ALEX Oakley thought he made a “fatal error” part way through his Music 1 exam.
“I was about one minute into a classical arrangement of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood when I realised I forgot to change the tune of my guitar,” he said.
“I realised if I hit a big chord it would sound wrong, so I had to improvise and dance around it.
“Just a couple of seconds and your results can change by five or six marks.”
The Newcastle Grammar student need not have worried.
He woke on Thursday to a text message saying he had received a mark of 99 for his favourite subject and a ranking of fourth in the state.
His classmate, Hamish Young, was ranked 10th.
“I was very excited and over the moon,” said Alex, who had been hoping for 90.
“I was just doing my best and didn’t have a goal in mind.
“Our teachers – Grant Fraser and Kevin Young – were fantastic, that’s what gave us an edge.”
Newcastle Grammar has six students on the NSW Education Standards Authority’s list of Top Achievers –those who have earned a ranking in the state’s top 20 as well as a mark over 90 in a subject – the most of any Hunter school.
Emma Reid was second in Geography, Acacia Ozturk equal fourth in Mathematics, Ella McConnochie equal fifth in Visual Arts and Emily Elvish equal ninth in History Extension and 19th in Business Studies.
It also has seven students on the All-Round Achievers list – for those who have achieved results in the highest band possible in 10 or more units of study – the second highest after Merewether High.
Emma and Emily are on this list, alongside Alexander Ferch, Grace Papworth, Margot Roberts, Azeem Travadi and Lucinda Watt.
Head of School Erica Thomas said she was “thrilled” with the students’ hard work.
“Their results reflect their determination to do well and the quality of teaching at NGS.
“Our overall position at 35th in the state is an outstanding result.”
Emma said she was “pretty shocked” to be named an All-Round Achiever, especially as she usually received marks in the mid 70s for her Chemistry tests, but ended up with an overall mark of 94.
“I had been a little bit nervous before the results, but I knew I had put the work in,” she said.
Emma studied in the school library between 3pm and 7pm each day and would continue studying at home to 9.30pm when preparing for exams.
She took Friday nights off, as well as weekend afternoons.
“I didn’t want to get my results and think ‘I could have put in more effort’,” she said.
“My Geography teacher put good pressure on me and said ‘You could get a state ranking’ and that made me put in the extra work, which has paid off.”
Alex was in year six when he saw a year 12 student playing guitar and decided to pick up the instrument.
“I play in the school jazz band and bands with friends and 100 per cent feel more like myself.”
He said he lifted his daily two hours of practise before the trial exams to four hours before the final exams.
Hamish woke shortly after a nightmare about his results to a text message revealing he achieved 99 in Music 1.
He said he was “stoked” and “surprised above all – I didn’t think I went that amazing”.
Hamish took up drums at 15 and has spent at least half an hour almost every single day since then practising.
“I’ll keep playing music until I physically can’t. It will always be part of what I do.”