PETALING JAYA - If this year's Form Three students had been stressed over the inaugural Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3), then the release of the results left them even more distressed.
Many of the 15-year-olds and their parents were disappointed with their results, reiterating their frustrations with the new and unfamiliar format and the lack of time in preparing for it.
The chief complaint was that students had just three months to prepare for their written exams. They also did not know how or what to prepare for.
"We were getting different exam formats even just a week before we sat for them," said Puteh Majidah Ismail, who still managed to score 7As.
Intan Suraya Sabli, another straight A scorer, said she felt students were not sufficiently prepared for the "higher order thinking skills" questions used in the PT3.
"We've been trained differently our whole lives, and now suddenly we were being tested in a different way," she said.
The system requires teachers to not only continuously assess their students, but also key the grades in online and the learning outcomes of every student. It is designed to produce more "thinking students" and comparison between schools are not encouraged as it is a school-based examination.
Many teachers were left frustrated by data entry problems, with some blaming the faulty computer system used - in some instances - the system was at a complete standstill.
It was also unclear as to whether a new centralised examination would replace the PMR.
In June, the Education Ministry revealed that students would have to complete "case study instrument assessments" (course work) for History and Geography in July.
In August, oral tests (listening and speech) for English and Bahasa Melayu were held, followed by written tests in Bahasa Melayu, English, Mathematics, Science, Islamic Education, Living Skills, Arabic, Chinese, Tamil, Iban, Punjabi and Kadazandusun in October.
Unlike the PMR, all PT3 papers comprised subjective questions.
While tests were conducted and marked by the teachers of the respective schools, students' scores were moderated and verified by appraisers from the Examinations Syndicate and state education departments.
A student, who only wanted to be known as Raj, said that tackling the higher order thinking skills questions would not have been a problem if students had the time to get used to them.
"Our teachers couldn't even finish the syllabus in time, so we barely had the chance to learn how to answer these questions," he said.
Housewife Rosnani Mohd Zan, 43, from Johor, was unhappy although her daughter scored straight As.
"My daughter only had two months to prepare for the PT3 and in between, there were other assessments that carried weight for the final results," she said.
Another parent of a straight As candidate in Kuala Lumpur, Nancy Khong, said it was nerve-wracking for the students as "they only had three months to prepare".
Her daughter Khong Ru Xiang was, however, happy to "think out of the box".
In Johor Baru, some parents blamed teachers for setting a high benchmark, which made it difficult for the students to score well.
"There was a lack of guidance from the teachers, especially for Geography and History," said accountant Salmah Masani, 50.
Penang Free School's Faris Hamy Muhamad Farid and Aizak Haiqal Abdul Rahim, who scored 4As each, and Ahmad Danial Azfizan, who scored 7As, felt they could have performed better if they had more time to familiarise themselves with the format.
Another PFS student, Hishammudin Johari, who scored 4As out of the 10 subjects he sat for, liked the subjective format.
"We could elaborate on the answer, rather than just picking from the multiple-choice answers," he said.
In Kuching, students like Chang Nian Ci, who scored below expectations, said there was much confusion over PT3.
"There was no standard answer. Three months to adapt to a new system was very difficult," said the SMK Kuching High student.
Many also said that Science was the toughest as the answers were not found in textbooks.