'I was never the topper kinds. In fact, till Class 8, I was not in the top five.'
'I was hoping to stand first in my school, but this was totally unexpected.'
ICSE topper Muskan Pathan from Pune reveals to Divya Nair how timely preparation and determination helped her clinch success.
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Photographs: Kind courtesy Muskan Pathan
In 2016 when the Council of Indian School Certificate Examination's ICSE results were announced, Muskan Pathan, then in Class 9, was in awe of her senior Aditya Iyengar's score -- 98.8 per cent in Class 10. He stood third in the country.
"It may sound childish but I had only one aim: I wanted to defeat his (Aditya's) score," says the 15 year old, who scored 99.4 per cent and topped the country in the ICSE Class 10 results announced May 29.
Muskan, who studied at Hutchings High School, Pune, shares the top rank with Ashwin Rao from Bengaluru this year.
With no private coaching, Muskan, who had stood third in the preliminary exams held in her school earlier this year, scored a perfect 100 in mathematics and commerce.
She is grateful to her school and her parents. Her father Abdulla is a software engineer with Learning Mate in Mumbai and mother Dr Shakira is a dentist practicing in Pune.
Muskan lives with her grandparents and younger brother Raunak, who is in class V.
She tells Divya Nair/Rediff.com how she did it.
Were you expecting to top the country?
I was hoping to stand first in my school. But this was totally unexpected.
How did you react?
At 3.30 pm, I was checking my results online and was happy that I had scored well.
I was super excited.
At 4 pm, I received a call from my school informing me that I was the All-India topper. After I hung up, I was jumping and dancing like crazy.
Were you always academically bright?
I was never the topper kinds. In fact, till Class 8, I was not in the top five.
I took studies seriously when I reached Class 9. Even in the Class 10 preliminary examination held at the start of the year I stood third.
What was your study strategy?
I believe that for any competitive exam, you have to start in advance. I have been studying from Day One without missing any chapters. I also feel that it is important to take breaks and not exert yourself.
On school days, I would study for five hours and during holidays, I would study an hour or so extra.
I'd go to bed by 11 pm and wake up by 6 am.
When I took a break, I would either go swimming, play with my younger brother or hang out with friends.
What was the most challenging part of the exam?
For me, it was fighting the fear and tension that I may not perform well and meet my own expectations.
I did not want to disappoint.
How did you deal with the pressure to perform and excel?
I don’t pay attention to what other people say. I believed in my abilities and that became my strength. I got a lot of support from my parents and teachers. They helped me concentrate on the exam.
What are the common mistakes students make while preparing?
You have to study from Day One. I have seen students delaying their studies and in the last few months, they end up spending 8 to 10 hours without sleeping or eating on time. That is very stressful. That kind of preparation doesn’t help at all.
What are the qualities essential to crack the ICSE exam?
A positive attitude and confident state of mind combined with regular studies. It is also important to solve previous year’s question papers to have a better idea of what to expect in the actual exam.
What's next for you?
I'd like to pursue medicine. I want to become a successful doctor.
Your message to our student readers?
It doesn't matter how many hours you study or how many years you have worked hard to achieve your goal. What matters is how much quality you have invested in your hard work.
In the process of getting top marks, do not compromise on your health and personal life. You must find time in your schedule to relax your mind and pursue other interests outside of academics.
But when you sit to study, give it your all.