The Cambridge IGCSE qualification (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) is widely recognised by higher education institutions and employers around the world as evidence of academic achievement.
In the IGCSE exams taking place in April and May 2015, Ngoc Minh - a Year 11 student at the British International School Hanoi
achieved excellent results with 9 A* (the highest grade possible) in nine subjects. In the article below, we will learn about how she achieved such success.
Could you share some information about yourself and what subjects you took during the IGCSE examination? What was the most difficult subject in your opinion?
My name is Nguyen Ngoc Minh, born in 2000. I took 9 IGCSEs: Maths, English Language and Literature, Triple Science, Business, ICT and History. Maths was challenging, but I actually finished the course one year earlier than usual. The main obstacles for me were Physics and History. Physics requires a great deal of logic as well as familiarity with the subject matter, and while you do have to memorize the equations, you have to know how to implement them as well, which could occasionally be overwhelming. History, on the other hand, is a lot more critical. You have to be able to present an argument with strong support and evidence, while remaining impartial. That, in itself, is a huge contradiction, but I learned a great deal about crafting well-thought out theses while writing my papers.
9 A* for 9 subjects is a very impressive result. Can you tell us more about your studying strategies to achieve such good grades in general and for specific subjects?
I can't emphasize enough the importance of paying attention in class. I know, it's so hard to focus when it's 8 o'clock in the morning and your eyes are practically glued shut. But you don't have to work harder: just work smarter. I personally use the three Cs: concentrate, connect and compile. Taken together, this means linking key words from class with their meaning, context and content. Then, in the exams, even the tiniest trigger will help you recall the material. And be enthusiastic about learning! For example, I personally love reading. I read for pleasure almost every single day, and because I have an active interest in literature, it naturally helps me enjoy English instruction that much more. School is not a chore: it's an adventure. Transfer your interests into your academic life, and you might just find your scores soaring.
Did you have any difficulties when revising 9 subjects at the same time? If yes, how did you overcome those difficulties?
I would not be a student without having time management issues. That's the one thing that bonds my whole school experience together. But it’s maybe the most important habit to develop, and it eventually becomes second nature. Just learn to prioritize. Whatever you're the least confident about, spend more time on. I'm probably just preaching to the choir, but believe me: this method is super effective.
How did the school support you with your exam preparation?
I was very lucky to have excellent teachers to guide me through the infernal month of exams. One thing that my school does extremely well is promote a culture of curiosity and inquiry. An active approach to studying can drastically change your results, so don’t be shy; start asking questions! Smart questions engage your deeper thinking. My school also has very friendly teachers, which is more important than it seems. A lot of students are afraid to raise their hand because they fear embarrassment, but this concept does not exist in my school. How can we learn if we don’t identify where our knowledge has gaps? Once you get over any fear you might have about looking silly in front of your peers or teachers, your curiosity has a chance to flourish and learning becomes that much more satisfying.
Do you have any advice for others who will soon take their IGCSE exams on how to achieve good results?
I can’t say it enough: work smarter, not harder. Of course, diligence is necessary, but it's not always the universal answer. It’s far better to have an effective working strategy that makes the time you spend studying efficient, which is why I like to study with my friends. It might seem counter-intuitive to share your knowledge, but it's actually a very good way to help you revise. Your peers have perspectives and methods of understanding material that you don’t necessarily have, and it’s only to your benefit to consider those perspectives. I have gotten into more heated discussions about my studies than I can possibly count, and look where it has gotten me! Don't shy away from others: learning is a give-and-take process, after all. Honestly, you are basically just exchanging viewpoints, and all those new perspectives end up giving a lot of dimension to your exam responses. Why choose 2D if you can have 3D!