[UPDATE - July 13, 12.12pm]
Top scorers from Diocesan Girls' School say the best way to deal with exam stress is to share the burden with friends and family.
"Singing in the choir and chatting with friends helped a lot, because you realise that you're not alone in dealing with such feelings," says Bernice. She also likes listening to music by Taiwanese pop group Sodagreen. Songs like Believe helped remind her that difficulties, however hard, are short-lived.
For her, the biggest pressure comes from her own expectations of surpassing her limitations.
Tammy turns to sports and reading to relieve stress.
"In high jump, you have three trials and you need to tell from your first two attempts how to improve your form to do your best in the last jump. This mindset really helped me keep calm during exams," she says. In her spare time, she also likes reading stories about Chinese historical figures. "Compared to the challenges they faced at the time, what I'm facing isn't that bad," she says.
The days before her exams, Tammy makes sure to revise the most difficult exam questions for her, and to get enough sleep. "Avoid reading too much during the morning of the exam, because often times it just confuses you even more," she says.
During the exam period, Bernice says she ate the same sandwich for breakfast every day to avoid stomachaches. Seems like that strategy worked!
For now, the girls plan on eating out with friends and families to celebrate, but soon they will have new concerns to confront.
"In secondary school, you have a lot of model answers. But in university it'll be a lot different, and we really need to form our own personal opinions," says Tammy.
Indeed, Bernice is already feeling the pressure of the huge amount of studying required for medicine students. "It'll be over ten more years of intense studying. I'm worried that I won't have much time to be with my family," she says.
Some things about their future the girls are taking more control over: both have registered to vote and will cast their first votes in the legislative council elections in September. Although they have yet to decide who to support.
"I'm not informed enough to make a decision yet," says Tammy. "If there was one thing I can change about Hong Kong, I would get people to slow down. When people are less stressed, there would be less resentment in our society."
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 11.58am]
There were also mixed views on tutorial centres and tutoring among the high scorers at Leung Kau Kui College. While Zoe frequently studies at tutorial centres with so-called ‘Tiger-tutors’, Anson feels very differently about these tutors.
“The large centres are servicing so many people," Anson says, "you might not be able to use the material they give, and what they give might not be relevant. Smaller tutorial centres are more personal, (the tutors) actually know you and are able to help you at a pace that suits you.”
However divided they feel about tutoring in Hong Kong, the students share some similar views on the HKDSE and our city's attitude towards education and grades.
Matthew believes having no exams and a less stressful environment would be a great start.
“This would provide an atmosphere to learn, rather than to just cram things in”, he says and compared HKDSE to the recent Euro 2016 final between Portugal and France. “The exams are just one match, they shouln’t decide everything; your life shouldn't be dependent on your result sheet."
Matthew is aware he's lucky not to have pressure from his parents about his education. Instead, his parents feel that "teaching students what's right and wrong is most important.”
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 11.45am]
Anson Wu Man-ho, 17, Zoe Chan Wing-man, 18 and Matthew Cho Ka-chai, 18, are among the students from Leung Kau Kui College in Tuen Mun with the highest scores, with several 5**s between them. They are mostly pleased with their results, but there were some disappointments.
Anson is disappointed at only scoring a three for Chinese, despite his interest in languages. “I won't be able to study law," he says, "so I need to think of another direction.” He now plans to study translation at CUHK.
Matthew also has mixed feelings. “I’m quite happy, but I was expecting higher points for Information and Communication Technology,” he says.
Meanwhile, Zoe feels the HKDSE needs improvement: “The SBA and Liberal Studies need to change,” she says. “We spend a lot of time doing the SBA, but what is it for? I feel like it was a waste of time."
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 11.19am]
Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School’s Moses Lam is the chairperson of his school’s Glee Club and he also joins drama and English society to cope with stress. He says he is concerned with the great pressure and potential suicide risks HKDSE students face.
And he's not the only one.
“The stress [students face] is much greater than in previous years,”, principal of Hong Kong Taoist Association Tang Hin Memorial Secondary School says. His school has made a lot of effort to spot those in need of help: “we have had staff development programmes to help teachers spot the signs [of stress].”
The school also paired up with an outside organisation to help the students deal with stress. “They give the students questionnaires (and) if there are issues we take the students out to discuss their thoughts.” the principal said.
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 11.19am]
Top scorer Wong Ho-sum from Queen’s College got a top score of seven 5**, including for his electives of biology, chemistry and physics. He says he's inspired to study medicine at HKU because he had to have surgery once and feels being a doctor means he can help people when they can't help themselves.
Ho-sum reveals that his grades in primary school weren't too good, and it was only in recent years that he started to get good grades and became one of the top 10 students in his school. Ho-sum tells Young Post that he had to get tutoring in Chinese because that’s the hardest subject for him.
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 11.07am]
Diocesan Girls' School’s Tammy has seen her peers getting teased and bullied for wearing braces during summer camp and now plans on studying dentistry at the University of Hong Kong, saying oral health is generally neglected in Hong Kong.
"Having good teeth is important for communicating well, and also for boost one's confidence."
She finds sports a good way to relieve stress and broke a Hong Kong record for high jump in a secondary school competition in 2014.
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 10.54am]
Moses Lam Ka-nam of Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School achieved an amazing result of six 5*. His mom raised him and his two older sisters as a single parent after his father left their family when Moses was very young. Him, his sisters and mother live in government benefit housing in poor condition, and Moses had to depend on his school's donations to go on school trips and attend different activities.
His teachers and peers say they adore him and the joy his positive attitude brings. Moses says he has never felt ashamed of his family or depressed about his background. In order to help more people and his family he has decided to study medicine at HKU.
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 10.38am]
Tiger Lam Cheung-chung, 17, of La Salle College is heading to Oxford University to major in mechanical engineering! According to Tiger and his vice principal, he was a very mediocre student up until Form Five. No one expected him to get into Oxford. Tiger says getting poor internal exam results was a real wake up call. To students who are feeling down or who are not getting amazing results, he says to never lose hope and to keep trying. "It will never cost you anything, only earn you more," says Tiger.
Steven Lo Lok-kin, 17, also of La Salle College received the Links Scholarship and will be attending CUHK to study medicine. He is extremely excited with his results, especially in Chinese and biology. Steven says he has to give special thanks to his Chinese teacher, Ms Lam, and his vice principal for helping him achieve results beyond his expectations. He tells Young Post that he never really thought of going abroad because his parents are not well off, but he so grateful that even though they had high expectations of him, they seldom pressured him about his academics.
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 10.22am]
St. Paul's Co-educational College’s top-scorer Natalie told the press how surprised she was when she got the results: “it was so unexpected, and I didn’t even know I achieved the top scores until my classmates told me!”
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 10.12am]
Both DGS’s Tammy and Bernice took Chinese lessons in Mandarin during their junior secondary school years, which helped them write and understand classical Chinese passages, they said, adding that it is generally easier to learn in Cantonese.
Tammy says she and her friends discuss political issues while revising liberal studies, but she is hesitant to come to any conclusions about which political party to support, or whether current chief executive Leung Chun-ying should have another term in office.
"We don't know enough and we shouldn't jump to conclusions," says Tammy. "But I think the government should listen more to the voices of the people."
"If Leung is to have another term in office, he needs the support of the Hong Kong people," adds Bernice.
Tammy, whose father is a civil servant and mother a housewife, says she wasn't forced to take tutoring classes in primary school.
"My parents never pushed me to get good grades either," says Bernice, who plays the piano and sings in the choir. Her father is a salesperson and her mother is an accountant. "Parents shouldn't give students too much pressure, they should give them room to develop their interests."
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 9.55am]
At St. Paul's Co-educational College, top-scorer Natalie Se Wing-tung says her studying tip is to “divide my studying time to make sure I have a balance. I split my subjects into different days, instead of doing one subject all on one day.” Natalie took history, chemistry and economics as electives.
She plans to go to the University of Hong Kong to study law because "it's different, fun, and challenging".
Talking to the press, Natalie thanks her teachers for always supporting her, "especially my maths teacher [in junior secondary school] who taught me everything I need to know".
[UPDATE - Wednesday, July 13, 9.28am]
The two top-scorers from DGS are Bernice Cheung Cheuk-sin and Tammy Yiu Tsz-ching, both 18 and from middle-class families. Bernice took biology, chemistry and economics as electives, while Tammy took BAFS, chemistry and economics.
Bernice, who was most worried about Chinese and liberal studies, says she hasn’t decided which university to go to yet, but she plans on studying medicine. She was inspired to study medicine when her grandmother fell ill and passed away two years ago.
Bernice's studying strategy was ask questions whenever there was something she didn’t understand, and revise what she learned throughout the day once she got home.
Tammy, who spent last night hanging out with friends to calm her nerves, wants to spend more time with her family after the HKDSE, saying she missed out on a lot of family time while preparing for the exams. Tammy is also a high jump athelete and captain of the school's athletics team. She says her parents have always allowed her the freedom to pursue her interests because it's important to balance studying with exercising.
Both girls attended tutor classes.
[Wednesday, July 13, 8.47 am]
Four students - three girls and one boy - achieved the perfect and highest score of 5** in seven subjects in this year's Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examinations (HKDSE), the lowest number since the exam started in 2012. They are among 68, 128 candidates who will receive their results today.
The four top scorers are: Tammy Yiu Tsz-ching and Bernice Cheung Cheuk-sin from Diocesan Girls' School in Jordan, Wong Ho-sum from Queen's College in Causeway Bay and Se Wing-tung from St. Paul's Co-educational College in Mid-levels.
Last year, there were 11 top scorers, and in 2014 there were 12.
The candidates include 57, 121 secondary school students from 494 schools, along with 11, 001 independent candidates. The youngest to sit the HKDSE was 12 years old, and took one subject, while the eldest was 69 years old and sat exams for six subjects.
A total of 23,611 school candidates, accounting for 42.2 per cent, achieved the minimum scores required to enrol in local undergraduate programmes, scoring at least level 3 in Chinese language and English Language subjects, and at least 2 in maths and liberal subjects, but only around 15,000 university places are available.
Reporting by Melanie Leung and YP cadets Shannon Cho, Joshua Lee, Gabi Leung, Shayna Sujanani, and Nicole Tsung