How the aces did it

How the aces did it

Two top students let us in on the secrets of their exam success. Some simple tricks can do wonders


Top students Chris and Jon_L
Photos: SCMP & Adrian Kwok
It's a real race out there for tens of thousands of Hong Kong students who sit their public exams each year in the hope of getting into university. This year, more than 78,000 students took the HKDSE, while at least 1,200 students took the IB Diploma. Nine students received the perfect score of seven 5** in the local exam. At least 13 got 45/45 in the IB.

Christopher Sum Hiu-fung from La Salle College and Jonathan Wong Leung-chun from Diocesan Boy's School were among the top scorers. Christopher got perfect scores in the HKDSE, while Jonathan did so in the IB.

How did they do it, you may ask.

Christopher has an answer: confidence, he says, is key to success. "I was confident in the work I did for the exam, so at the exam itself, I just went with the flow," the 17-year-old says.

But that doesn't mean it was all just a breeze. Like other top scorers, he agrees that Chinese was an especially difficult subject. He believes it is vital to build a strong foundation in the subject from a young age by reading.

"Students shouldn't learn the language just for exams," he notes. "Rather, they should raise their interest in Chinese and recognise the beauty of it. They can develop their examination techniques later."

Liberal Studies was another subject that worried many local students. Christopher aced it by keeping up to date with current events and giving concise answers in the exam.

"Keep asking yourself why and how. That will help you formulate a logical answer," he says. "And don't be afraid to take a stance regarding politically sensitive events."

He also warns against relying too much on marking schemes, which he thinks should be used for reference only.

And he encourages students to learn more outside the classroom - about themselves and their interests.

"Exams test only a very narrow spectrum of our potential," he says.

"As [the ancient Greek philosopher] Socrates said: 'Know thyself.' Self-knowledge is important to help us learn who we really are. By studying about ourselves, we can also learn more about the world at large."

Jonathan, on the other hand, points out that effective time management plays a crucial role in getting good exam results. "I study first and do my homework later. If I did it the other way around, I'd be too tired," he says.

He also stresses the importance of finding time to relax during hectic exam periods. "I joined the school orchestra to keep calm," he says. "Music helps relieve my stress and keeps my mind off exams and school work."

Despite his exam success, Jonathan, also 17, doesn't think he is different from other students. "I didn't outshine others in the exams. Everyone worked incredibly hard and I believe every single one of them deserves to be in the place that I am today. I was just lucky," he says.

Both Christopher and Jonathan will be studying medicine from next month - at the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University, respectively.

Some useful tips from the aces:

1. Don't be overconfident. Work hard even if you think you know everything.

2. Never hesitate to ask questions.

3. Get a group of friends to study with you.

4. Don't be afraid to write too much. Put in all your ideas in your first draft then shorten it later.

5. Always make your ideas clear.

You might also like:

- Cheng Yuet-yi of St Paul's Co-educational College has become the first student ever to achieve top scores in eight subjects in the DSE exam.

- Nine students at eight schools scored top marks in the HKDSE examination this year. Among the top performers are two students from low-income families.

- Whether for fun or practical reasons, the experience of learning a new language can give you greater insight about life and offer new opportunities.



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