Star pupils across the UAE are celebrating A-level results day success as they set their sights on a university challenge.
Thousands of learners flocked to schools to discover their grades with teachers, parents and classmates, as others logged online to find out their marks.
Schools in the UAE began to issue results at 11am on Thursday.
An anxious summer-long wait was made even more nerve-racking by reports that 2023 results would drop to pre-pandemic levels, after soaring grades in recent years.
The number of A* and A grades recorded in schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was 27.2 per cent - down from 44.8 per cent during the pandemic.
The annual tests are key to securing preferred university places next month.
There was delight for many and disappointment for others amid this year's stricter assessment measures.
Relief for Abu Dhabi pupil
Haroun Ouali, a pupil at Repton Abu Dhabi, may have fallen short of his own high standards but still had much to celebrate.
He earned three As and one A*, which was enough to book his place at Brunel University London, where he will study medicine.
“I expected more A*s but I'm glad this is over,” said Haroun, from Canada.
His mother Rabeb Mizouni was full of pride at his achievements.
“Proud, proud. He should be proud of what he got. He worked really hard,” she said.
Other pupils at the school were disappointed at missing out on top A grades, in keeping with a tougher global picture for pupils this year.
Sharadhi Somayaji, a pupil at The British School Al Khubairat in the capital, is also aiming to make her mark in medicine, at Imperial College London.
She said she was "very happy" with her return of three A grades and one A*, as well as an additional A* in Extended Project Qualification, which is equivalent to 50 per cent of an A-level grade.
“I got what I wanted. I only have my family and teachers to thank,” said Sharadhi.
A world of opportunity
High achievers at Safa Community School in Dubai are set to broaden their horizons after results day trepidation turned to triumph.
Taline Chahine, who clinched one A* and two As in mathematics, physics and chemistry, will continue her education journey at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, where she will study chemical engineering.
Fellow pupil Esha Amin is off to the University of York in England to study environmental science, thanks to a pair of A*s and a B in her exams.
Eylul Sisman, with two As and a B, will study medicine in Australia.
Youseff Abdelsalam, who secured an A* and two As, will study computer science at the University of Birmingham in England.
Fellow Safa pupil Adam Abdelfattah is also Birmingham-bound, as two A*s and a B earned him a place to study mechanical engineering.
Prakhar Narula, with three As, will attend the University of Dundee in Scotland to study medicine.
Alex Van Schendel, who achieved two As and one B, will attend the University of Groningen in the Netherlands to study European law.
Brighton College Al Ain said 40 per cent of its pupils who won university places will go on to study medicine.
Among those pursuing other fields is Zaid Magdub, who will read law at the University of Oxford.
Top results despite forecast
Taaleem, one of the largest private education operators in the country, reported its schools have bucked the expected trend.
Rebecca Gray, the group's director of education, paid tribute to the hard work of pupils who enjoyed a 100 per cent rate.
"This year, we witnessed our largest cohort yet at our UK curriculum schools," said Ms Gray.
"Their resilience and tenacity, especially in an academic year marked by global predictions of lower awards, are highly commendable. We are elated to report a 100 per cent pass rate among our schools, a testament to the hard work of both our students, staff and the unwavering support of parents."
She said pupils earned places at prestigious universities, including St Andrews, London School of Economics, and Durham University.
Gems Education said more than 1,600 pupils at 20 schools in UAE and Qatar sat A-level exams this year.
It highlighted impressive results from a number of schools, including Gems Jumeirah College and Gems Wellington Academy Al Khail, despite a predicted downturn in grades globally.
At Wellington, 21 per cent of 138 exam entries returned an A* or A grade.
“Much has been said about the anticipated adjustment following the grade inflation of the Covid years, and while results around the world certainly indicate that this has materialised, at Gems Education we are delighted to note that our students have nonetheless risen to the challenge and achieved outstanding results," said Dr Saima Rana, chief education officer for Gems Education.