It’s too late to pray now. D-Day is here. Today thousands of high school students across Pakistan will walk on tenterhooks into their schools to line up for the dreaded white slips of paper with their Cambridge International Ordinary (O), Advanced Subsidary (AS), and Advanced (A) level exam results.
“All my friends are freaking out!” cried Rubab, a student at Karachi Grammar School who is expecting her O’ Level results. “Everyone’s nervous since we’ll all be applying for A’ Levels.”
For some students their entire futures, and relationship with their parents, are at stake. The O’ Level results for exams sat after 11 years of schooling, will open the door for the two-year A’ Levels that lead to university. This is, in turn, pegged to how prestigious a school and university you get in to.
This summer some class 10 batches got two subjects out of the way already - Pakistan Studies and Islamiat - as many schools prefer their students tackle this challenge instead of facing exams in up to 12 subjects all at once at the end of class 11.
AS Level students, who fall between the O’ and A’ Levels, are more or less resigned to their fates. According to them, they will either earn the necessary grades and go on to study at college, or they won’t.
A’ Level students will be biting their nails because if they don’t make the grade, their tentative admissions offers to university may be cancelled. “Students applying to universities in the UK are visibly nervous,” said Zain, a student at Nixor College. “Most of them have to meet conditional offers from their universities.” For example, Kings College may tell a student that she must score at least a B in her A’ Level World History exam if she plans to take a Medieval Studies major.
Some lucky students who have already received confirmed admissions to American and Canadian universities, are sitting easy. They applied earlier and got in based on their AS Level results.
In Lahore around 22,000 students have appeared in O’ and A’ Levels exam. Masroor, a student at the International School of Choueifat, said, “I am expecting a very good result today. I have already secured admission in a top US university. Still I am eagerly waiting for my A’ Level result.”
But not everyone can afford to pay for a university abroad. Many students stay at home and study here. Out of the students applying to universities within Pakistan, those applying to the Aga Khan University Hospital for medical degree programmes need A’ Level results. Other universities in Pakistan place a greater emphasis on their own entrance tests and A’ Level results are of secondary importance in comparison.
Ahmar, an A’ Level student, who wishes to join a medical school, said, “Though only 60 per cent marks are necessary to sit in the entry test, the merit closes at around 82 per cent.”
Aside from the students, many teachers share the nervousness because of the sheer amount of hard work put in. There can be delightful surprises and deadly let-downs. Sometimes an average student will emerge with a stunning 13-A result and a brilliant student will scrape through with a disappointing C.
“Of course we are still praying for our students,” said Sufia Umar, an economics teacher at Nixor College. “We had a good batch this year and we’ve all worked hard to prepare our students for the exams.”
With additional reporting by Meiryum Ali and Ali Usman
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.
Correction: Due to an editing error, the caption of the picture was running an incorrect fact. It has been changed.