20 students from ESF schools score perfect marks on 2019 IB exam

Wong Tsui-kai |

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This year, a record 20 ESF students achieved perfect scores in the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, making up the vast majority of the city's 34 top scorers.

Sha Tin College came out tops with a whopping nine top scorers, with King George V producing four, Renaissance College three, Island School two, and West Island and Discovery College getting one each.

Seventeen of the ESF students scored 44 points, a mere one point away from the perfect 45, while 214 students scored above 40 points. 

We spoke to a few of the academic elites to find out how they prepared for the IB, and what their future plans are.

Carliss Ling wants to study business.
Photo: Veronica Lin/SCMP

Carliss Ling Tsz-yin from STC is the only student among the 20 interested in studying business and law. “Hong Kong is a very business heavy place, and that can’t work without law enforcement. I like to learn more about how they interact,” she said. “My mother is a company secretary, so I became interested, too. But there was definitely no family pressure. I wanted to pick either science or business. My parents support me.”    

She found public speaking the most difficult thing about the IB. “It forces you to be an well rounded person, which sometimes means doing things you’re bad at.

“I’m a quiet person, so it was really challenging. But my confidence and speaking improved. Looking back, it was worthwhile.”  

Bianca Yuen Sze-ming from Renaissance says she took Chinese A, the higher level language course, instead of a science or arts subject, which locked her into the bilingual diploma. “It was very difficult. I’m very grateful to the teachers for giving me lots of support and to the school for being accommodating.”

The IB 2019 results are in! We spoke to some of Hong Kong's top scorers after they learned they'd scored 45 points

But one of the most important things the IB programme teaches isn’t book knowledge or test-taking, but soft skills. “You need to make good use of your time working on your internal assessments. I learned a lot from them. Like time management and problem-solving,”  said Bianca.

With such a harsh course, the prospective psychology student says stress management is essential. “You have to take breaks and relax. I play on my phone for a bit or listen to music.” 

Russell thinks working hard and putting the time in is key.
Photo: Veronica Lin/SCMP

Another Renaissance student, Russell Liu Mingan, intends to Study computer science, because he likes the right or wrong nature of the subject. “If you write a program, as long as you write it logically, it will run. If it doesn’t, then it’s your problem. I like things without blurry areas.” 

He found language to be the most difficult part of the IB, admitting his ability to speak English is not as good as his writing or reading. But, he said, there is no such thing as a shortcut or easy tip. “You have to read, write, listen and speak more. You just have to put in the time. You gradually improve with daily life experiences.”

Russell takes that same approach to studying the sciences. “My way is to read the textbooks and revise. Sciences are drilled. If you have something you don’t understand, ask the teacher. If the teacher can’t answer, ask a schoolmate.”

Why do students take the IB exams? What are the pros and cons?

Adrian Yan from Discovery is a self-admitted STEM guy, with plans to study engineering in Britain. He was really eager to see his results online. “I was surprised there was no buffer when I tried to see my results, I thought it would be busy and take a few hours. So I was very surprised when I saw them.” 

Adrian felt the hardest thing in the IB was picking his topics for his internal assessments. “The IA gives you a lot of freedom, and that makes it hard to decide,” he says, explaining how he chose to work on the problem of quantifying a sagging wire between two poles for physics. “There were a lot of things to apply, like tension and gravity,”  he says.

ESF Chief Executive Officer, Belinda Greer, was thrilled with the results. “These are remarkable results – the best in our history. They are the culmination of years of hard work by the students and their teachers – and have been achieved thanks to the unstinting support offered to the young men and women by their families and friends,” she said. “Today is a day for celebrating the achievements of these amazing students,"