Results day comes early for UAE's brightest

Secrets of the brightest students: good organisation and Facebook

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For the country's brightest grade 12 students, the wait for their exam results came to an end yesterday as the Ministry of Education announced the scores of the highest achievers.

Alia Al Matawa, an 18-year-old Emirati from Dubai, was one of the handful of teenagers who received a call from the Minister of Education yesterday telling her that her results were among the best for the year.

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"I was amazed," said Ms Al Matawa, who studied at Sakina bint al Hussain secondary school for girls. She came joint top in the country, scoring 99.9 per cent. "I am so happy. I already planned my graduation party."

Around 32,000 students sat the examinations in June and the complete list of results will be made public later in the week.

Ms Al Matawa, who plans to study nuclear engineering abroad, said the secret of her success was a well-planned study timetable. "I stuck to my timetable all year round," she said.

She tied for first place with Mohamed Al Siraj, an 18-year-old Syrian who lives in Fujairah.

"The happiness I feel is indescribable," he said, "for my family here and my family in Syria".

The surprise for his father, Nazeeh Al Siraj, was that he had hardly ever seen his son studying.

"His studying is very normal, but the boy is clever," Mr Al Siraj said. "Since grade one he has always been getting top grades. It is great that he is the top in the country."

His son was also surprised. "When my dad got the phone call from the minister in the afternoon, we were all shocked," he said. "I studied one week before the exams. I used to go out, go on Facebook and MSN all the time. I lived a normal life."

While he is thrilled for now, his father is unsure what will happen next. "He is the youngest, and now I am retired," he said. "If I leave him here alone, then financially it would be difficult, and I also do no want to leave him alone. We will probably have to go back to Syria. All we know is that he wants to be a doctor."

Hossam Mohamed, who came third, also wants to be a doctor.

"I studied on average three hours per day and five during exams," he said. "But Thursday I would take off to go out with friends.

"Although I got 99.8 per cent, I found languages a bit difficult. But if you are calm during exams, then it is easy."

Fourth-placed Taiba Al Zayouni said organisation had been the key to her success.

"Now our hard work paid off," said the 18-year-old Iraqi, who lives in the capital and scored 99.7 per cent.

"These exams mean a lot, they decide our future, that is why parents really want us to work hard in these and get the best grades," she said. "And it feels amazing when you do."