Varrya Saxena and Han Qirong give HoneyKids the lowdown on their strategies to get perfect scores on the IGCSE.
Our own test-taking days may be a distant memory (thankfully), but we’re still in awe of Varrya Saxena and Han Qirong of Overseas Family School (OFS). The 2 students recently aced the IGCSE exams for Maths and Mandarin (respectively)! Because of this, they’ve received the ‘Top in the World’ award, an accolade only given to students who have gained the highest standard mark – globally – for a single subject. And the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) isn’t just any exam – it’s one of the most academically rigorous tests out there. Although OFS has consistently produced perfect scorers in both the IGCSE and International Baccalaureate (IB) year after year, it isn’t every day we get the lowdown from the students themselves on how they’ve achieved this distinction. Here’s what Varrya and Qirong had to say…
Congratulations! You both received the prestigious Cambridge ‘Top in the World’ award for attaining the highest standard mark in the world for a single subject. How did you feel when you got the news?
Varrya: Actually, you should ask my mum this question – she remembers the day to a tee! The IGCSE results were out and, after a cursory look, I sent them to my parents and brother. When my mum looked at the results and realised it said ‘100’ in mathematics, she wasn’t really sure what it meant. She asked my brother: “Is this a 100 out of 100?” My brother nodded with pride and then my father was informed. He left his office and picked me up from school, then told me to look at my results more carefully. And then I realised. So yes, it was a very pleasant surprise.
Qirong: I felt a bit surprised, but happiness followed shortly after. I was proud to show this grade to my parents.
Tell us about your preparation process – what’s your secret? Any tips for students taking the next exams?
Qirong: To be fair, there is no real secret. Practise, practise, practise, that’s all. But practising Mandarin can be challenging as most students, including me, do not always have a Mandarin-speaking environment around them. I’m from China but came to Singapore at a young age. I was fortunate to know some friendly Chinese students at the school, and I asked for their help. They’d help correct my mistakes, and these practice sessions helped me to achieve a good grade in Mandarin IGCSE. It’s also important to have a calm and clear mind before any exam.
Varrya: OFS provided a strong foundation. I owe it all to my maths teachers, who have patiently handled my queries time and again and helped me develop a devotion to the subject. Over the years, I have developed a habit of practising a lot of past papers. Hence my secret is actually not much of a secret! My teacher, Mr Cox, also spent an enormous amount of time on me, clearing my doubts. This helped me better my concepts.
How has OFS helped you to achieve your goals?
Varrya: It is a privilege to study at a school like OFS. The nurturing environment, made up of caring and hardworking teachers and students, encouraged me to keep going. Without OFS and the wonderful people – both faculty and friends – that I am surrounded by, I wouldn’t have had such a ‘fire in my belly’ to reach my personal goals. In fact, without the help of OFS, I would not even know how to set my goals and strive for them.
Qirong: OFS created a safe yet effective learning space, with a creative and organised campus atmosphere. Students can always seek – and always receive – help both academically and psychologically. Teachers follow the syllabus with utmost care without losing their individual flair, creating an optimal balance between entertainment and academics.
What are your future plans?
Qirong: I try not to think too far into the future. I am currently in the Grade 11 IB program at OFS and hope to pursue a degree in business in the UK.
Varrya: I intend to study business management and contribute to my parents’ group of companies in the future. This award has given me the confidence I needed to decide to take maths along with me in whatever I pursue. I am thinking either a degree in business administration (accountancy) or a double degree of business administration and media and communications, which would play to both my strengths and interests. The latter would enable me to learn about marketing in Singapore and might give me an internship with a multinational company, which will teach me the skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur like my parents. I would then like to travel a lot, to source products from companies and meet people who create and develop products that are eco-friendly, biodegradable and will pave our way to a sustainable earth. I would like to showcase these products to the world far and wide under my dream company.
Thanks Qirong and Varrya!
This post is in partnership with Overseas Family School (OFS).