Sabeen’s Physics IGCSE…

Sabeen just found out that she got an A* in her Physics IGCSE (UK 16+ exam).

Aged 10, she’s the youngest girl in the 30-year history of the GCSE to have achieved this!

But, and if you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know this, Sabeen is no genius – in fact, she isn’t even particularly naturally talented at physics – she just used a technique that you too can use in your work and life.

Essentially, it’s the same technique Tiger Woods used to become great at golf, Albert Einstein leveraged for his physics, and Jeff Bezos used to become the richest person in the world.

So, Sabeen did the 2-year course in 5 months – studying around 3 hours a day, 7 days week – she put in enough hours per day which rapidly increased her rate of learning. 1.5 hours a day for 10 months wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

For the most part, Sabeen just did past-papers – practising what she wanted to become good at – and looking up stuff on YouTube when she was stuck. And that’s another part of it – she had the drive to go figure things out. If you aren’t driven, nothing will work.

But at its basic level the technique is incredibly simple – to become great at something focus intensely on it – and actually do it rather than observe.

Author: Asim Qureshi

Passionate about tech startups, home schooling, barefoot running and squash.

21 thoughts on “Sabeen’s Physics IGCSE…”

  1. Hello. When your kids study for those 3 hours. Do they focus and study the entire 3 hours or is it more of studying for 25 minutes and taking short breaks. Thanks!

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    1. They tend to study for around an hour at a time (not timed). But everyone is different. I used to study intensely for 10-15 minutes followed by 5 minutes of kicking a football around, and then repeat. You have to find what works best for you – it’s really important to keep trying things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Asim,

    Congrats to your life decisions, which are similar to mine (Banking at CS, starting several IT companies, living in Asia(Japan)) and as a result I share your enthusiasm for homeschooling.

    My kids have been homeschooled for the last three years. We spend most time in Tokyo and until last year my son (born 2006) could take the IAL Edexcel exams in Tokyo. However, now he can only take the AM exams. In order to complete his IAL levels this summer (Math, Further Math, Physics, German) he needs to sit the following exams somewhere near to Tokyo.

    WFM02, WPH03, WPH04, WPH06 and maybe German WGN02 (not so important).

    We will be flying for each exam.

    Can you recommend an exam center that accepts external candidates? Korea, Shanghai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur etc. would be OK I guess.

    I hope we can meet in the future.

    Thanks and best regards,

    Christian

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  3. MashAllah! Congratulations Sabeen! If I may ask, you once mentioned that if your kids didn’t get As on their A-Levels, they’d have to retake them, will Maryam be retaking her A-Levels or going straight to business? I’m asking tonfigure out if the grades are just a way for your kids to learn to push, to believe in themselves and to excel or if you only wanted them to get those grades when they were still considering going to uni?

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    1. The plan was initially they needed 4 A*s. Now we don’t care as much and don’t want the kids to resit. Their grades are impressive enough, and now I’m hoping they do something more constructive like build businesses…

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  4. Hi Asim,

    I’ve been an avid follower of this blog for quite some time now, and I am thoroughly impressed by your children’s exceptional achievements. You must get this often, but I think you and Isabelle have done a fantastic job as parents!

    I’m commenting here because I’m a college student in the United States writing a comprehensive monograph on education reform. My research requires considering the best educational practices for children with a wide range of natural abilities and talents–I am especially focused on students who lie on the lower end of the spectrum of academic performance.

    That being said, I hope you’ll understand my skepticism regarding your claims that the success of your children is generally replicable. You are an ex-investment banker and currently a successful entrepreneur with a physics degree from the prestigious Oxford university. Isabelle also seems to have outstanding academic credentials.

    It does not seem unlikely to me that your children are simply naturally gifted. You’ve mentioned that their teachers never remarked of them being exceptionally talented, but I suspect that is an unreliable and anecdotal data point.

    My question is: have your children ever been tested for natural intelligence? I know you don’t believe IQ tests are necessarily valid, but I am nevertheless curious if there’s a more objective way of evaluating their innate abilities. If they haven’t been tested, do you think there is any likelihood at all that your children are in the top 1% of intelligence?

    If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for your time and I earnestly await your response!

    Best wishes,
    Saifi Ayar

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  5. Mashallah Asim! I have the same plan for my kids. But my kids completing there A levels by age 14. My youngest who appeared in o levels first time was at 10.

    Q1- I was wondering how early your kids appeared in their first paper ? I guess at least o levels took 2 years at minimum. So this means your kids appeared in first paper of o levels at age 8 ?

    Q2-Also can you explain how your kids appeared in exams, 1 paper in each session? Or all papers together ?

    Q3- For my kids, I did not focused on grades. They secured Bs and Cs. How much study time a kid has to give for each paper and for how long based on your experience? Also did you gave them any tuitions ?

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    1. Junaid, thanks.
      1. Around 7 or 8 depending on the child. It took just over a year for each of them from being very comfortable with multiplication to GCSEs
      2. One GCSE at a time, so that’s 2 or 3 papers in the space of a few weeks.
      3. It takes around 6-9 months of hard study to get ready for a GCSE. The main thing is to do past papers, and any tuition is helping them do the past papers. How do they do the past papers if they haven’t learned the material first? They learn the material to do the questions. That way they learn faster.

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  6. MashAllah ! Congrats Sabeen! Great achievement at such a young!

    Would love to know:
    1. that of how many years they did the past papers? I mean the last 10 Years or what?

    2. What about the variants? They just did their own variant or they did all the variants??

    3. They repeated any of the past papers they have already done and think they are weak at it??
    4. They did the topical first than the yearly or they directly started from yearly?

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    1. 1. I can’t recall but it was probably more than 10 years.
      2. I’m not sure what you mean, but the exam boards vary the questions and they just answered those questions.
      3. Only if they ran out of papers to do. But after a few weeks you forget most of each paper, so no harm in re-doing past papers.
      4. I don’t understand you question.

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  7. MashaAllah!Congrats Sabeen! Great achievement at such a young age!

    Would love to know :

    Q1. Of how many years did she solved the past papers, I mean the past papers of last 10 years or what??

    Q2. She did past papers of just her variant or all of the other variants as well?

    Q3. She did the topical first than started yearly or she directly started from yearly?

    Q4. How many times she did each past paper? I mean did she repeated the past paper which she had already solved before.

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    1. 1. At least 10 years, although I can’t recall. Basically, as many as she needed to do to get to the point she was regularly getting A*s. For most years exams are held twice a year, so 10 years means 20 sets of papers.

      2. Just the paper of the exam board she was studying for IF there were enough of those past papers.

      3. I don’t understand. But she started by going for questions BEFORE being taught the material. She had to do a lot of research for the first few questions she answered in each topic, it got easier after that.

      4. She did some past papers twice, especially if we ran out of ones to do. But, in general, we tried to do as many news ones as possible rather than old ones.

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  8. Thanks for your response

    Another question:
    They started directly from past papers, from the first day or they read the topic from book first the do the past paper question?

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  9. Another question:
    They started directly from past papers, from the first day or they read the topic from book first the do the past paper question?

    Like

    1. Essentially, yes, they started with past papers.

      For A-level physics I spent 2 weeks rushing through the entire course mostly so they’d be familiar with the terms and know where to look when they go stuck, and then they started past papers.

      For GCSE physics I got 3 past papers, grouped the questions by topics, and then got them started on each topic.

      Obviously, going through past papers was very time-consuming at the beginning as each question involved a lot of learning and research.

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