Of all the HKDSE papers, Liberal Studies has a reputation for being the most unpredictable. When the sources and questions can vary so greatly, how can you make sure you’re prepared for the April 6 exam? We asked King’s Glory Education Centre star tutor Liu Tin-yan for advice.
Here are her top four tips
1 Avoid stock answers
Liu begins by warning against trying to memorise set answers for every potential question you may face.
“The Liberal Studies paper is designed to test how well students are able to use the data they are given and combine it with their own knowledge,” she says. “The goal is never to force them to recite so-called model answers.”
Memorised answers won’t show your ability to engage with new material and think critically. Examiners want to see how well you are able to comprehend social issues, and relate the sources you are given back to those issues.
2 Practise interpreting data
Liu recommends using the time between now and April 6 to hone your data analysis skills. She says that in recent years, a lot of the questions in the exam have required students to be able to read and interpret information presented on a graph.
“Don’t just state the obvious when discussing graphs. Explain why numbers are rising or falling, how quickly or slowly they are changing, and look for trends,” says Liu.
Liu also suggests checking out the Examination Authority’s website, which contains sample answers from previous high-performing students. Pay attention to their word choice when it comes to describing graphs and numbers.
3 Revise core values and key concepts
You should be well acquainted with the core values and key concepts covered in each of the six Liberal Studies modules.
For example, in the module “Hong Kong Today”, you will have studied three core values: quality of life, rule of law and sense of identity. So when faced with a question from this module, try to base your answers around these values and relate them back to current events.
Meanwhile, if you get a question relating to the “Energy, Technology and the Environment” module, pivot your answers on key concepts such as sustainable development, energy security and energy safety.
Let’s say you are given a question about parallel trading in Hong Kong. Try to think about how you can relate the question to one of the core values studied in the “Hong Kong Today” module. You might, for example, focus on how the economic implications of parallel trading affect quality of life.
A solid understanding of these core values and key concepts means that no matter what question you are given, you will have the basic framework for your answer.
“With this background knowledge, students can easily grasp what the question is asking them to do, and answer accordingly,” says Liu.
“It’ll also be easier for them to insert the key words that the examiners might be looking for in each topic.”
4 Be familiar with current affairs
While some questions may touch on more recent issues such as the extradition bill movement, there are several evergreen topics that always appear on the exam, such as smoking, drugs, teen gangs, epidemics, and romantic relationships.
“Romantic relationships are an evergreen topic, and on top of that, the phenomenon of part-time girlfriends and boyfriends has been talked about a lot in recent years, so there is a higher chance of this issue appearing in the exam paper,” says Liu.
Liu also suggests listing some of the biggest news stories of recent years, and sorting them into different categories, such as “politics” and “economics”.
Questions related to local politics appear frequently in past papers. Last year, for example, students were asked to discuss whether the city’s chief executive should have affiliations to any political parties.
When it comes to questions that grapple with recent events like the extradition bill movement, you won’t necessarily be expected to take a stance, says Liu. You may, for example, be asked to discuss the current relationship between the police and Hong Kong citizens, or the results of the recent district council elections.
“These are some very general, academic topics,” Liu says, explaining that you can explore the views of various stakeholders and give supporting evidence, without giving your opinion.
If, for example, the question asks you to discuss Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law, you might expect a question such as: “What factors might affect someone’s level of concern about this issue?” This type of question allows you to give a broad overviewrather than one specific viewpoint.
The key to impressing the examiners is to show that you know what’s going on in the world around you. If you can relate a given source to your knowledge of current events and key concepts, those top marks should be well within your reach.