Changes in format to DSE Geography exam mean students not as likely to perform well

Changes in format to DSE Geography exam mean students not as likely to perform well

Candidates could choose to answer questions about the same elective in both sections of Paper Two this year, but it may not be a good thing

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Some questions required a multi-dimensional analysis of a range of related topics.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Students tackling this year’s HKDSE geography exam are not as likely to perform very well, according to tutors, due to rare question topics and changes to the exam format.

Changes were made to the HKDSE geography exam format this year, giving students the freedom to choose to answer questions from the same elective topic in both sections of Paper Two.

However Titus Chan, a tutor from Modern Education, said the changes also meant students may have been under-prepared.


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“For instance, if they [chose to focus] on the elective Dynamic Earth, they would have difficulties answering Q5 [in Paper Two], a short essay question which the textbook rarely touched upon,” he said.

A secondary school teacher, David Chan, agreed.

The question asked students to describe how the distribution of major faults shaped the physical landscape in Hong Kong, and discuss whether the resultant landscape may affect urban development.


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“This question required a multi-dimensional analysis of faulting ... and candidates should point out that tuff’s resistant nature would lead to higher and steeper hills, and therefore hinder urban development,” explained David Chan.

“If students are not able to point out that faulting would cause the increase in [the number of] valleys and rivers, which [help] facilitate the building of reservoirs, they’re not likely to get a good score for this question,” said Titus Chan.

David Chan said that Q1(c) in Paper One was also challenging because the concept had not appeared in exam papers or textbooks in the past.


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“The question examined students’ knowledge of the relationship between earthquakes that happened in different geographical locations [in two consecutive days], and they had to explain whether an earthquake in Japan could have triggered another in South America,” he said.

Titus Chan agreed that this question might scare some students. “Students should be aware that there were actually no causal relationship between the two earthquakes, even though both of them are located at the [Pacific Ring of Fire].”

Titus Chan also said that on Q1(b)(i) in paper one, which asked students to compare the cost of two different earthquakes, students may have only focused on the loss of life, when they should have also considered economic loses.

Kwok Wing-yan,17, from True Light Girls’ College, said she had trouble thinking of real-life examples to use in the essay questions. “[Our] textbooks did not provide many examples,” she said. “Each essay question required some relevant examples, [but] I don’t think I wrote relevant ones.”


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Regardless, both teachers agreed that students who had familiarised themselves with past papers should have no problems handling Paper Two.

Rosaline Chan, 17, from Maryknoll Convent School, said the Paper Two questions on Weather and Climate were harder than she expected.

“I studied tropical cyclones and the monsoon system separately, so I hadn’t thought if the possibility of [questions] asking one’s impact on the other,” she said. “I was quite taken aback as I didn’t know how to answer.”

Titus Chan advised that students taking the geography exam next year revise for at least two elective topics for Paper Two. That way they will be able to attempt more than one question in each section.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Changes to geography DSE exam

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