Aiming for As: Cambridge exams start today, panic began months ago

Published: May 7, 2012
Most O’ Level students sit exams for seven to eight subjects a year, as that is the set limit for private schools.

Most O’ Level students sit exams for seven to eight subjects a year, as that is the set limit for private schools.

KARACHI: For most A’ and O’ Level students, the Cambridge International Examinations spell doom. They have to cram everything they learnt over three years and reproduce it within three hours or less.

The CAS School’s Anas Ghazanffar will be sitting his first O’ Level exam on Monday. His sister said that she could see the nerves kicking in as he paced the kitchen floor with his notes in hand. She added that his first paper was Pakistan Studies and he hoped that whatever came he would be able to answer it well.

The Lyceum School’s Asad Ali said that he will be suffering for a long time as his exams continue well into June. It was like he had been thrown into the worst fires of hell.

Karachi Grammar School’s Meiryum Ali (who writes a column for these pages) is sitting her A’ Levels. She quipped that they were doomed. Her advice was for all students to deactivate their Facebook accounts.

The principal of Southshore School for A-level studies, Raheel Masood, told The Express Tribune that around 500 students from the school would be appearing for the AS and A’ Level exams this year.

Most O’ Level students sit exams for seven to eight subjects a year, as that is the set limit for private schools. However, those who appear privately can sit as many as they want. The same goes for AS and A’ Levels, however, schools do not let students to register for more than five subjects.

Ali Moin Nawazish, for example, scored 21 As in 23 subjects in his O’ Levels and went on to study at Cambridge University.

The students sitting for the exams put a lot on the line. It is imperative for O’ Level students to score a certain number of As to be able to move on to A’ Levels. Karachi Grammar School, the Lyceum, Nixor and Southshore each have their own admissions criteria. But suffice it to say, with a limited number of schools and a burgeoning student population, the competition is tough. Up till 2009, most students could only apply to A’ Level institutions after they received their results, but now they apply in advance.

According to Masood, the school discourages students from taking on more than five courses as it burdens them. “We are not like other schools who allow students to sit 10 to 15 exams,” he said.

As far as the arrangements for the exams were concerned, Masood said that considering the extremely hot weather, all examination centres should be furnished properly. It is slated to be 33 degrees Celsius today.

Last-minute preparation mostly consists of going over and solving past papers rather than focusing on theory. “Appearing for the CIE exam is a unique experience,” said Rumana Mehdi, an O’ Levels student from AES School for Girls. “Despite revising the entire syllabus twice, I am still anxious about my Business Studies exam. I have solved plenty of past papers and hope it suffices.”

Abdullah Mir, a private A’ Level candidate, said that given the subjects he had chosen, he’d have to put in a lot of effort to get good grades. “When you choose subjects like history, psychology and law, there are no right or wrong answers as with mathematics and physics,” said Mir. “Not doing well in your A’ Levels means limiting your college options.”  He added that at the end of two years, going through a number of reference books had become quite a tedious task.

Mir said that while some students prefer to study in groups, he wanted to be alone. He felt that that studying in a group was more fun and games and you rarely finished a past paper.

For most psychology students, this year the course has become tougher as ten new case studies were added to the A’ Level syllabus. A panic-stricken Zarlasht Adnan from Nixor College said that this meant they wouldn’t even be able to consult past papers..

Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Latif
    May 7, 2012 - 3:31PM

    Law On 10thRecommend

  • Avinash
    May 7, 2012 - 7:26PM

    It’s funny, students who panic so much are the ones who usually score straight A’s. Kids plz stop that! CIE’s aren’t that difficult, there’s a reason why they call it ‘Ordinary’ level ;).


  • Aamir
    May 7, 2012 - 9:39PM

    @Avinash: haha you’re right, they panic for no reason! O lvl is crap! AS is okayish and A2 is somewhat difficult.


  • pakistani
    May 8, 2012 - 3:44PM

    It’s not easy nor it’s difficult its just that when we are done through that stage then everything seems easy because we move towards more advance level. 1=1+2 is easy for a 2nd grader thn a 1st grader.


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