DSE Economics exam increases number of data-based MC questions drastically, and wants students to apply theory to life

DSE Economics exam increases number of data-based MC questions drastically, and wants students to apply theory to life

Analysis of multiple sources of data was also required in some questions

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Students had to analyse an extrapolation of HK's population to answer a question about career advice.
Photo: May Tse/SCMP

This year’s DSE Economics examination was of average difficulty with plenty of data-based questions, and also some which required application of theoretical knowledge to current issues.

Paper One, which is worth 30 per cent, contains 45 multiple choice (MC) questions. Paper Two consists of Section A, B and C, where students complete short-answer questions, and structured or essay-type questions set from both compulsory and electives part of the curriculum.  

Daniel Yu, a tutor from Modern Education, observed an increase of one-third in the number of data-based MC questions, as opposed to previous years.  

“Usually there are nine questions which come with tables and charts, but this year there are 12,” he noted.


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In addition Beacon College tutor Andrew Lo pointed out that some questions might appear unfamiliar, but they were actually “old questions repackaged and mixed with current affairs”.   

But students might have been tricked by Q22, he said, in which candidates had to distinguish between true and false statements regarding the demand and supply curves of a good.

“This question was about the tax increase of a good, whereas similar past paper questions were usually about a newly-added tax on a product,” Lo said, adding that careless students may have misread the question.  

Yuen Chu-ki, 17, from Heep Yunn School, found the MC questions harder than the long questions. She said many questions required students to understand economic theories in certain real life situations.

[I] needed to integrate the knowledge [I] learnt, but [the questions] were still straightforward, she said.


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Q5(a) in Paper Two was a “fresh and well-designed” question, Yu said. The question asked students to use the concept of elasticity of supply or demand to justify whether a sharp wage increase for medical staff in Hong Kong would solve the problem of staff shortages during peak flu seasons.

“This concept has rarely been tested, and the question, which ties in with current issues, enables students to apply economic theories to everyday life,” he said.

Lo agreed, and commented that students could only perform well in this question if they “understood the concept thoroughly”, instead of recalling what they memorised from past papers.

Lai Ho-ching, 19, Good Hope School, said that Q13(c) in Section B of Paper Two was “unexpected.” The question provided a graph that predicts Hong Kong’s population up until 2054, and asked students whether they would recommend a S6 graduate to enrol in a nursing or primary education programme if income was her major concern.


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“I’ve never see this type of question in exams,” she said, adding that identifying changes in population trends and explaining how it would affect society and individual career preferences demanded analytic skills and concepts that were rarely tested.

Yu concurred, “These type of questions are challenging because they are open, and therefore not asking for specific theories [from the textbooks].”

Both tutors reminded students taking the exam next year to look a closer look at Q12 of Paper Two in particular, as it modelled a new question type, the data-response question, which will appear in 2019.

The question, which was about tourism and the hotel industry, asked students to refer to three sources to complete four sub-questions that are worth a total of 15 marks.

“The data-response question next year is likely to be more complicated as it will be worth five more marks, but it probably shares a 70 per cent resemblance to Q12 of this year,” Yu remarked.

Edited by Jamie Lam

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