Flair for figures helps him ace exams

Mr Tan Yu Yang, who graduated with a diploma in accountancy, was awarded the Low Guan Onn Gold Medal by Singapore Polytechnic.
Mr Tan Yu Yang, who graduated with a diploma in accountancy, was awarded the Low Guan Onn Gold Medal by Singapore Polytechnic.ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Mr Tan Yu Yang is one of Singapore Polytechnic's eight top graduates and won a school medal with a near-perfect grade point average of 3.99, but his mother has only ever had one wish for him.

"She just wanted us to be good kids and not turn bad," said the 21-year-old, who has an older brother. "She doesn't push us to do well in academics. I don't recall her asking me to study... she just wanted me to steer clear of bad company and choose friends wisely."

Mr Tan, who graduated with a diploma in accountancy, has not had it easy. Growing up in a single-parent family meant his mother had to work hard as a sales representative, raising two boys while living in a rental flat and saving up for a flat of their own in Sengkang.

Mr Tan, who was awarded the Low Guan Onn Gold Medal by Singapore Polytechnic, and his brother would help out by working part-time in stores and food and beverage outlets while in school.

"My mother never really expresses what she thinks... and the support in our family is the unspoken kind. But bringing up two boys wasn't easy. She has gone through so much to raise us so she is our priority," said Mr Tan, who has offers to study accountancy at Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University.

Studying was not always his forte, until he discovered he had a knack for numbers. The former Normal (Academic) student from Manjusri Secondary School did well in mathematics and went on to take the subject at the Express level in Secondary 2.

That also meant a change of classmates, which made him do better in his studies. "I was more motivated to study whereas in Secondary 1, I was surrounded by people who didn't study and brought me down," he said.

He aced his N-level exams with six points and distinctions for five subjects, and was accepted into the Polytechnic Foundation Programme, a scheme to prepare Normal (Academic) students for direct entry into diploma courses.

"Numbers are just numbers to most people, but you can actually derive information out of numbers... It's about knowing where to look and how to look deeper," said Mr Tan, who wants to be an auditor.

"I believe in working hard, just doing your best in everything. That's what I told myself when I came to the polytechnic, so I just did it and here I am."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline 'Flair for figures helps him ace exams'. Print Edition | Subscribe