HKDSE students found this year's Chinese exam to be no 'paper of death'

HKDSE students found this year's Chinese exam to be no 'paper of death'

This year’s exam met students’ and teachers’ expectations, with “simple” reading questions and at least one nice option on the writing paper


This year’s HKDSE Chinese exams were similar to last year’s.
Photo: SCMP

There were no nasty surprises in this year’s HKDSE Chinese reading and writing exams. The comprehension questions, based on a selection of Chinese texts, were as straightforward as expected, teachers and students revealed.

The reading exam (Paper 1) is split into three parts. Part A tests students’ understanding of three of 12 prescribed classical Chinese texts, which included An Exhortation to Learning by Hsun Tzu, “Chu Shi Biao” by Zhuge Liang, and The Lantern Festival Night - to the tune of Green Jade Table by Xin Qiji.

DSE candidates Yuen Chu-ki and Miuccia Chan, both 17, told Young Post they found the questions in Part A easy. In this part of the paper, marks are almost guaranteed, said Modern Education’s Chinese language tutor Siu Yuen. “The questions are like those found in the sample papers, and there were no comparison or open-ended questions [where students could lose marks],” he added.

Top tips on how to prepare for the HKDSE Liberal Studies paper

Part B consists of two texts: one modern literary text – The Reason of Loneliness by Lin Dai-man – and one classical Chinese passage: Decoding Life by Li Ao. Chu-ki found the contemporary passage more complicated than the classical one.

“There were a lot of pronouns in the text, many of which were unclear. It took me quite some time to figure out who they actually are,” she said.

She added that some of the questions required students to analyse the entire piece before answering them.

Siu said these types of questions help to identify top scorers.

Hong Kong star tutor breaks down how to be a top scorer in the HKDSE Chinese exam

“The average pass rate of these questions in previous years is about 20 per cent, and the answers are usually hidden in two different places in the text. They are, therefore, the determiners of who’s getting the 5**,” he said.

Accuracy is also key, said Secondary school Chinese Language teacher Simon Man. One question asked students to describe how someone would feeling during different events or stages of life. Man noted that marks would be deducted for students who attempted to include more information than necessary.

The unseen classical text, both Chu-ki and Miuccia commented, was “not too difficult to understand.” 
“As someone who usually struggles with this part, I found it quite easy ... as it [was] related to one of the main themes covered in our prescribed texts,” said Miuccia. 

However, Siu remarked that it’s short but “complicated”. 

2018’s HKDSE Biology exam drew evenly from both the Form 4 and 5 syllabuses and had some “entertaining” questions as well

“It touches upon fate and philosophy, which are difficult concepts. Also, it is an uncommon choice of author,” he said. 

Siu added that the key of to performing well for this text lies in the hints they can take from Q23. The question begins with the statement “Some people believe in fate, while some don’t” which reveals the two opposing opinions of the protagonists in Decoding Life, he said. 

“A fill-in-the-blanks sub-question also alluded that there are similarities between the two points of view. If students picked up on these hints, they would understand the text better,” he added.  

In the Chinese writing exam (Paper 2), the three questions that students had to choose from focused on nostalgia, forbidden places, and either confidence or enemies.

Easy ways to make you seem natural and confident in your DSE English speaking exams

Chu-ki said she chose to answer Q1, because it seemed more straightforward than the other two.

“It gives a clearer sense of what is expected, and I think it’s a safer option. The other two questions were more vague, and students may run a bigger risk of going off track,” she said.

Man agreed that Q1, which focused more on narrative and description, was the easiest choice for students. He added that while Q3 offered very vague guidelines, it was Q2, which didn’t focus on a single genre, that was the most difficult.

“But it allows students to bring their writing skills and imagination into full play, which means wordsmiths are likely to score high if they’ve chosen this question,” he said.

Man also advised students sitting the exam next year to familiarise themselves with modern literary texts by Taiwanese writers, as this is the third year that such texts have been sampled in the DSE Chinese exam.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Attridge

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
HKDSE Chinese exam meets expectations


To post comments please
register or


Stevie Davis


It is okay to have Chinese wringers in the States take classes and/or exams for Chinese students enrolled in US colleges.
A lot of US students cheat with https://**** , they also need to be tracked.