Navigate your geography and physics HKDSE electives with these useful tips

Navigate your geography and physics HKDSE electives with these useful tips

Tutors from Beacon College and Modern Education provide their last-minute tips for acing the Physics and Geography DSEs

While candidates are frantically studying for core subjects like English language, mathematics and liberal studies, it’s important not to forget the electives, like physics and geography. Young Post asked two top tutors, Sham C.W. from Beacon College and Titus Chan from Modern Education, for some last-minute tips.

C.W. Sham talks physics

  • Examiners in previous years reported that students are particularly weak at handling or converting units. For example, don’t confuse centimetre (cm) with metre (m), gram (g) and kilogram (kg), minute (min) and second (s). Make sure you use the correct units for temperatures, radioactivity and so on. Marks will be deducted if there are no units or you use the incorrect units are used in your answers.
  • Make sure you are using the (+) and (-) signs properly when you calculate motion and momentum.
  • For questions on electric circuits, you should be familiar with the concepts of series and parallel, open circuit and closed circuit, and rated values.
  • You should have a good understanding of the right-hand grip rule, left-hand rule, and right-hand rule in electronics and micros.
  • Only draw and label force if the questions ask for it. Sham says not to draw resultant force, mg sinθand centripetal force.
  • Questions that ask for an explanation or description can be intimidating. Sham suggests using key words covered in the relevant topics.
  • For essay questions, use the following structure: describe the set-up of the apparatus; explain the procedure and data to be measured; give the related equation and derive the expected expression; state the result and conclusion.
    Sham says in his experience over the last few years, scores of 86 per cent or above were more likely to get 5**. Test yourself using past papers so that you know your average score and what you can aim for.
  • Manage your time well, especially in Paper One. You have two-and-a-half-hours for Paper One; Sham suggests spending about 50 minutes on Part A, the 33 multiple choice questions. The remaining 100 minutes should be spent on
    Part B, which is worth about 84 marks (that’s approximately one minute per mark).
  • Lastly, make sure your calculator is in degree mode.

Titus Chan talks geography

  • Don’t get stuck on map-reading questions and leave hardly any time for the rest of Paper One. Chan suggests spending a maximum of 15 to 20 minutes on them. Time yourself and move on to the next part.
  • Be “open-minded” with answers that cover multiple perspectives. When a data / skill-based question or essay question asks you whether weathering is the key factor responsible for shaping landscapes in Hong Kong, don’t just dive straight into writing about physical and chemical weathering and its impact on the city’s landscapes. Consider other factors, such as human activities. Then weigh the relative importance of these factors. One-sided answers don’t usually impress examiners, Chan says.
  • Be careful with your word choice. Some terms from other subjects like liberal studies (LS) shouldn’t be in your DSE geography paper. If a question asks you to take different roles, try not to use educators, protectors, destroyers or officials, as you are not doing the LS paper. Positive and negative roles are more than enough, Chan says.
  • Students really struggle with Dynamic Earth section in Paper Two. In particular, some candidates fail to identify different types of rocks, comprehend geological maps, and tell physical weathering apart from chemical weathering. If you are taking this elective, make a checklist of which parts – such as rock formation or weathering formation – are your weakest. You have more than three weeks left to drill your weakest areas.
  • When a question asks you to draw a graph, decide which graph is most appropriate. A bar graph can show deforestation areas among different countries. A line graph helps signify the change of deforestation area in a country over a period of time. A histogram can show the distribution of different age or income groups. Use graph paper instead of the answer booklets to draw your graphs.
  • Chan also recommends drawing fully-annotated diagrams for any data / skill-based or essay questions if you have time. If a question asks how agricultural activities affect the nutrient cycle, you can include the diagrams of the nutrient cycle before and after farming. A fully-annotated diagram should have a title, units, and phrases which help explain different features. Write phrases on the diagram instead of in paragraphs below it.
  • Many of the topics covered in geography are interconnected, so try not to focus on one particular area or your strongest topic.
  • Chan says some students spend too much timeon concepts like eutrophication and desertification. If you answer a question covering one of these topics, he suggests writing a few sentences defining its concept or formation. Try to look at its impacts and connection to other topics.
  • Chan suggests a study plan for the next three weeks: write at least 10 essay questions and compare your work to the model answers. Drill map-reading exercises a few days before the exam.
This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Don’t forget the DSE electives


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