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  • Writer's pictureStacey Chiew

The Success Story - Serena Merican

Each year, less than ten students achieve A* in the IGCSE literature in English in Malaysia. Serena Merican from Sri Kuala Lumpur International School represents one of the very few Malaysians who received Top in Malaysia award for this particular subject. She managed to score 7A*s in English Language, English Literature (Malaysia IGCSE Top Scholar), Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Art and 1 A in Malay as a Foreign Language in her Cambridge IGCSE exams.

Currently, she is a student at Concord College in the United Kingdom. How did she get better under pressure?

Photo: Serena Merican

1. How do you set your priorities and stay organized?

The pressure coming from my surroundings, my own expectations to be able to perform well at school, and finding my place in the ever-changing environment can be overwhelming. As a student, I understand that finding the best way to stay on top takes effort and needs constant adjustment and re-adjustment. To keep my studies on track, I usually plan out my day either scribble a schedule on the back of my hand or type out a to-do list on my phone and make it my phone’s wallpaper to remind me of my agenda for the day.

2. Where and when do you study? How do you take charge of your learning?

I am a big believer in studying on-the-go. I was an active sportsperson. Lessons were sometimes missed or training stole the time that I could have had holding a book and absorbing information of the materials being taught at school. So I trained myself and quickly got into the habit of scrolling through past year questions on my phone during long car rides or testing myself on a chemistry chapter with online quizzes in between breaks.

3. Do you stick to a routine?

I try my best to stick to a routine. However, modern technology has created a culture of distraction. I will turn off my smartphone when it is necessary to do so. I do use technology to enhance my study. At the same time, I know when to turn off my smartphone and make efforts to focus at least an hour of work before taking a short break and continuing the rest. This helps me remember my materials better.

4. Do you have enough sleep during exam time?

I constantly strive to do my best to find a balance between study and rest. When I don’t have enough sleep, I will try to make it up by taking a nap. At times it can be difficult to find a balance in everything, especially during exam time. Sometimes, I experience health issues during the beginning of exams due to lack of sleep. But I will always do my best to allow myself time to unwind, look for strategies to stay stress-free and keep myself as sane and as grounded as possible.

5. Do you clarify your doubts right away in class?

I don’t like the feeling of uncertainty. I like to fully understand what I’m being taught in class before the end of the period.

6. Do you use the internet to support your study?

I am a huge fan of online study websites and I depend on the internet for revision and note-making wherever I go, especially at parties or functions that I don’t want to miss out. This helps me feel less guilty for indulging and making time for myself and my friends just to have fun.

7. How do you achieve your goals?

Telling myself that I could do better and allowing myself to be proud of even the smallest achievement is what motivated me to keep going.

8. Do you categorize your friends?

I like surrounding myself with positive people, those who accept my flaws and encourage me to go further without triggering any anxiety attack or making me feel guilty for not working hard enough. Those who care about me genuinely would support me and want to see me do well. Having the right kind of friends count, they stand by me during challenging times.

9. How do you motivate yourself to keep going?

My parents have always had high expectations of me. However, my own expectations exceed theirs, this has propelled me to work even harder to meet my goals.

Serena Merican - 2017 IGCSE Results:

A* subjects: English Language English Literature (Malaysia IGCSE Top Scholar) Mathematics Chemistry Biology Physics Art

A subject: Malay as a Foreign Language

Article published in Dreamic educational magazine, 2018

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