AN EXAM that demands a spewing out of memorised facts and no original thinking does little for a student's intellectual development, say three of La Salle College's top students. The students - James Leung Koon-chung, Bosco Ng Ka-leung and Justin Ho Kwong-yin - were referring to the syllabus of the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations (HKCEE), at which they garnered a bouquet of distinctions two weeks ago. What counts at the HKCEE is just how much you have been able to memorise, not how hard or deeply you have thought about your subject, James says. The 17-year-old earned eight As - six A(1)s in English Language, Principles of Accounts, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Religious Studies, and A(2)s in Mathematics and Additional Mathematics. Flipping through exam papers, one would find more ''what'' than ''why'' questions, James pointed out. ''The syllabus doesn't require deep understanding or analysis.'' In full agreement with James was Bosco, who scored six A(1)s in English Language, Computer Studies, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Religious Studies, and two A(2)s in Chinese Language and Mathematics. ''There's only one answer to a question, and your answer is graded according to whether it includes the key word or key sentence given. There are no questions that need to be looked at from different angles,'' Bosco, also 17, said. He added that in general students were expected to be satisfied with what they were told, and not encouraged to challenge what they learnt. For their own satisfaction, however, the three La Salle top-scorers made it a point to memorise what had to be learnt, ''challenge'' the information and ''digest'' it only after being ''proved''. James said his approach was to question any information he received. ''I do not accept anything as fact until I have thought hard about it. I put questions to my teachers, look up reference books and turn to my own observations before I settle for an answer.'' Meanwhile, Justin relies heavily on reference work. He scored five A(1)s in Biology, Computer Studies, Physics, Religious Studies and Mathematics, and A(2)s in English Language, Additional Mathematics and Chemistry. ''I check as many reference books as possible to look for alternate explanations for scientific phenomena,'' the 16-year-old said. The trio concluded that their formula for exam success was: ask questions in class; get a good grasp of the important points in a lesson; draw up a balanced time-table for study and relaxation, and, of course, work hard.