Tips on choosing the right HKDSE electives and Applied Learning (ApL) courses

Tips on choosing the right HKDSE electives and Applied Learning (ApL) courses

It can be tough choosing your electives, so we went to the experts for some advice on how to make the right decisions

Most local schools will be releasing end-of-year exam results in the next few days. If you’re in Forms Three and Four, you will have to make some life-changing choices: your HKDSE electives and Applied Learning (ApL) courses.

Young Post asked Hok Yau Club Student Guidance Centre director Ng Po-shing for some useful advice to make sure you make the best choices.

Get familiar with the new senior secondary (NSS) curriculum

The DSE requires students to study four compulsory subjects – English, Chinese, maths, and liberal studies – and choose two to four electives from subjects that include sciences, technology, literature, humanities, physical education, arts, and more.

Maths is a core subject, but students can also study extended maths: either calculus and statistics (M1), or algebra and calculus (M2). But Ng points out that while at the University of Science and Technology, City University, Chinese University and Polytechnic University, M1 and M2 fulfil the “electives” criteria when you apply for their courses, at the University of Hong Kong, Baptist University, the Education University of Hong Kong, and Lingnan University do not (except for a few programmes).

Some university programmes require specific electives. For example, chemistry or combined science (chemistry component) is listed as an entrance requirement for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery programmes at HKU. The School of Energy and Environment at CityU requires a Level Three in either chemistry, physics, or combined science (chemistry and physics), and the English programme at Chinese University prefers students to have studied English literature.


DSE-day preparation and what to do if you don’t get the exam results you wanted


A balance between interest and ability

Ng says you shouldn’t let your lower form exam results influence your choice of DSE electives, because the junior curriculum is very different from the senior in terms of difficulty, scope, and assessment.

Ng recommends asking Form Four to Form Six students in your school for their opinions on their electives, in terms of things like content and assessment methods. You can look at the Education Bureau NSS curriculum’s website, past papers, textbooks and senior students’ notes to get a better understanding of the electives’ syllabus.

It can be hard to decide which electives to choose, but Ng says the most important thing to consider is whether it interests you.

“Deciding which electives to take should be based on your strengths and interests. Then evaluate whether you will do well in these subjects,” says Ng. “If you commit the next three years to the wrong subjects, you are just wasting your time, or even missing out on opportunities to get into university.”

Be sure to apply for Applied Learning (ApL)

Secondary Five and Six students can’t take more than two ApL courses as electives. These ApL programmes consist of six areas of studies, including creative studies; media and communication; business, management and law; services; applied science; and engineering and production.

According to the Education Bureau, ApL results will be graded as “Attained” and “Attained with Distinction”, which are equivalent to Level Two and Level Three or above, respectively.

All that will change after next year, though, so if you’ll be taking the DSE exam in 2018 or later, be aware of the new ApL results grading system. It will be have three levels: “Attained”, “Attained with Distinction (I)”, and “Attained with Distinction (II)”. While “Attained” will still equal Level Two, “Attained with Distinction (I)” will be deemed as Level Three and “Attained with Distinction (II)” will equal Level Four or above.

But Ng says you must make sure your ApL courses are recognised by the university programme you want to get onto. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in physical education and recreation management at Baptist University will only consider the results of ApL physical education courses, and the department of anthropology at Chinese University only recognises the ApL’s film and video studies.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Be selective with electives

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