When we first got in touch with Devaamsh Rajesh, he had just arrived back home after a game of basketball and a long day at college. With his Grade 11 classes already up and running, Devaamsh graciously took time to answer our questions, some of which he had been constantly answering over the past week.
Securing 97.2% in the Grade X ICSE Boards, Devaamsh is not just our school topper at Ekya School JP Nagar but also one of the city’s leading board toppers.
“I was in class when our results came out. My friends and I had a countdown going, by the minute. And when the news broke out at 3 PM, I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. My parents messaged me and for a brief moment, I didn’t know how to react. I excused myself from class and screamed in the washroom. It was a sheer delight, more importantly, a sense of relief from all that tension.”
Devaamsh(left) secured 583 out of 600 with a centum score in Mathematics
With congratulatory messages and wishes still trickling in, we got a chance to hear from the boy himself, prodding him to share his secret recipe of topping the ICSE boards. We asked him the one question everyone had in mind – How did he pull this off?
In his humble demeanor, Devaamsh credited the learning-over-marks approach he employed at school.
“I never studied for marks. I never regarded school as a place to get marks, but a place to learn. I made sure I paid attention to what was being taught in class. At home, I would then revise topics that I had difficulty understanding from the day’s lesson. That was my day-to-day routine during school.”
Having joined Ekya in Grade 6, Devaamsh didn’t always have it easy with marks or class.
“I remember setting a goal for myself during the final Grade 9 examinations, of which I came short. I didn’t have the best start to my 10th Grade either. I wasn’t doing great in my unit tests and I had to buck up for my pre-boards.”
With a history of mischievous run-ins with a couple of his teachers, Devaamsh reveals how he turned things around.
“I set a percentage in my head, for the pre-boards. I was aiming for 95%. I sat down with my teachers to discuss where I was losing marks. I think this helped me identify areas that needed improvement. My preparation for both my pre-board examinations helped me cut down study time for my finals, substantially. I made use of this study break to revise what I knew and grasp topics that I wasn’t confident about.”
I was not looking to top my class. I set a target for myself and I just wanted to beat my previous score.
Admitting that he didn’t have a fixed study schedule, Devaamsh highlighted the importance of asking questions in class.
“We had a set of encouraging teachers who were always open to all our questions. I think I made the best use of this, asking them every doubt that occurred to me, however silly or stupid it may have seemed. Especially in Ms. Aarti’s Geography class or Ms. Asha’s English class, I’d actively participate in open discussions about the topic of the day. It helped me in my understanding and reduced my need to study it over and over again.”
When it comes to final exams, there is always that one subject that students dread. With Devaamsh, it was Hindi.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t very proficient in Hindi and as a second language, I found it a little difficult to follow. Here is where my teachers and friends stepped in. I spoke to students who were scoring well in the subject, to figure what more I could do to improve. I guess I have surprised myself by scoring well in the finals.”
Devaamsh was in a number of the city’s newspapers
Securing 97.2% in the ICSE Board is no ordinary feat, so we coaxed Devaamsh to share with us his schedule during the month of his examination and how he dealt with stress.
“Once the Boards began, I was solely focussed on performing well and getting marks. The exam would begin at 11 and finish by early afternoon, so I would be home by 2:30 PM. A quick snack or lunch break would be followed by a study session. For the next subject, I’d break my schedule over topics that I wanted to revise. I didn’t do lessons at a stretch because I was fairly confident of what I knew.
Since I cannot do long hours of studying, I spent 45 minutes to an hour with my books. I would pick up a novel or my guitar or practice my singing, to ease my mind from all the studying. I had secured my admission into a college at this point, so I wasn’t very worried. I just didn’t want to let myself down. I didn’t want to cut any corners. It feels great that I have made myself proud, and my parents proud.”
Tucking in 10 to 15-minute breaks in between, Devaamsh’s mental release also came from regular games of basketball. A regular at the Harmony School of Music for over five years, Devaamsh was also an established player in the Ekya JP Nagar’s basketball team, also representing the school in debates and other interschool competitions.
“I think extracurricular activities play a big role in your mental state. When I was preparing for my Hindi exam, I found myself getting very saturated. Basketball helped me here. In between play, I would think about what I wasn’t doing right with the subject, a perspective I would have missed while sitting and studying. I would have this rectified as soon as I got home.”
On being asked if being at Ekya helped him with being one of the toppers of the city, Devaamsh spoke highly of his teachers, his classmates and all the support he has received over the years.
Ekya gave us an environment for open conversations – our teachers were always listening to us and answering our doubts, creating a space where we could focus on what was being taught, airing questions without the fear of being judged. I received so much support from the vice-principal, my teachers and my house mistress, who was encouraging during my time as the House Captain. My classmates, we were one big gang of friends with absolutely no room for judgment.
Does our topper have any regrets? We prodded him to which he confessed,
“I guess I should have troubled my teachers a little lesser than what I did. That and a few more marks in English.”
Currently in Grade 11, pursuing the PCMB steam in Science, Devaamsh is an IISC aspirant, looking to apply for the KVPY Scholarship programme. With an eye on research, he hasn’t really decided which side of the field he will find himself in the future.
“One thing is constant – my love for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. The study of genetics and radiology are two fields I might consider. Science has always fascinated me and I will continue pursuing it.”
With the latest fanfare from his performance, we wanted to know if Devaamsh was overwhelmed with the media coverage and if he had any treats due for his friends and family.
“My friends from my apartment have gotten theirs. A few more treats are pending. I was pretty happy and euphoric. I have seen my face in the papers a couple of times, as part of our troupe from music school but no-one has interviewed me before. This is definitely a first.”
And certainly not the last, we hope, for this young achiever of ours! Here is what Ms. Ayesha Sirajuddin, Vice-Principal at Ekya JP Nagar and a couple of Devaamsh’s teachers had to say about him.
We asked Devaamsh to list down his advice for his juniors and students who are looking to excel in their boards next March. Here are his eight commandments:
- Always ask questions, be free to share – don’t be afraid to be judged, you’re still going to learn from it.
- Always compete with yourself. Set personal benchmarks and believe that you are going to reach your goals.
- Make running notes in class. Concise everything you have understood and ask doubts if you haven’t.
- You have to know the ins and outs of your textbook. Cover every corner. Don’t skip topics. Understand them.
- Nail your revision schedule. Spend your study holidays studying and grasping. Save practicing question papers to only after you are done studying.
- Ask teachers for help. They have so much experience and can tell you what to expect in the exam and how you can answer better.
- Different things work for different people. Don’t set anything too high that you know you cannot achieve. Don’t aim too low. Don’t over-do. Just do your best.
- Don’t forget to have fun. It is an important part of the process.