Mohammed al-Baqir Merchant is a 16 year old student prodigy from Kolkata who scored a commendable 99.6% in the ICSE Board Examination 2022 for Standard X, placing him at the top in the State of West Bengal and second-highest in India for the ICSE Board. He was felicitated on his achievement by the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. In this interview, he shares how he prepared for the exams and what he thinks should be the parameter for gauging success.

  1. Tell us about yourself.

I am 16 years old and was born in Kolkata. My native village is Ranala in the state of Maharashtra. I am a state level basketball player and tremendously interested in sports. I have always been intrigued by science and maths and want to pursue them further to realise my ambitions, which is why I have chosen the ‘Science’ stream in class XI. 

  1. 99.6% is near perfection. How did you prepare for this?

To be honest, there’s no clear cut method to prepare for achieving these marks. I didn’t set out thinking of getting the highest mark. I paid special attention not to over-pressure myself for the exams. Practising various sample papers was also beneficial. I also kept a note of my weak and strong points beforehand, so that I could prepare accordingly.

  1. How do you think education has been transformed by the Covid-19 situation?

Education has been transformed massively by the pandemic. Introduction of online classes, material and studies have forced teachers and students to adjust accordingly. While distractions are immense, online studies have also saved time for us.

  1. What is your core code of conduct in life? Something that you live by every day.

It is to be 100% honest with myself in all things I do. It means that if you study for an hour, be solely committed to it. Suppose you are playing football for one hour, then focus on the game. Be dedicated to whatever you do. That focus leads to good results.

  1. What do you intend to do in the future?

My intention is to either graduate in statistics or engineering in the future; let’s see how it plays out. I would certainly be looking to pursue something in the sunrise industry that has potential to expand in the near future.

  1. Are you excited about the opportunities in the service industry, or would you like to become an entrepreneur?

I am indeed excited for the opportunities in service industries, especially those associated with technology. I feel that the sky’s the limit for students. But also, I would not be hesitant to foray into entrepreneurship, if a suitable opportunity or an idea pans out. Entrepreneurship is something that I have always wanted to excel in.

  1. Is success all about getting good marks or is there something more?

This is something that has largely been misconstrued. Success is in no way proportional to good marks. Marks can never be a guarantor for success, rather it is something that often casts the wrong impression. I feel discipline and dedication are more important to success than good marks.

  1. Any advice to young students?

My advice to young students is to be dedicated to whatever you are doing. Do not take pressure to achieve good marks. Just follow the process and results will follow. Also, don’t make the mistake of isolating yourself from recreation just to focus on studies. Being involved in extracurricular activities is an integral part of your development, so never neglect it.