Hong Kong students unable to think outside the box when it comes to liberal studies

Hong Kong students unable to think outside the box when it comes to liberal studies

A report found that this year’s liberal studies exam candidates had trouble interpreting pictures, and were unable to critically examine a given issue

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Students failed to highlight outstanding features in the sources and adapt them in response to the questions in the Liberal Studies exam this year.

Students struggle to think outside the box in liberal studies, according to a report released by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

Chief among the difficulties highlighted in the report on the HKDSE exams earlier this year is the need to “strengthen [students’] explanation and argumentation skills”, as well as address the students’ “failure to highlight outstanding features [in the sources]” and adapt them “in response to the questions”.


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Paper 1 of the examination was focused largely on data interpretation, and students were tested on their ability to digest and apply different kinds of data.

Examiners found that candidates fared better with text and numerical data sources, but had trouble when asked to interpret pictures.


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In particular, examiners looked for complete use of source data, and the ability to apply the relevant points to their argument in a clear way.

In Paper 2, focused on critical reasoning, students were found to lack “in-depth understanding of the major values underpinning each question”. Their ability to provide rebuttals to arguments was also characterised as “generally weak” by the examiners.

The questions in Paper 2, of which students are told to answer only one, are divided into two parts. Part A generally asks for a breakdown of the main issue; part B asks the student to critically examine the larger issue. The exam results show students usually performed better in part A than part B, probably due to lack of a “broad perspective”.

The examiners believe candidates should be “encouraged to broaden their horizons and exposure by engaging in activities such as reading, debating and attending seminars”.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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