23 O level A’s: My success story

Published: February 9, 2011

Ibrahim Shahid (M) with friends at his school in Islamabad

I am not a genius as many may believe; I do not have god gifted intelligence. But I do have vast knowledge. And more than anything else, I am hard working.

I was never really considered a bookworm in school, because I engaged in activities that are part of student life. I play the guitar, and have won trophies for football. I was an active debater and secured six “best delegate” awards at the Model United Nations and also won trophies in parliamentary style debating. It was quite difficult to balance my social life with my studies and extracurricular activities, but with a planned approach anything is possible.

Among the various problems that I faced while trying to set the record for the highest number of Cambridge ‘O’ Level A’s, one of the first was the problem of under confidence.

While attempting to break the world record, there were many occasions where I was nervous and quite unsure about whether or not I would accomplish this feat.

With persistent encouragement from my friends, my confidence was given the boost that it needed and I was able to score 23 A’s.

Another hurdle was finance; the books I needed were incredibly expensive and difficult to find. The fee of both my school and the Cambridge exams was steep, but the school graciously gave me a 100 per cent fee concession which helped my family’s financial situation.

I would like to acknowledge the support of my teacher Mohammad Afrasiab for helping me find good tutors, and for his help when I was studying Mathematics. There were a number of occasions when I questioned myself and felt frustrated, but the emotional support of my parents and friends always gave me the boost I needed to be back on track.

My school teachers sacrificed their Saturdays and Sundays and even took extra classes to help me succeed. They deserve the same appreciation as I have received by the grace of God.

When I was in class four, my teacher in Australia told my parents that I was “an average student who could never excel.” This gave direction to my mother who later quit her job to give more time to me and my siblings. I can never repay her effort and the struggle she made in polishing my skills. The long waits outside my teacher’s houses while I was studying, the emotional support when I got disheartened along with her devotedness to making me a better human being is the reason why I reap the rewards of my success today.

Ibrahim Shahid

Ibrahim Shahid

A Beacon House School student who set the world record by achieving 23 A's in the Cambridge O Level exam.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Atika.rehman

    Congratulations, Ibrahim! You make Pakistanis very proud. I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavours.


  • parvez

    I loved the way you give credit to all the others and just say that you worked hard to achieve what you wanted. Amazing effort on your part. Recommend

  • Happy Man

    God Speed Kiddo… :) InshAllah there is nothing in this world which you can’t achieve, if you strive hard enough for it. God Bless You, and Enjoy the victory. :)Recommend

  • Shemrez Nauman Afzal

    Congratulations. Well done.
    Continue the hard work, enjoy the honours, but don’t let success get to your head :) Recommend

  • khurram Salman

    you deserve to say it to yourself “I am AWESOME” !!! Recommend

  • A.

    Congratulations! I feel that parents have a huge part in our educational success just because of how much effort they put in ( homework help, helping us focus, picking and dropping us to and from school as well as tution center) and their undeniable dreams and prayers that put us on the path of success! Recommend

  • ehabs

    No one thinks you’re a “genius” btw. Congratulations on the achievement though!Recommend

  • Raqib Ali

    Proud to be your fellow country man!!Recommend

  • http://raheelaijaz.blogspot.com/ Let us not digress

    Congrats bro. Stay positive and stay humble. Way to go.Recommend

  • Rabia

    Well done, Ibrahim!Recommend

  • awesomeness

    make us proud bro…always have faith on yourself,everything will seem easy :)
    don’t think what other’s think about you !!!Recommend

  • Humanity

    shabaash .. aim for the stars :)Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    Congrats dude! Hope you do well in the future tooRecommend

  • Angelos

    Congratulations for this amazing achievement and best of luck for the bright future ahead of you.Recommend

  • Anon

    Congratulations Ibrahim!!! You deserved it! What a feat! You did your family and teachers proud!Recommend

  • Pakeezah

    You have made us feel proud. Recommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    congratulations ibrahim. im very happy for you and you’ve made everyone really proud. Wish you all the success in the future Inshallah.Recommend

  • Ammar

    ehabs : he is a genius !!!Recommend

  • Burhan

    Congratulations! We need hardworking students like you..May Allah bless Pakistan more and more students like you..Aameen!Recommend

  • Ali Hussain

    Its Good and everything that you Achieved 23 o-level A’s .. but Why? I mean What the upside to do this? how is it different then get 5 or 7 or 10? I hope you make Wiser decisions in the near future?Recommend

  • Ed

    I am almost twice your age and have seen a lot of stupid things happen in this country over the years. I have almost begun to lose hope for this land. The only thing that keeps me from completely giving up is efforts of the youth such as yourself. May the Almightly give you success and make you the ray of hope that this country and nation so truly deserve.
    Masha Allah, you made my day kiddo.Recommend

  • http://www.ayeshahoda.wordpress.com Ayesha Hoda

    Congratulations! I got straight As (4 – not really a comparison to your success) in my A’levels which I completed in only one academic year, while everyone said don’t do it in one year and all that… but my point is, I also realized back then that you don’t have to be a genius to achieve something… it is all about consistency, hard work AND loads of determination and of course some God gifted intelligence, which I am sure you do have.Recommend

  • Jeddy

    Receiving As is the first step – is there any incentive for you to stay in Pakistan and do something for its good – or will you settle abroad like your predecessors?Recommend

  • http://billaytoot.wordpress.com Bilal

    Mehnat se guraiz nahein, Per moqay kum kum miltay hein….

    I am happy that you got everything in your past to get everything in future..:) congrats..Recommend

  • sajid bhanji

    Your story made my day.

  • Noble Tufail

    Proud of you Ibrahim. Handle this attention well. Wishing you even a brighter future. God Bless You. Recommend

  • Saraah

    Well done boy! Recommend

  • Osman

    Many congratulations. While its a great personal achievement, I cant help but feel its unhealthy and that you’re totally nuts. For two reasons:

    1) An unrealistic precedent has been set for young kids already under enormous pressure to do well.

    2) More importantly its impossible enough to maintain a work-life-study-play balance these days, and then people like you make it more miserable for average achievers. Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    Congratulation Ibrahim. First it was Ali Moeen Nawazish and now it is you. Keep up the good work and make your country proud :)Recommend

  • Samreen Khan

    Well done….u deserve a round of applause MashAllah! Keep up the great work … we need more people like you in a our country in order to prosper…all of our prayers are with you bro…Recommend

  • http://deleted Sabeen Masood

    Congratulations and best wishes. plz never leave this country because we need people like you.Recommend

  • http://surreallist.blogspot.com/ Amna Khalid

    Brilliant, MashAllah! We need more Pakistanis like you Ibrahim.Recommend

  • SQ

    many congrats boy..proud of you.stay humble and stay blessed.Recommend

  • nayeem

    congrats partyRecommend

  • T

    @Osman: Setting high standards doesnt make a person ‘nuts. You’re forgetting about the part where this will motivate so many others kids to work even harder!
    Well done Ibrahim!Recommend

  • http://habloid.wordpress.com Habiba Younis

    Congratulations boy! Wish u all the best in future!Recommend

  • AM

    Excellent boy! Way to go…………………….Recommend

  • sam

    Congratulations…… and good luck for future!! :)Recommend

  • omer xulfiqar

    Congrates manRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/4286/23-o-level-as-my-success-story/ Hassan Nouman

    Congratulations! We are proud of you as you are a Pakistani and also gave us hope, courage and confidence of studying.Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/2011/02/10/why-love-relationships-fail/ Selina Gilani – Relationship

    Really inspiring and congratulations on your 23 A’s..its really really really very difficult Recommend

  • usman asadullah khan

    well done mr.Ibrahim,people like u are assets off the nation.we ae really proud of u.its also a message and a true reflection of not only a muslim but a human.keep it up.huggsssss. Recommend

  • Atta

    Congrats!!! keep it up,,,,,,,,Recommend

  • http://www.sportyarena.com/ Waqaace Jalal Bhatti

    First of all MashAllah. Secondly, I am seriously waiting for you to excel in the A Levels, and try breaking the existing record of Ali Moeen Nawazish. By this it will be proved that he was not one time thing that Pakistan ever produced, rather the country is filled with everlasting gems which will keep on amazing the world with their laurels.Recommend

  • SQ

    Congrats Bro, there is a big road ahead of you, keep up the hard hard and keep making ur parents and country proud of you.Recommend

  • zaigham

    … omg…Recommend

  • http://www.pakspectator.com Sana Saleem

    Well Done ! Define the goal, keep determined & Work Hard….These 3 things makes one achieve the goals and U did it … GREAT !Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Shabaash — Chaa gaye ho tum : )Recommend

  • abdur rehman

    vry nyc!!Recommend

  • http://www.theideaartist.com Umair Kazi

    Ibrahim, I’m curious. What was your inspiration behind this quest?
    It seems that you have the potential to work hard and achieve the impossible. Why not use your exceptional skill to a focused task that will help those around you? 23 As seems like something freakish and utterly unnecessary, not something amazing. How will your As add value to your life and to the lives of people around you?
    My suggestion: focus your energies on doing something a little more profound. To me, achieving 23 As appears to be a waste of your abilities. Go create something.Recommend

  • http://www.hup.edu.pk Umer

    I like your opening sentence; it reflects your humility after such an incredible achievement. I wish you all the very best in breaking the world record for Alevel A’s ;)

    Regards, Recommend

  • Shigraf

    Congratulations Ibrahim, i really appreciate your endeavour to give credit to people who contributed to your succeess, espcially where you admired your mother for her efforts and dedicat.Recommend

  • Anoop M

    Well done Ibrahim . You have made your parents ,teachers and country proud . Hope to hear many such stories coming out of Pakistan . Keep it up young man .Recommend

  • Fahad

    congrats bro!
    keep working hardRecommend

  • Sohaib

    Congratulations! That’s a tremendous achievement. If by any chance, you ever decide to study mathematics or physics in graduate school (and I highly encourage you to do so), here’s my email: [email protected] .. I’m a grad student studying string theory, we need more smart people like you in this field.Recommend

  • K

    I love how you acknowledge the efforts and support of your parents, teachers, and friends. Keep up the good work and Good Luck.Recommend

  • Miriam

    Congragulations- very proud of u. Pakistan needs people like you.Recommend

  • a pakistani

    its a great achievement and all, but what exactly was the point of all this? has getting 23 As helped you in any way?Recommend

  • Kumail Akbar

    I do not wish to pour water over your achievements and I congratulate you for your success but in your story i see the pointlessness of the exam/ grade-centric more-is-better approach of education back home in pakistan. Could you please tell me what 23 O-Levels gets you? admission to the best A-Level institutes that you could have managed with even 10 or 12 such grades? What exactly was the purpose behind this gluttony for A’s at O-Levels that at best gives a cursory exposure to subjects. If the purpose of your inquiry was to enhance the breadth of your knowledge then fabulous but if it was all about fighting the same rat race and winning by doing more, then I would encourage others not to take this path. I for one would continue to value excellence and real learning, and when it comes to the Cambridge International Examinations, I would put distinctions in subjects or distinctions like best 4-5 As etc. waay above a total tally for As. Sorry if you think I am a party pooper, but I wish you all the best for the future.


  • yup you right you never repay your parents ,but you proof that your parents effort not gone to be ditch…\Recommend

  • Grammar Nazi

    Congratulations! Your humility is also commendable. Best wishes for the future :)
    Just a little point, If you get more than one “A”, it is written as “As” and not “A’s” – S with apostrophe (‘s) shows possession, S without the apostrophe shows plural. Recommend