HE CAME, HE SAW, HE DOMINATED
Zohaib Asad, a student from Pakistan , astonished every one by acquiring 42 A’s in Cambridge O/A Level examination combined, setting a new record at international level. Let’s have an inside-look into the brainiac’s life.
Omeir: Students normally sit for 6-8 O – levels and 3-4 A –levels what made you think that you should appear for 28 O levels and 10 A-levels ?
Zohaib: The figure currently stands at 30 O levels and 12 A levels at A’s which I gave after my initial record of 28 O level and 10 A level A’s was announced. I started off with the typical 8 O levels and added up 2 extras along the way, so my goal was 10 O levels. So, there was no plan of doing any more than that but eventually as I reached my AS year I was able to grab some more along the way as I felt during the time of the registration that I could do more. I always try to go for the probable in my view, and try to stick to the decisions once I make up my mind.
Omeir: Giving 28 O levels (CIE) exams is no easy task. How did you manage such a tough schedule?
Zohaib :As I stated earlier, most of my extra subjects were registered when the registrations opened, for school candidates they open much at least 3-4 months earlier, as you know. So, the workload was confined to those 3-4 months, then M/J 2010 came and I sat for 18 subjects in a row, on some days I remember having 5 papers on the same day. Quality of work, planning, and determination really do the trick, I’ll also add having control on your nerves and being able to handle pressure to that.
Omeir : What was the reaction of your family and friends when you decided to take up such a vast number of subjects? And after you scored 28 A’s in O levels.
Zohaib : Far off family members: Typical response, ‘josh main aa k rkh liye hain nae hon gay’(meaning :Are you in your senses ? )
Parents and siblings: You can do it !
After the results (Alhamdulillah), parents and siblings for sure were jubilant, others at least, pretended to be delighted.
Omeir: Repko (2009) asserts that interdisciplinary instruction fosters advances in cognitive ability and other educational researchers (Kavaloski 1979, Newell 1990, Field et al. 1994, Vess 2009) have identified a number of distinct educational benefits of interdisciplinary learning including gains in the ability to: Recognize bias,Think-critically,Tolerate ambiguity,Acknowledge and appreciate ethical concerns.
You have studied variety of subjects from quite early age , What do you have to say about what the research confirms, share your personal experience.
Zohaib : In my experience, I agree. An interdisciplinary approach not only keeps you neutral and well informed about your ultimate career and in everyday life but also provides you with an opportunity to decide what to specialize in. In economic terms, ‘specialization’ is to allocate resources to where you have a comparative advantage, or lets put it in simple terms, do what you are relatively better at doing. Students, at least in Pakistan base their career decisions on what their parents want, what the online (capitalism biased) statistics say about salaries associated to various jobs, and hence might end up doing something they don’t enjoy doing eventually.
Omeir: Tell us more about your University experience – What is your major? How far have those many O/A levels helped you in transition from school to College?
Zohaib: I’m currently at McGill University, Canada and I’m pursuing a double majors in Economics and International Development. Next month, I’ll be entering the final year of my undergraduate and so far I haven’t come across a course, be it a major requirement or elective that I found totally new. I’ve almost in all cases received immense help from my past qualifications.
Omeir: In present time the competition is fierce , this is what is taught to every student from a very early age. What do you have to say about this .Is it the race of being the best that makes a person to reach his full potential or is there any other way in which students of our age contribute?
Zohaib: Competition is just a force that helps bring the best out of you, why would you work hard when even poor qualifications could allow you to enter a flourishing career and earn you respect? Take competition as a motivation to do better, but at the same time don’t fall into the trap of simply doing what everyone else is doing, explore your skills, then think of what you’re relatively good at, plan a career out of that, if your mind is satisfied with that then it’s worth all the effort.
Omeir: What tips would you give to students preparing for upcoming exams?
Zohaib : Quality will always dominate quantity, focus more on the technical aspects of your subjects such as ‘grading schemes, past year exams, examiner reports’ and make a manageable plan, then stick to it. Knowing or doing everything is not the key to success, being able to express what you know in the correct manner is the ultimate key to success.
I’d like to add here that I do classes for O/IGCSE, AS/A level students. We started off from Pakistan a year ago and the classroom now consists of students ranging from at least 12 countries, those still in their O, A levels can be a part of it at any time.
Omeir: Do you have any message for prospective undergrads?
Zohaib: The transition from A levels to undergrad is a fast paced and a hectic one. You need to start browsing through universities and make a final list of universities (bring it down to somewhere around 10 maximum, assuming you may want to apply somewhere abroad as well) and inform yourselves of the entry requirements for the program of your choice (by AS you need to know what program you have to apply to). Over the AS summers your target is to start preparing for any entry tests (SATs, MCATs, BMAT etc), start filling up the application forms well in advance of the application deadline and make sure to submit everything required by the application.
Stay calm, stay focused, don’t let slightly lower AS grades harm your A2. Good luck !
Zohaib Asad Syed
McGill University, Canada (2011-2015 Double Majors in Economics and International Development)
Beaconhouse School System, Islamabad (Class of 2011)
International A/AS level 12 A’s
International O/GCSE Level 30 A’s
University of Cambridge Outstanding Learner Awards
Top in the Region Human and Social Biology
Top in the Region International General Paper
First student in the history of the world to have qualified a total of 50 International O/GCSE and A level subjects combined
Listed as one of the ‘Notable People’ of McGill University’s history
Prime Minister of Pakistan’s Award, Twice BSS Gold Medalist, POF Gold Medal, PAFP Gold Medal