After last year’s Chinese History DSE exam tripped students up with some unexpected questions, you may be wondering what revision strategy will best prepare you for this year’s paper. Young Post spoke to some of Hong Kong’s top tutors to find out.
Firstly, only revising a single module and hoping to get lucky won’t work any more, says Shinno Choi, a tutor at King’s Glory Educational Centre.
“Cross-module questions are expected to be more common from now on,” she says. To help you handle these types of questions, try to revise “broadly”, covering more topics but in less depth.
Lori Tsang from Beacon College suggests doing past papers, starting with the most recent and working backwards, and revising topics that aren’t covered in those papers. That way, you’ll have covered all bases.
“Try to revise three modules from ancient history, and three from modern history,” he says. “Even if this year’s paper repeats a topic from last year, you’ll have prepared by doing the past paper.”
If there are topics you feel unsure about, Tsang suggests making flash cards. Write the name of the topic on one side, and a few key points taken from your old notes on the other side.
Tsang also adds that it’s a good idea to time yourself when doing past papers, as this will give you a better idea of how you’ll perform on the day.
In the exam
Read questions carefully to make sure you know what they are asking, says Tsang. If a question provides data, use it in your answer.
“For example, if a question on ancient history gives you a map, look at the Yellow River; if it’s on modern history, look at major cities.”
Tsang adds that in these types of questions, you won’t get any extra marks for using your own knowledge, so just stick to the data given.
If you aren’t well-prepared for the exam, making sure you read the questions and data carefully might just save your skin.
“If you’re aiming for a 5 or above, you’ll need well-planned and detailed answers,” says Choi. “But if you treat the paper like a reading comprehension – using the data and clues in the questions to guide you towards the right answer – you should be able to pass even if your content is vague.”
There will also be some instructions you’ll need to pay attention to. In Paper 2, you’ll be instructed to choose one of six modules, and answer two of the three questions. If you misread this, you may waste time or lose marks.
Finally, keep an eye on the time and use it wisely. As Choi explains, you will get 15 extra minutes to complete Paper 1 this year, but that time is meant to allow you to write in more detail, not more leisurely.
“Expectations of students will be higher this year,” says Choi. She estimates that a 15-point question should take two and a half or three pages to fully answer.
You don’t have to do the paper in order, says Tsang. Picking up easy points at the beginning of the exam will boost your confidence, so answer questions that you are familiar with first, and leave ones you are less sure about until later.
Speed, as always, is key, adds Choi. She even suggests using thicker, 0.7mm pens to help you write faster.
“The time saved adds up. If you have an extra two or three minutes at the end of the exam, that is enough time to write another paragraph and get an extra point.”
Another practical tip is to leave a couple of blank lines between each paragraph, as you may decide you want to slot in another sentence after you’ve finished.
Writing extra sentences in these gaps will look a lot tidier than drawing an asterisk or an arrow and writing them at the very end of your answer.