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Studuents Off to A ‘Perfect’ Start

February, 2008
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It is said that only about 0.2% of the IB candidates worldwide can earn 45 points, full score on the IB Diploma exams. Sherry Ho and Adhira Mangalagiri from the International School of Beijing (ISB) are among these few elite achievers, and their achievement marks the school’s first perfect IB scores to date. We are delighted and very proud to talk to the two girls…

IMG_6258   Sherry Ho is now studying at Stanford University in the USA. The classes she is taking range from a psychiatry class about sleep and dreams to a religion class. She finds campus life a lot of fun as well. She is involved in many campus groups and has made lots of great friends already.

  “It was my first choice, and my experience here has been wonderful so far,” said Sherry.

  Sherry moved from the United States to Taipei in 1998 and attended Taipei American School for six years. Then she moved to Beijing to attend the International School of Beijing from 2004 to 2007.

  “The IB program is a two-year program for high school students at ISB, and I took it during junior and senior years,” said Sherry, who finished the courses with outstanding marks.

LittleStar: You are one of the 0.2% of the IB candidates worldwide to achieve the full score of 45 points, how did you do it?

Sherry: I think that the best way to do well on the IB exams is to work hard from the very start of the program. In addition, it helps to be organized in keeping track of old notes or practice tests and to get help from others when needed.

LittleStar: How did you like the IB Diploma program?

Sherry: I liked the IB program very much. Even though it was extremely challenging and hard at times, I am really glad to have taken it in retrospect. The diploma program was especially rewarding because it forced me to push myself to the limit while simultaneously introducing me to a wide range of subjects that I might look to pursue in university.

LittleStar: How do you think IB prepared you for university?

Sherry: I think that the IB program helped me most in terms of time-management. The IB diploma program requires, in addition to the three standard-level and three high-level classes, an extended essay, community service hours, action hours and creativity hours. A high level of time-management and discipline is needed to complete all of these tasks and having that skill now is extremely helpful in university to keep up with academics and extra-curricular activities. It was good, also, to have taken IB courses as opposed to more general courses because they were accelerated and more challenging.

LittleStar: Would you recommend other students take IB DP?

Sherry: I would definitely recommend the IB diploma program to other high school students. I don’t think that any other high school academic program could prepare a student better for university. The IB DP program required candidates to take three “standard-level” classes and three “higher-level” classes from required subject areas such as natural science, mathematics, language, social science, etc. Therefore, IB DP candidates finished the program as very well rounded students. In addition, taking the same courses over a two-year period allows students to get to know their teachers and advisors very well, which is extremely worthwhile.

LittleStar: How about your international school experiences? How does one excel in such a school environment?

Sherry: It was great just to interact with people from different cultures. Through talking with people from different countries, I learned a lot about the places in the world where I have never been but would someday like to go. Being at an international school also made it easier to assimilate myself into the university lifestyle. The best way to excel at in international school is to make the best use of the resources that are made available to you. I think that high school students should always challenge themselves and endeavour to take the most rigorous programs the school offers. They shouldn’t be afraid to fail or do badly every now and again; that’s actually when you learn the most. In addition, it helps to communicate often with your teachers and get help and advice from them whenever you can.

   Currently, Adhira Mangalagiri is attending the Vassar College, a small liberal arts school with approximately 2,400 students. Recently, Vassar College was ranked 11th in a national ranking of American liberal arts schools.

  “In general, Vassar is very liberal in its mindset. People are very open, very democratic, and very conscious about social issues,” said Adhira, adding that the great advantage of going to a small school is that “your voice gets heard – in class, in the dorms, among your friends and the faculty.”

  Adhira is also thinking of double majoring in Chinese and Political Science, as well as pursuing teacher certification during her time at Vassar.

  “I am also on the Division I Women’s Rugby team at Vassar, [which is] among the top ten in the USA,” added the girl. “Vassar is also one of the richest schools in the country, which is great for me because I get lots of financial aid!”

  Adhira attributes all her success to five years at the International School of Beijing (ISB), which was her first experience at an international school, and the IB program she did in 11th and 12th grades.

LittleStar: You are one of the 0.2% of the IB candidates worldwide to achieve a perfect score of 45 points, how did you do it?

Adhira: The IB was definitely challenging and pushed me beyond my academic limits. But I didn’t feel burdened with work because I chose classes that interested me. When I started the IB in 11th grade and heard what I had in store for me, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But the program is so intensive that I didn’t realize how much I had grown and learnt in the span of just two years. By 12th grade, I felt confident for most of my exams and assessments.

LittleStar: How did you like the IB Diploma Program?

Adhira: I had a rocky relationship with the IB program – we fluctuated between love and hate. But in retrospect, I am so happy that I chose the Diploma. In high school, what I liked most about the IB was that it was very fast-paced and well structured. We had a set amount of material to learn, and my teachers were all very experienced in teaching us within the time constraints. In college, the IB helped me to make friends with the international students because many of us had the IB Diploma in common. Even though I didn’t end up taking my higher-level courses in college, I found that I naturally wrote better papers than most because the IB trained me to write well. And I also don’t have to take as many classes because I transferred over a semester worth of college credits. This gives me more time to concentrate on extracurricular activities, like sports, a luxury that not many college students have. The IB wasn’t always smooth-sailing, but it proved to be well worth the hard work.

LittleStar: How do you think IB prepared you for university?

Adhira: The IB served as a very solid foundation for university. My college courses are almost twice as difficult as my IB classes. But without the IB, I would have found them even harder. The most useful aspect of the IB in college is its emphasis on critical thinking. In the IB you might be able to get by with considering only one side of the story in any subject. But in college, you’d be lucky to pass the class without any critical analysis. In life… well, I’ll always be able to say that I scored a 45 on the IB!

LittleStar: Would you recommend other students take IB DP?

Adhira: I strongly recommend taking the IB Diploma Program. In addition to the classes, TOK (Theory of Knowledge), CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) and EE (Extended Essay) are truly worth your efforts. Not only does the Diploma provide students with a wide range of tangible education, but it improves general life-skills. Some of the benefits that I reaped were time-management, test-taking, writing, oral, and language skills. Students require these not only for college, but even after that – for graduate school and jobs.

Besides, the program has really high recognition all over the world, especially in Europe and Australia, but even in North America, schools have increasingly begun to look on the IB as a top diploma.

LittleStar: How about your international school experience? How does one excel in such a school environment?

Adhira: I never realized the advantage of studying in an international school until I moved to the States. Over here, all my classes are focused around the American perspective. In ISB, our classes were shaped by different cultures and experiences, a really important factor for me. Attending an international school has impacted my life in college. Luckily, Vassar has a sizeable international population. I am very involved with the international community, and most of my friends in college are international students. In today’s world especially, being a global citizen is definitely an asset.


  It is not possible to write out a set of guidelines on “how to excel in an international school” because people have their own methods of excelling. For me, I spent only a certain number of hours on assignments, and seldom stayed up late at night studying. But at the same time, I never turned in an assignment I didn’t feel comfortable with. I recognized that at a school like ISB, my teachers had years of experience with the IB. So I always made sure to talk with them about how to improve my work. Before tests and exams, I spent a lot of time studying and discussing the material with my friends. And I was very careful not to let my studies create an imbalance with my life outside of school.


By Xing Yangjian

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