Pupils in the UAE coped with pandemic-related challenges and beat the odds to achieve record GCSE results this year.
UAE schools reported higher averages than the past few years with some schools saying pupils had performed better than ever.
Top marks at UK schools, meanwhile, dropped as the number of grades awarded between seven and the top score of nine fell by 3 per cent and the overall pass rate also fell.
Star pupil excited at getting nines in eight subjects
Sreya Gupta, 16, an Indian pupil at British School Al Khubairat, achieved eight exam scores of nine and one of eight, but in the hopes of getting straight nines said she would send the last paper for checking because she had missed by only a mark.
“For me it was nervous excitement before I got the result. I was just sitting and waiting to see the results as I was very tense,” said the Year 12 pupil.
“I was quite happy with the grades because I had walked out of the exam hall thinking some did not go so well, but I still got a nine in those subjects."
Sreya achieved nines in English language and literature, biology, chemistry, further mathematics, media studies, economics, and geography and got an eight in physics.
For her A levels, she intends to study mathematics, English literature, chemistry and economics with an aim to pursue a subject that is a fusion of Stem and humanities at university.
Pupil recovering from surgery is school's top scorer
Habibah Rashwan, 16, a British pupil at Brighton College Dubai, achieved five nines in maths, geography, drama, sciences, two A* in English and English literature and one 8 in design and technology.
Habibah, who is the school's head pupil scored the highest marks awarded to a pupil at Brighton. She also underwent major spinal surgery in the run-up to exams, forcing her to attend six weeks of classes remotely, and to sit exams while still recovering from the operation.
She was named Brightonian of the Year in the school’s awards for 2022.
For the pupil, receiving the result after the health challenges she had faced, was a huge achievement.
“I feel really ecstatic and did not expect this. Especially after having my year disrupted, I tried to lower my expectations, but when I opened the email with my results, I can't describe the feeling. I was overjoyed ... I really wished I could just freeze the moment in time,” Habibah said.
The pupil in December was found to have advanced adolescent scoliosis and had to travel to the UK for spinal fusion surgery in February.
“I had a drastic curve, around 60 degrees, which meant it had passed the point where I could have just worn a brace or gone for physiotherapy. Unfortunately, because my curve was so high, I had to undergo surgery. And I was told that it would be better to do it as soon as possible instead of waiting," she said.
She weighed her options and decided to get the surgery before her GCSEs, because she had started to feel some severe pain in her chest and back.
“I had a lot of faith in myself and I had faith that everything would work out," she said.
"However, there was a lot of difficulty just before the surgery. I was emotionally having a difficult time really, processing the fact that I've had this and that I'm going to have to go into surgery ... that definitely disrupted my effort and my energy to study at that time.
“After surgery, I spent about a month not doing any work because I just couldn't put any more pressure on my body and was already going through a lot with the recovery.
“My teachers gave me a lot of support, they gave me one-to-one sessions if I needed these, just to get that extra help from them … somehow it all just fell into place."
She said she had wanted to do really intense revision a couple of months before the exams, which didn't go as planned.
“I said to myself, lower your expectations because this hasn't been a normal year. But when I opened the email, I was crying I was so happy," she said.
She plans to study biology, chemistry and psychology for her A levels.
Tears of joy
Thomas Bateson, a 16-year-old British-Kazakhstani pupil at Brighton College Dubai, achieved nine scores between 7-9 and was extremely happy.
“I have been waiting for months to get these results. I was quite surprised and am really happy with these grades," Thomas said.
“I was not worried earlier but was scared before opening the envelope. I cried when I got my results."
The pupil achieved A* in English, French and geography and aims for a career in diplomacy.
For his A levels, he will study history, French and politics.
From a D to an A
Sofiya Zhuravleva, 16, a pupil at Brighton College Dubai, said she was very excited at receiving her results.
"I have been getting a C or D in history and ended up getting an A. I am just so happy. I feel amazing and I have never been happier. I feel like all my work paid off," said Sofiya, who is from Russia.
"I worked every day for two hours for the last two years. It was my biggest challenge and I wanted to achieve this."
She does not wish to study history for her A levels.
She was graded a nine in arts, eight in drama, maths eight, Russian nine, got an eight in double science and an A* in English and English Literature.
"I wanted to take the exams, these are better than teacher-assessed grades because exams are more of a challenge. They allow you to prepare for nerve-racking situations in future life," she said.
"I am very glad we had exams as it allowed me to prove to myself that I am able to achieve the goals I set."
Culmination of two years' hard work
Alice Sullivan, a 16-year-old pupil at The British International School Abu Dhabi, achieved seven nines and two eights in her GCSEs.
She got nines in English language, mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, French and Spanish.
"I was really excited and was quite nervous beforehand. It was two years of preparation and I felt like it was the climax of all this work.
"In biology, I got a seven in the mock exam but I felt like I did a lot better this time and was not expecting to go up two grades.
"With my science subjects, I worked very hard doing my past papers to try and learn the proper way to answer the questions."
The pupil said she put in a lot of effort and went over a lot of content.
She said she worked hardest during exam season because she felt the pressure pushed her to do better.