9A*s in hand for gritty gal

No small feat: Vera obtained 9A*s in her recent IGCSE exams.

 I ENTERED Year Seven, the British educational system’s equivalent of Form One, bright-eyed and eager to saturate my mind with as much new knowledge as was conceivable.

As a studious girl who revelled in learning new things, the prospect of exploring subjects such as Literature and Drama, which had not been offered in my previous school, left me brimming with excitement and curiosity.

And my time in Year Seven did not disappoint. I ventured into algebra, which at times left me dazed and confused, as well as history where I learnt about the monumental Battle of Hastings, and the six wives of King Henry VIII.

Despite having a few hiccups along the way, I emerged second in my class and the 13th in my grade, not a bad start for a secondary school student.

However, my steady start was by no means an accurate representation of the rest of my journey.

Things took a turn as I progressed further. Studying suddenly seemed too overwhelming, demanding more energy than what I was capable of producing.

Time in school took achingly long to pass as if an hour had ballooned into a week and a week had stretched into a millennium. My attention drifted during classes. If you had asked me about the content of my lessons, I could have only offered a shrug accompanied by an inadequate answer that was far from accurate.

These habits yielded unsatisfactory results, taking a toll on my academic performance. By the year’s end, I was ranked 130th in my grade, 117 spots down from my original standing.

This all changed as I moved on to upper secondary and took on more demanding courses such as Additional Mathematics and Physics that were notoriously known for their complex formulas and copious assignments.

The looming International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams, an equivalent to the local Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exams, knocked me out of my relaxed stupor, forcing me to realise the importance of my education and the power it possessed over my future.

Reading Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ memoir titled Small Fry wherein she chronicles the hard work required for acceptance into Harvard College allowed me to imagine myself as a student in the esteemed university.

Learning that the members of my favourite indie rock band, Vampire Weekend, had attended the prestigious Columbia University cemented my desire to study in a top-tier university.

Slowly, my goal shifted. I was studying not just to secure good grades, but also for a greater purpose: to enrol in the best schools the world has to offer.

Determined to avoid any negative consequences, I entered a new headspace with a refreshing dose of motivation and some much needed inspiration.

I studied rigorously, resuming the same intensity that I had appropriated in my earlier years, often under the weak glow of the living room light.

Late at night, I pored over my textbooks, reading the pages ad nauseam to ensure my mind was well saturated with pieces of salient information that could be tested in exams.

Sometimes, potholes appeared on my yellow brick road or a mist obscured the glistening Emerald City entirely.

And when the movement control order was enforced to curb the spread of Covid-19, my usual routine of attending physical school was upended.

Paying attention to lessons, especially when the topic was mundane albeit important, became increasingly difficult.

Moreover, I struggled to forge connections with my classmates, causing my social life to diminish and a deep sense of loneliness to take hold within me.

Fortunately, a good support system comprising my parents and brother pulled me out of the thickets and I was up on my feet again.

Time flew by and as the month of October arrived, I marched into the exam hall armed with the prerequisite knowledge and charged with confidence.

The exams were relatively easy and having done a large sum of past year papers available online, the answers revealed themselves swiftly.

My pen flew across the page with ease and to my delight, I received my IGCSE certificate last month complete with a column of glimmering 9A*s.

Vera, 17, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team.

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