Today, I want to tell you a story that many of you can relate.
This is not your regular glamorous viral story of a naturally talented student who obtains straight A’s without effort, but a story of an ordinary Malaysian Chinese student who followed a few simple success principles and disciplines to improve himself in his academic results.
It’s a story on How I Improve My Form 6 STPM CGPA from 1.33 to 3.25 out of 4.00 within five months period. For those of you who are not familiar with
For those of you who are not familiar with STPM, it is one of the most challenging national high school examination in the world.
As mentioned by Chok Suat Ling, the Associate News Editor of New Straits Times, “STPM is certainly not for the weak of heart and feeble of will. Many have sat it, with disastrous results.” So, is STPM our last choice of pre-university certificate?
As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So, I decided to get into one of the nation’s best high school – Catholic High School, Petaling Jaya aka C.H.S.
To make sure I got into C.H.S., I bluffed my physical address by forging a tenancy agreement with the parents of a friend who lives one block away from the school.
Then, I traveled all the way from my actual home in Ampang to Jabatan Pendidikan Selangor, Shah Alam by myself with public transportation to submit my Form 6 enrollment application. I pretty much grew up under my parent’s protective umbrella. So, the 3 hours journey was a huge deal for the 17-year-old me.
Of course, with my paper records showing I “lived” one block away from Catholic High School, they send me there.
When I first transferred to the school, thanks to my strong desire to prove to myself that I was capable of being highly educated, I did my best to convince my headmistress to place me in the pure science class that takes all five subjects at STPM.
I got into that class despite my mediocre SPM results (4A, 6B, 1C). Also, I had the lowest grade among my other 19 classmates. The next one above me got 7A in his/her SPM.
During my first year in Form Six (from May 2007 – June 2008), I wasn’t paying enough attention to my academics. I spent most of my time working as a part-time tuition center administrator and training for the public speaking club for Young Malaysian Movement.
During that period, I was also infatuated with one of my female classmates and therefore wasted a lot of waking hours being emotional due to my lack of experience in dating or just interacting with girls to whom I was attracted.
And yes, this was one of my many frustrating experiences that gave me the motivation to improve my dating game during my twenties.
I wasn’t confident and smart enough to be able to cope with all of that.
And you know what happened next?
I failed 3 subjects out of 5 in my Lower 6 final trial examination.
For the first time in my academic career, I got a 15 out of 100 for my Physics, despite having won the Top Physics Student Award during my Form 4.
My academic results hit me like an upper cut on my face. Then, I got hit again with a K.O. punch after becoming estranged from most of my classmates.
I could understand why they felt that way because I always seemed loud and active in class. Most of the days, I could not focus on studies after staying up all night for public speaking training. So, I would ask a lot of questions during the class to keep myself awake.
Without my notice, I appeared to be someone pretending to be proactive and brilliant but my results said otherwise.
There was a really unique culture at Catholic High School: If you have very good academic results, you can behave in whatever way you want, but you better just keep your mouth shut if you are mediocre. I learned the hard way on how to assimilate myself into a completely new social circle.
Although I had improved my academic standing by a little bit during early 2008, it wasn’t until June that year that I finally made a commitment to myself that I would do whatever it took to do better on my STPM examination.
On 13 June 2008, I had a laboratory accident that almost got me killed. In short, I was sent to the hospital right away from school and discharged after 4 hours at the emergency room.
This accident gave me a glimpse of what it felt like to be at the brink of death. I realized for the first time that how precious life was. I didn’t want to die with any regrets.
I was really fortunate to have an opportunity to be educated, thanks to my parents.
Due to financial hardship in their families, my dad never had a chance to even attend middle school, and my mom only finished high school and a couple of semesters of an accounting course.
And every day, they are doing their best, working day and night, from 5 am – 10 pm in their fruit business, 7 days a week so that their kids can have the best education.
Even though they complain about their frustration almost every day, they still wake up and do the work anyway.
So that I would not disappoint my parents and myself, I committed myself to put 100% focus on my studies rather than being too involved in my extracurricular activities. I even quit my part-time job. I found my purpose to at least do my best for the remaining 5 months until the STPM examination in November.
The same old thinking only produces the same old results. And to change one’s results, one has to change his/her way of thinking and way of living.
I started reading books that would change my “defeat orientated” mindset to a “success orientated” mindset.
I made daily study plans to catch up in all of the STPM syllabi that I was falling behind in. I would spend 15 hours straight solving Physics problems.
I learned the hard way that I had to not only memorize what I have studied but to enjoy it.
For 5 months, I only slept about 5-6 hours a day so that I had more time to complete my homework, to prepare my brain with past years STPM papers, and to travel all over Klang Valley for the best tuition teachers.
Every night, I would sleep at around midnight and force myself to wake up between 5 – 6 am, even when I didn’t feel like it.
With a positive mental attitude, a consistent routine, and a relentless spirit of not giving up, I improved dramatically within a short period of time. I set an impossible goal for myself so that I would do my very best, in order to succeed.
I studied with the absolute belief that I was going to get a perfect CGPA 4.00 for all 5 subjects.
Albeit, I did not achieve this goal, going from 1.33 CGPA to 3.25 CGPA out of CGPA4.00 was still a pretty remarkable feat for me.
I felt very accomplished of the fact that I had invested in every single breath and effort to improve my academic performance.
Personally, the most valuable lesson I have learned throughout my entire secondary school education is that I could achieve whatever I aimed for as long as I put 100% focus into realizing my goals.
In retrospect, I realized that the hardship I went through in Form Six had prepared me to pursue the unconventional Great Books Program at St. John’s College, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States of America.
As much as I agree that we should get away from a straight A culture and begin to understand that your academic results really do not define what you are capable of, if you have the opportunity to attend school, it is best that you make the most of it.
For those of you in Form 5, Lower 6, Upper 6, A-levels, and Matriculation, I urge you to do your best regardless of how you feel. After this stage of your life, you will have more freedom to make a choice regarding what’s next. Better results always open up more doors with better opportunities.
After your SPM or STPM, remember to take some time out to do your research for your future, create your own vision, read our recommended books after SPM/STPM for a wider perspective towards life after SPM/STPM, and be ready to live the life the way to you like it!
What if you are bored of SPM/STPM textbooks and reference books?
Check out The Top 20 Academic Books That Changed The World to enlighten your mind.
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Written by Guan Tyng (G.T.) Tan, founder of MalaysianStudent.com
Guan Tyng is an alumnus of Catholic High School, Pelating Jaya, and St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.
He took his STPM Examination in 2008. After teaching at St. John’s Institution, Kuala Lumpur as a temporary teacher, he studied Environmental Engineering for a year at UniMAP in 2009, transferred to. John’s College in the United States of America and graduated with a Liberal Arts & Science Bachelor degree in 2014.
With 6 years of sales, marketing, management, and entrepreneurial experience in the publishing and automotive industries, he is ready to make MalaysianStudent.com one of the fastest-growing Malaysian websites.