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A wholehearted attitude leads to exceptional success

After immersing himself in all that ACG Parnell College offers, alumnus Raymond Li graduated with a staggering seven A* grades in his Cambridge A-Levels. Now studying at the University of Sydney, the top scholar shares his experiences and memories of his time at ACG.
ACG Parnell College alumnus Raymond Li

In 2021 over 20 per cent of ACG Parnell College’s Cambridge A-Level cohort capped off their year with three or more A* grades (90 per cent or above), which would gain them entry into some of the best universities around the globe. But recent graduate Raymond Li excelled even further, scoring a phenomenal seven A* grades. 

Now carving a path at the University of Sydney, studying a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Medical Science and Immunology & Pathology, the high-achieving teen is also looking towards attending overseas universities to further his tertiary education and learning Journey.

Raymond, how thrilled were you when you learned you’d achieved such incredible A-Level results?
I was beyond thrilled to have received all A*s. I know I set high expectations for myself, but even these results far exceeded my own expectations, especially in English literature.

What did you enjoy most about studying the Cambridge curriculum?
The Cambridge curriculum has always challenged students with deep and complex concepts that parallel the first-year university. So while it allows students to reflect on their work ethic and work out a suitable study technique, it naturally prepares them for the university workload as well – in my opinion, that’s the greatest reward.

What were the biggest challenges?
For me, the biggest challenge has definitely been trying to strike a balance between study, extracurriculars and my social life. Especially in Year 12, taking six subjects in addition to being a Prefect was a very steep learning curve when it came to organising my time and effort effectively. I also self-studied the entire A-Level Further Mathematics course – a two-year course that I completed in one year. While that meant I received seven grades at the end of 2020, it was certainly a test for my mental health and time management!

While at ACG, you took part in the University of Auckland’s MAX programme. Tell us more.
MAX is a mathematical accelerated and extension programme for high school students looking to further their mathematical knowledge and learn more about combinatorics/coding. I heard about the programme through the ACG maths department and loved it. Not only was it a great way to get a taste of university life, but it showed the many principles that mathematics could be used for. Finally, finding that one mistake in the code was always a huge relief!

How do you feel ACG Parnell College – and the Cambridge curriculum – have prepared you for university-level studies?
Not only have ACG’s rigorous classes prepared me mentally for the university workload, but I believe the great flexibility in the Senior Campus (on Davis Crescent) gave me an insight into university student life. 

Can you share some of your personal ACG Parnell College highlights?
Apart from the school ball (which I believe was almost everyone’s highlight!), the establishment of the symphony orchestra and achieving a gold award at the KBB music festival are among my greatest memories. Leading such a competent group as the concertmaster and achieving gold in the first year was unbelievable. I’ve always been involved in music throughout my time at ACG, eventually leading both the senior chamber orchestra and the symphony orchestra.

In my senior years, I became a Prefect and was able to organise and run several clubs and school events such as the Primary chess club, arts and crafts club, and our school’s first art competition. In my last year, as the social committee leader, I was able to organise school-wide events such as the Middle School social and quiz night. I also helped establish ACG Parnell’s first Rotary Interact Club, providing opportunities for volunteering and supporting local communities.

What lessons will you take away from ACG Parnell College?
ACG has helped shape me in various ways, from studying and managing my time to interacting with others. But what stands out the most is the school’s emphasis on a wholehearted attitude – to approach everything with clarity and determination and reflect on experiences so you can learn and adapt. That’s what I strive to encompass in all my actions.

With such amazing results in 2021, what are you hoping to achieve this year?
I hope to broaden my horizons by pursuing a holistic education that doesn’t solely focus on one aspect (medicine), building connections, and helping local communities – whether that’s as part of a Rotary club or simply volunteering my services.

What advice do you have for students about beginning their A-Level studies?
My greatest advice would be to understand your own study style and constantly practice/apply new content learned. Everyone has a unique way of learning, so trying new studying methods such as visual mind maps, video crash courses, or simply writing notes on a computer will help you decide how best to spend your study time. Moreover, with the sheer volume of content that A-Levels require, constant reconsolidation of notes and practice will always help commit new knowledge to memory.