The tension is palpable the closer the girls move to the exam. This year the group had to concentrate on South African short stories and their impact. It did mean hours spent on Fridays and Saturdays with various lecturers, studying the passages in depth.
The paper is always a surprise. The topics tend to catch one on the proverbial back foot. While it is exciting writing, one feels quite drained after the three hours.
More than 7000 learners write the paper which is graded in the Eastern Cape. The Top 100 candidates earn gold certificates; the Top 50 are offered first year tuition free at Rhodes University and the Top 15 are lauded on the stage at the Grahamstown Festival.
Besides very handsome prizes, the Top 3 are awarded between R27 000 and R30 000 cash. Whoever is considered the very best also wins a beautiful crystal trophy.