When Haziratul Zakirah Ghazali, 16, went back to Hong Kah Secondary School to collect her O-level results last Wednesday, she was so nervous that she cried.
Then she saw her name on the screen in her school hall.
She had received an L1R5 score of 13 for English and five relevant subjects, including three distinctions - making her one of her school's top scorers.
"In my mind, I was just like, 'I did it. I pushed myself, and I did it'," she told The Straits Times on Saturday.
Said the former student council president: "There was extra pressure to do well because of the expectations people would have."
She has applied to study biomedical science at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
DOING IT FOR MUM
My mum has had to work very long hours to make sure our future is brighter than hers. No matter how tired she is, she just keeps on going. I feel a natural obligation to make her feel that her efforts have paid off.
ZAKIRAH, the second youngest of four children. Her mother, a planning engineer, is the family's sole breadwinner.
She hopes to study medicine at the National University of Singapore one day, with a quest to be a doctor ever since she saw medical shows on TV in kindergarten.
Zakirah's mother, who works as a planning engineer, is the family's sole breadwinner - and one of her daughter's biggest role models.
Said Zakirah, the second youngest of four children: "My mum has had to work very long hours to make sure our future is brighter than hers. No matter how tired she is, she just keeps on going. I feel a natural obligation to make her feel that her efforts have paid off."
While prepping for her O levels, Zakirah - who had long since stopped using Facebook - deleted her Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram accounts. She turned off her phone when she was studying.
She would try to complete assignments on the day they were set.
"I told myself I should work hard, rather than enjoy temporary enjoyment and suffer later on," she said.
Even though she is happy to have done well in her examinations, one of Zakirah's proudest achievements is learning to be more outspoken in secondary school.
"At first, I wouldn't talk to anyone unless they talked to me," she said.
"I would stutter, and during class presentations I would freeze... (Later), I really pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone."
Joining the student council, and overcoming her shyness, gave her more confidence to tackle other challenges, such as the O-level exams.
Zakirah, who was a National Police Cadet Corps staff sergeant in school, also found time to volunteer regularly. "Everyone is so busy, caught up with getting a good job, a good salary. Sometimes, we lose that human connection. Through volunteering, we regain that connection."
Her mother, Madam Siti Rodiyah, 48, said: "I don't have to push her, she's very independent. She has grown to be a responsible person.
"I feel that whatever challenge she faces in future, she will be prepared for it."