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Throughout elementary school, I was always one of the best students, or simply the very best student, in the classroom. That is, I always had the highest scores in my exams. In other words, I was a —————— (student).

I’ve found the following but I don’t know which is the common word for the above context:

  • Top student
  • Star student
  • Golden student
  • Valedictorian

Note 1: There is a similar question here, but that is about higher education, whereas mine is about school education, particularly elementary school education.

Note 2: I don’t want a pejorative, negative, or derogatory word/phrase, but I want a positive-attitude word/phrase.

Note 3: I want to use this word/phrase in an essay about myself, in a personal story about my education, to be published in a magazine on education. I don’t want to use it in my resume or other documents of that kind.

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  • 3
    What's wrong with "best student"?
    – fev
    Jul 4, 2023 at 7:17
  • 4
    As a British English speaker, I had to look up valedictorian because the word suggests something to do with 'farewell'. Apparently it is an American term with a specific meaning. I would just say "I was top of the class". Jul 4, 2023 at 8:02
  • 2
    Be specific and mention actual prizes/awards/achievements not your personal assessment of your merits. If the class has specific awards, such as "dux" or "valedictorian", then mention that. If you were top in EVERY exam say "I was top in every exam". If you were top overall based on your personal estimate, say "in my opinion...". Schools give out a lot of different awards, but saying (or even implying) you were given a prize that you did not receive could lead to all kinds of trouble.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 4, 2023 at 8:33
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    In the US, we would say I was a straight-A student. Jul 4, 2023 at 13:39
  • 2
    I prefer pupil for elementary schools.
    – Lambie
    Jul 4, 2023 at 18:33

3 Answers 3

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There is no general term for this in AmE (though it's certainly possible that specific schools would have their own terms for such a student). You'd simply say that you were at the top of your class or something similar.

Note that a "valedictorian" is a student who gives a commencement speech on behalf of a graduating class; that student might have the best grades but not necessarily. (At my high school the graduating class simply voted for its valedictorian, making it essentially a popularity contest.) Furthermore, while valedictorians are common at U.S. high schools and colleges, I don't recall having ever heard of one at the elementary school level, which is what you say you're focusing on.

One commenter mentioned "straight-A student". That means that your grades were perfect, which implies that no one did better, but it doesn't inherently mean "best student". (In fact, I imagine that a straight-A student could even be outdone by another student who got extra credit somehow.)

Note that I'm only familiar with the U.S. educational system; terms for this concept may exist in other countries.

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Head of the class is a term that refers to the top student(s) in a class. It may refer to a singular individual, or more generally to a small group of high achievers. It is the perfect scope to imply that you are among the best in your class, but remains limited enough that it may not imply you're the best in the whole school.

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  • ‘’At the head of the class”?
    – Sasan
    Jul 7, 2023 at 11:04
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Tiptop student. Tiptop would show a straightforward and plain meaning of what you would like to express.

From TFD:

tip·top (tĭp′tŏp′) n.

  1. The highest point; the summit.
  2. The highest degree of quality or excellence. adj. Excellent; first-rate: an athlete in tiptop condition. adv. Very well; excellently.

By the way, why does the highest score grant the student the title of best student? Score is not everything you know.

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  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jul 4, 2023 at 7:24
  • i apologize for the confusion. i mean tiptop student. here is the website thefreedictionary.com/tiptop. tiptop would show a straightforward and plain meaning of what you would like to express. Jul 4, 2023 at 7:39
  • Hi Goodenough, you can click edit to add more to your answer. I put in the information from your comment as it is part of your answer. You are welcome to edit more as necessary, and I might encourage you to clean up the commentary from your fact-based answer.
    – livresque
    Jul 4, 2023 at 20:37

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