The HKDSE English exam was easier than last year - but there were still challenges

The HKDSE English exam was easier than last year - but there were still challenges

Did last week's paper seem easier than expected? A local tutor explains what was different


Candidates reported the English HKDSE was easier than expected.

Following Friday's news that this year's English language HKDSE was easierKenneth Lau, a tutor at Beacon College, explained where this was true, and what was different.

He said the reading paper was a lot simpler as there were far examples of academic writing. Several of the texts were short and easy to understand, and there were not many open-ended questions, making it easier to know what was expected in the answers.

The passages in section B2 were more relevant and related to daily life. Any idioms, such as "chow down on", and "it's small wonder" were easy to understand. The questions asked about the writers' attitude, feelings and tone. 

In the writing paper, Part A required candidates to write a speech about interpersonal relationships and school rules. Not only was it important to describe these things, but it was necessary to explain and analyse why they are important.

Part B is a more difficult paper, but this year, the questions were also more general than in previous years. “General questions enable students to express their own views but these questions were not easy to handle,” he says.

Based on social issues, Question 5 required students to talk about a vanishing street culture and why it needs to be preserved. If a candidate wrote about dai pai dong [outdoor food stall] for example, it was necessary to describe features such as its environment and dishes in details. For example, Lau says candidates might have written: "Without air-conditioning, dai pai dong customers sweat profusely in sticky weather." It was also crucial to include concrete reasons for keeping the culture alive. In the case of dai pai dong, students could have explained how the restaurants and their authentic local dishes form part of Hongkongers' collective memory.

Lau says Question 6 was particularly difficult, as it required students to write a comprehensive, logical and well-written story in a limited time.

Part A of the listening paper was based on form-filling, flow charts, sentence completion, and long questions which asked for reasons or steps. Task 4 was particularly challenging, as it included a number of long questions, and students had to pick up a number of key words and phrases to correctly answer them.

Part B (Integrated Task) included common genres including emails and letters, but this year, students were required to write a report which is less familiar and more difficult. In a report, it is necessary to use the passive voice, and the impersonal pronoun “it” when making recommendations. Even though the data file contained informal language, it was essential the report was written in formal language.


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