

With resubmissions, it's not that big of a deal. It's up to the teacher, and if they offer it to you you get it the one chance to fix your work. Usually it's just some grammatical errors or a minor calculation error. My issue with this is also less major, I just think you get the one chance. I'm sorry if you didn't notice it when you were doing it, but in the case of assignments, the deadline has passed and you've had your chance to spot the errors; in the case of tests, it's a timed test. Why should you get extra time, and at that, it's extra time given after you're told you could lift your grade if you spot the error (Where's Wally?). 

How could this be fixed? How about, get rid of them! (Sorry if you don't agree. But I do.) It's unfair to people who work hard and say get a secure merit grade don't have the chance to lift their grade because they weren't close enough to excellence, but then someone whose work was "very nearly excellence" gets that chance.
  • derived grades
Whoa, here's another hot topic, somewhat controversial, where I take the side of high achievers. Oops. Well... The thing with derived grades is, I feel that it disadvantages students who actually sit the exams. Of course, it's really unfortunate if you aren't able to sit the exam/don't do the best for whatever reason. But I just don't think it's fair that you can submit for grades from mock exams. In my experience, a lot of mock exams are deceivingly easy because a technique teachers use is to make you feel calm for exams by giving you an easy mock. The only exception to this at my school is the maths department, which believe it is better to give you something more difficult so that you know if you can do well in that exam, you'll do fine in the real one, or you realise there are gaps in your knowledge which you then have time to fix up before the real thing.

How could this be fixed? Perhaps instead of assigning grades to the derived grades process, there could be something where people who weren't able to attend for whatever reason can apply with evidence of school work that they would easily be able to pass the paper? This still wouldn't be an ideal situation of course but it would remove the unfairness of getting higher grades from an easier exam and would make it so that the students didn't entirely miss out on getting a mark for the exam even if it might be lower than desired.

  • internals
There is a new practice at schools now called "credit farming". This is essentially where the schools try and get their students as many credits as possible through internals with little regard to the quality of the learning (see here). This can be especially advantageous for high achieving students because it's an easy way to earn lots of excellence credits which is the primary factor in deciding the recipients of university scholarships in New Zealand.

I'm not totally against internals; they're cool, and a much more reliable source of credits than externals which can be quite flaky. But that doesn't mean I don't think they count as far too much of your course's overall level of achievement. The end of year exams should be a key factory, but with NZQA it's internals too. They can be fun, but they aren't difficult enough to truly measure ability. And also, each school has a different procedure which can't be fixed even through moderation and the other measures NZQA has in place.

How could this be fixed? Firstly, the externals need to be more reliable and the criteria for each grade really clear. This would make internal credits less valuable, so the course could spend more time focusing on the external exams instead of expending so much energy on internals which I feel is the less valuable part of the course.

So there you have it. If you've gotten this far, then wow! Congrats on getting through something this long and boring. What is the education system like where you are?




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I feel like I haven't posted a TBR in ages, but now that I'm free for the summer, why not? I'm gonna try and actually read unlike most of this year (perhaps by avoiding YouTube/the TV/Netflix) as well as extra courses online, so let's see how it goes. I'm hopelessly behind in my reading goal for 2018, a measly 40% so I guess I'm never gonna get there. But I'm still hoping to complete the A-Z Challenge, with nine books to go...

- The Towering Sky by Katherine McGee
- The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton
(- The Triple Package/Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua)
- Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
- Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
- Die For Me by Amy Plum
- Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
- Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
- Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
- Violets Are Blue by James Patterson
- XVI by Julia Karr
- Zenith by Sasha Alsberg

What are your plans for the summer/winter depending on where in the world you are?

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This month started off with the arrival of Kingdom of Ash at my doorstep, which then induced a six day sprint of finishing the book in my last week of school before exams. After that however, with exam prep and general school recovery (procrastination), I didn't get much of a chance to read until the last week of November where I finished Get Remarkably Organised, an inspirational book :) I'm really looking forward to totally relaxing in December, but I'm going to try and actually get more done each day so you never know; I might be on here more often than I have been all year! I hope so.


Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas because duhh, how could I not love the end of Aelin's tale?

Runner-up:

- Get Remarkably Organised by Lorraine Murphy
- The Playbook by Barney Stinson, Matt Kuhn


Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J Maas
First Sentence: "He had been hunting for her since the moment she was taken from him."

Get Remarkably Organised by Lorraine Murphy
First Sentence: "Let's get started on this journey to organisational bliss with a bit of a chat about what it actually means to be organised."

The Playbook by Barney Stinson, Matt Kuhn
First Sentence: "First of all, thanks for purchasing this book!"

Average page count per day:

46 pages

Total page count:

1378

So there you have it, my wrapup for November. What did you read this month?

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This period has definitely lacked reading, but I have read good books during this time! Since it's a big long period and I've kinda forgotten a bit what I've read etc I won't be doing BOTM but I will continue with the rest of this post as usual :)


MAY

Thirteen Rising (Zodiac #4) by Romina Russell
(I can't find the sentence for this book oops)

This Fallen Prey (Rockton #3) by Kelley Armstrong
First Sentence: "The season may have officially started two months ago, but it isn't truly spring in Rockton until we bury our winter dead."

Average page count in May: 23, total 709

JUNE (massive disappointment)

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews
First Sentence: "What he wants most in the world is to cut off his own hands."

Average page count in June: 9, total 276

JULY (slightly better especially in regards to page count)

War Storm (Red Queen #4) by Victoria Aveyard
First Sentence: "We drown in silence for a long moment."

Seducing Kaden (The Kennedy Boys #6) by Siobhan Davis
First Sentence: "I join the line in the coffee place, stifling a groan as I count the numerous heads in front of me."

A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5) by Sarah J Maas
First Sentence: "The first snow of winter had begun whipping through Velaris an hour earlier."

Average page count in July: 43, total 1346

AUGUST (the most miserable thus far I reckon, what happened??)

Black and Blue (Detective Harriet Blue #0.5) by James Patterson
(another lost sentence, disappointing me)

Average page count in August: 6, total 176

SEPTEMBER

Thirteen (Eddie Flynn #4) by Steve Cavanagh
First Sentence: "At ten after five on a raw December afternoon, Joshua Kane lay on a cardboard bed outside the Criminal Courts building and thought about killing a man."

A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell
First Sentence: "My mother used to say: Everyone has secrets."

The Guilty Wife by Elle Croft
First Sentence: "A helicopter pilot."

Average page count in September: 32, total 963

OCTOBER

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton
First Sentence: "Looking down, there are two pairs of feet dangling."

Hangman (Ragdoll #2) by Daniel Cole
First Sentence: "'There is no God."

Average page count in October: 23, total 721

OVERALL

Average page count per day overall:
23

Total page count:
4191

And the winner for most reading is... July!! (And the loser is August with May a clear second). Alas, I might not have read much during this period but I am going to be doing major catch up in the summer holidays.

What have your reading habits been like in the past half a year? Is there are stand out best/worst month?

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So I seem to be posting a lot more recently, even though the posts have sort of gravitated to just being quite random in nature and topic wise. Here's the latest one, inspired by my lovely friend Adair @ Discussions With Myself when she wrote a similar post in geography class and suggested I do so :) I tried to make these as unrelatable as possible?

- exams are in four weeks and I'm more stressed about my piano recital/scholarship competition the Saturday before than the actual exams, I should really care more about thing...

- I don't ever know what to say in reply to a compliment, I've always felt awkward saying "thank you" and I don't know how to downplay achievements, I think it's better to just accept the praise but I don't want to seem self centred though I kind of am in that I know my own ability?

- summer is approaching (today was cold in the morning but then it got too hot okay) and I'm excited because of the holidays but the weather's gonna suck, I hate the sun and there are too many bugs flying about already :(

- my parents often question why I choose to do exams outside of school, I mean it's something I genuinely enjoy! Also they're proper exams, unlike NCEA which is a disappointment to all exam systems (see my education related posts if you wanna know more but I warn you they're massive rants)

- a lot of people around me seem to have little to no care or thought for their future and that's cool, you do you, but I personally want to leave this place behind and have a great life overseas?? does ambition still exist in young people outside of laziness and desire to procrastinate forever?

- high school is known for cliques and friend drama but my school and friends are different! It's not very cliquey thankfully, there are fixed groups but we all keep to ourselves and there's rarely conflict which is good but I feel like even here many friend groups have a lot of drama unlike us

- I can't help but base my characters on people I know, thanks to the weird dreams I have about people which make it so that I can't look at them the same again... thanks subconscious mind.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! Did you relate to any of these? Do you have any unrelatable problems?

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What's up, guys? Here I am, back with ANOTHER post not related to books (I promise book posts are coming, I'm just lazy).

The idea to write this post came to me when for what felt like the umpteenth time I walked down the street staring down at my phone, daring strangers to judge me. I try and avoid doing this as a general rule because firstly it's dangerous and also older strangers seem to always be in a mood to judge. But sometimes I just can't be bothered caring, and after checking the way is clear I will do so. I do this a lot going down the stairs outside my local library (weirdly enough I think walking down the stairs while staring at your feet is safer than walking along the street looking at your phone?).

Basically what I'm trying to get that is I am, for the most part, a responsible teen and I think being a teenager, I am immediately classed as "troublesome" the second someone sees me on my phone. I don't think this is fair to me or any of the numerous people I know who are amazing and mature. In a way, teenagers are expected to be perfect, and if not then we are immediately the bad guys in every situation.

Now that that rant is over, I will list some common stereotypes which I think aren't true/should be demystified! I didn't really plan this bit of the post so I have no idea how it's gonna go, but anyway. Just a note: I apologise if any of this offends anyone, I'm not trying to hit back at people but the topic has been something that I've been meaning to write about for awhile and I'm sick of being judged by my age. So enjoy my 1.4k word essay I suppose??
1. teenagers are all in cliques/fit a stereotype
This is a big one for me. I think a group of girls hanging out in town is often judged by the fact that they are a group of girls. Not all of these groups are 'popular' and there just for attention. For example, a good friend of me was once riding a free bus with some of her friends to the botanical gardens (the bus service was run by the museum) and the bus driver refused to let them off until they paid for the free bus. She only had ten cent coins on her, and so she paid with those but the driver was like "you must have more money than that for your shopping escapade" which made zero sense since they were going to the botanical gardens, not a mall. What made it worse is that there was a family behind them on the bus who were let off with no hassle, and they also didn't stand up for the girls.

It's unfair to judge people by their clothing, who they're hanging out with, and how much they look at their phone. If this isn't acceptable in wider society why do so many people think it's fine to judge teenagers like so? Also, come on. Most of the ones that judge the harshest are old ladies and it may have been a long time ago, but they were once teenagers too. I think in this judging, while it isn't always deliberately meant to cause hurt, a bit more consideration of teenagers' feelings would help.
2. teenagers are all addicted to their phones, social media, taking selfies
Now this is just blatantly untrue. I know many people who don't even have smartphones, and the vast majority of my friends don't even have the common social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. And even if they do, so what? I don't think social media influences your personality; it's how you use it that matters. In a world where internet access is easy and often more worthwhile than texting, not having social media can make it a whole lot harder for people to be able to contact you. 

Phone addiction isn't uncommon, but then again many adults are in the same boat. It isn't all that different from any other addiction and definitely isn't the most serious addiction one can have. All I have to say to this one is, why does it matter? If you look down on phone addiction then that's the same as thinking you're better than them.

Selfies. A trend which has, I feel, died down a bit in recent years, though there are still news reports of all the people who have died trying to get the 'perfect' selfie. While I certainly agree that doing such a dangerous and risky thing shouldn't be encouraged, usually there isn't anything wrong with the average selfie. So what? It's a photo. People fill entire albums with these things. What's so different about a selfie that makes it so dislikable?
3. teenagers are lazy and self centred
Procrastination plays a big part in this stereotype I think. We've become a generation of procrastinators, and I'm not going to ask whose fault this is; it doesn't really matter. But procrastination is present in even the most productive and motivated people. What I'm trying to say is that everyone can be lazy, and teenagers aren't an age bracket where everyone suddenly becomes lazy and stops being lazy once they reach the age of twenty.

Similarly, anyone can be self centred, not just teenagers. I think it could be more likely when one is in this age range because they haven't learnt all the lessons of life yet and hormones can make it feel like your world is collapsing, etc; it is natural to be a little self centred during this time because your brain makes you feel like everything is about you. But the key is to realise: not everything about you. The world doesn't revolve around you. Getting back to the point, I'm not arguing that teenagers aren't centred; we as a group certainly are, and I can testify to that. But I also think we should be cut some slack because it's very much a phase that most will grow out of.
4. teenagers are irresponsible and rebellious
This is something I laugh at quite a bit. There are definitely both sides of the spectrum, but I like to keep my feet firmly on the responsible side of the line, as do my friends. A bit of rebellion is natural, but if it becomes anything serious that's more a result of upbringing/mentality than age. Irresponsibility continues for some all throughout the twenties and while it is just a phase for some I think this is more to do with personality than anything else.
5. teenagers are unintelligent and bad with spelling, grammar
While I admit this one is becoming increasingly true with the common use of lowercase 'i's, the use of all lowercase for aesthetic (I am guilty of this one but I refuse to ever use the lowercase 'i' standalone in a sentence!!) and mixing up words like "your, you're", "they're, their, there" and other common homonyms that does not mean all teenagers are unintelligent. I'd argue there are groups of teenagers who are extremely intelligent and will become the next generation of world leaders, and their personalities and habits aren't represented by the general population.

Another big one for me is being treated as a child. From a young age, I've been more mature than most my age and when trying to initiate 'adult' conversations with older people around me, such as teachers, I've been shut down because they don't think I have the capability to hold those kinds of conversations. For me that's been a massive knock on the head and I felt discouraged from speaking my mind or learning about important issues. Especially as people reach the teen years, it's important to stop treating teenagers as children. We are not. Many of us are extremely passionate about one issue or another, and some are even creating change in amazing ways. We are more than capable of holding a conversation about serious issues and it is a discredit to you if you don't believe that.

So I end this post on what hopefully is a high note: please stop treating teenagers like rebellious, arrogant, ignorant, unintelligent individuals. Thank you.

Do you think teenager stereotypes are overly played up? Are there any additional points you'd make? 


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