Scene around: Five IGCSE top-scorers give us their tops tips for acing the exams


Do regular revision, rest and manage your time well, say these students

Nicola Chan |

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Taking the IGCSE? Here are tips from those who been there.

Study, and write concisely and economically

– Arthur Wong Shing-yu, 17, French International School Hong Kong

Arthur has a strategic approach to exams. For example, on text-based exams, he recommends judging how much to write based on the marks allocated for a question. “If you’re writing a five-paragraph essay for a two-mark question, that’s probably not the best idea.” Or for the maths exam, be sure you know what programmes you can add to your calculator, he said, because sorting that out ahead of time “simplifies a difficult problem into a far easier one”.

Arthur said it’s crucial to do as many past papers as you can. “It helps you remember things better, allows you to apply your knowledge, and de-stresses you in the actual exam.”

His most important advice for humanities students is to remember to define key terms and contextualise answers. Science students, meanwhile, must be sure to organise and fully explain their answers while also linking together key ideas.

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Don’t forget the visual aids and your coursework

– Kim Ji-Yeon, 16, West Island School

Ji-Yeon’s secret to making revision easier is to present information visually. “I found drawing diagrams in my notes useful,” she said. Ji-Yeon also set rules for herself when doing past papers to get used to racing against the clock. For example, she would aim to get the first five questions done in 40 minutes, while tackling the last three questions within the last hour.

While acing the exam is important, Ji-Yeon stressed you shouldn’t overlook the weight your coursework carries. “Avoid neglecting any coursework and take advantage of the fact that you can spend time to make it better,” she said. “Even if exams don’t go very well, good coursework can drag your result up.”

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Manage your time well and ask for help

Maggie Tam Hiu-ching, 15, PLK Choi Kai Yau School

Maggie’s recipe for getting the perfect score includes having good time management and resting up.

“Make sure you are on task. Manage your time well to finish your coursework and revision, but also get enough sleep,” she said. “Don’t work until late at night.”

When you encounter obstacles, don’t forget to ask for help and read more on the subject, she added. “Remember to aim higher and not be satisfied with just passing … It is for your own benefit. You are studying for yourself, not for anyone else!”

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Spread out your revision – don’t cram it

– Adrian Chan, 16, King George V School

Adrian advised making your own notes, as well as doing regular revision and past papers. “Don’t leave revision until [the last minute], or else you’ll be too stressed to do well,” he said.

Although Further Pure Mathematics gave him the worst headache, Adrian still managed to get a A*. The key, he said, is doing practice questions every week and asking your teacher for help when needed. “Going to tutors outside school is also useful, but you need to practise on your own as well.”

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Be interested in what you’re learning

– Michelle Lo Wai-man, 16, Yew Chung International School of Hong Kong

Despite being tested on a chapter she didn’t thoroughly revise, Michelle managed to gain an A* for her Biology exam. She attributed her success to having a “genuine interest” in learning.

“Try to understand what you’re learning instead of memorising the facts. [Rote learning] is not going to help you in the exams, where you’re asked to apply your knowledge,” she said.

Michelle added that being well-rounded will help you “in nearly every area”, regardless of the exam subject. “Even when you’re answering a science paper, you have to present your answers clearly, and it involves your language skills,” she explained.

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