Phone a friend and summer fun: IB top scorer Alina Bharwani reveals tips for exam success

Phone a friend and summer fun: IB top scorer Alina Bharwani reveals tips for exam success

The 17-year-old says there's no secret to how she earned the top score in this year's International Baccalaureate exam, but she does have tips and tricks to help you get there

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Alina Bharwani finds relaxing just as important as studying.
Photo: Adrienne Lin

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(L-R) Alina Bharwani and Margaret Ho, International Baccalaureate exam top students at Canadian International School of Hong Kong are thrilled!
Photo: Edward Wong/SCMP

Many tutors will probably just teach you the correct answers to help pass an exam but Alina Bharwani, 17, a top scorer in this year’s International Baccalaureate (IB) from Canadian International School, says she has her own way of learning, which she thinks is more interesting and fun.

“I love to teach others,” Alina, who achieved the maximum mark of 45, told Young Post. “I’ve got a whiteboard at home and tried to explain concepts to my mum and sister, and had a lot of fun doing it as well. I think learning can be lively and interactive.”

A secret to her success?

Alina says that there is no big secret to getting the perfect score.

“The biggest tip I have is to study smart, not just study hard. It’s essential to figure out what is the best way for you to learn and get the most out of your studying style,” she says, adding that taking breaks from studying gave her time to let the information sink in.


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“That’s why I liked to work for around an hour or so and then take a break.”

Many HKDSE students prepare for their exam by tackling past papers, but Alina says it’s a different story for IB students, as it depends on how you apply what you know to the questions.

Challenge yourself

Alina did not just write out answers to IB past papers. Going through past papers can be useful, as it helps you to understand the format of the exam and work out how long you may take to tackle each section. But for Alina, it is more about learning all there is to know about a topic.

She described her process for learning about acids and bases in chemistry, from reading her textbooks and notes, to looking at difficult questions on the topic in past papers. “This was helpful since the questions on the actual exam were often in the same style as past papers.”

Self-marking is the key

As a lot of past papers do not have detailed explanations of their answers and marks, Alina decided to create her own marking scheme. “I wrote my own papers and went through textbooks to create my own marking scheme, or asked teachers to check if I answered correctly or was off topic.”


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Phone a friend

When asked if people should be using their phones when studying for exams, Alina says it’s not a bad idea. Not only can texting or going on the internet be a welcome break from studying, a phone can also be used as an important learning tool. “My friends and I shared our study progress and discussed questions on social media or a Whatsapp group.”

It’s all about the summer fun

Alina disagrees with people who say that young people should be studying as much as possible over the summer holidays. She thinks that it’s much more important to be able to relax. “If you have an area in which you are weak and you want to work on it, by all means you should get a head start now,” she added. “But I don’t think you need to spend the entire summer studying.”

Past and future work

Last summer, Alina took the CUHK Summer Clinical Attachment Programme and the HKU Medical Broadening Programme.

She also did some volunteer work and taught English to ethnic minority students, and did some work for her school’s Unicef club of which she was president.

Alina plans to study medicine at The University of Hong Kong or Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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