The so-called “paper of death” – the HKDSE Chinese Language exam – is just six days away, but don’t panic. Young Post is here to guide you through each of these papers, with the help of Beacon College Chinese tutor Lam Yat-yan.
Paper 1: Reading
One of the safest ways to gain points on this paper is by focusing on the questions related to 12 different prescribed or “model” texts. Even if you don’t feel confident about your reading or writing skills, you can still do well in this section by revising beforehand.
“This paper used to be very unpredictable; if you know it you know it and if you don’t know it, you don’t. But now there is no excuse; you have 30 points’ worth of problems that can definitely be solved with hard work,” Lam says.
Lam points out that the texts which were chosen for last year’s paper – 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 – are less likely to appear this year, so you can probably get away with spending less time revising those.
“They might repeat the texts, but the possibility is lower,” he says. Lam also recommends paying close attention to the wording of each question; key words or phrases such as “the reason why”, “benefit”, or “the result of” all tell you what the question is trying to ask.
“The questions can be very short, so if they use an extra word, it definitely means something.”
Paper 2: Writing
In this section, the most important thing to remember is to read the question carefully and make sure your response is relevant to it, says Lam. The questions are often short, and
may not seem very specific, so you need to take extra care not to go off-topic.
Lam says that in last year’s exam, some students answered a question about “enemies” by writing about “rivals” or “competitors” instead. “Staying on topic is the difference between a pass and fail,” he says.
The questions usually require students to produce either a narrative or descriptive piece based on an event, place or person, so it’s a good idea to keep these topics in mind when you revise, says Lam.
He adds that if you include examples to support your argument, you need to explain how they support it. “Don’t just write an example. Explain it fully.”
Lam uses the topic of “going to university” as an example: he suggests that in addition to simply saying, “working hard will help you get into university”, you can expand by mentioning the resources that are available to people to help them study.
Answers should be at least 1,500 to 1,600 words, so if yours seems on the short side, it’s probably because you haven’t gone into enough detail. “Your writing needs content, layers, examples and depth,” says Lam.
Paper 3: Listening and Integrated skills
If you revise well, this paper – and in particular, the integrated skills section – can be a good place to pick up some extra points.
“Put most of your time and effort here,” says Lam. “If you are running out of time, this paper can help you quickly boost your score,” Lam said. “It is formulaic, so just remember the keywords and question format from past papers.”
As for the actual listening exam, Lam says there aren’t as many traps to watch out for as people think.
“Unless your headset is broken, it’s just Cantonese. Even if they say ‘let’s do this activity, no wait, let’s do something else’, it is very clear,” he says. “The key is still in the wording of the question – whether for example, it is asking ‘what is the meaning of this’ or ‘what is special about that’. That skill is the same across all papers.”
Lam says the best way to prepare for this paper is by doing old papers. He suggests doing past papers from the HKALE curriculum, pointing out that “the AL papers are more difficult, so going back to the DSE will feel easier”.
- Stay calm
- Read the questions carefully
- Try not to spend too long on questions that only offer a few points