YP editor takes the HKDSEs (Part II)

YP editor takes the HKDSEs (Part II)

-Did they know I was coming?


Ramsay marked the "end time" on the front of her paper
Ramsay marked the "end time" on the front of her paper
Photo: Susan Ramsay/SCMP

Wow, thanks for so much feedback on my first post. I’m glad it has at least started a conversation on what has been a problem for our readers for years now. Let’s continue on the journey.

So, the first LS paper was quite simple, but I shot myself in the foot by missing a whole bunch of questions and then running out of time to go back and polish what I had written.

I can’t imagine what I would have done if I was a student at that point. I’ve heard our readers talk about the whole “make it or break it” mentality in our education system. It’s easy to gloss over it when you’re an adult, because you know it is not true. But for many, everything in their lives comes down to this one point.

I am an adult, mature and used to handling pressure and also able to put things in perspective. I am not sure that students are able to do this.

 If I were younger, I think I would have been really tempted to go home and hide under the duvet. All the doubts that I had had came crashing back. If I had a kid, I would really want them to do well in their exams, but I would also make darn sure to tell them that this exam does not define them. No matter what happens in those two hours, they will be okay.

There wasn’t much time for this sort of reflection on the day.

Dazed and, I have to admit, shocked, I seemed to only have time to go to the loo and down some of that cooldrink before we headed back. Time for paper 2.

THIS was the “long answer” paper. That just ratcheted up the tension. I knew I would have three questions and I would have to choose between them, answering only one for 20 marks. It takes an age from the time you’re sitting down to the time you’re writing. You can sort of hear the ticking of the clock in your mind as the time draws nearer. I marked the "end time" on the front of my paper and allowed my watch to take up precious desk space.

Confession: I’ve never been good at writing essays, not for school anyway, so the odds were not in my favour.

But, by some miracle – as I said to A afterwards “did they know I was doing this?” – this was the first of the three questions:


  1. Consider the following sources:

Source A: An extract from a newspaper commentary dated 7 February 2014

The Hong Kong Journalists Association conducted a survey in 2012 and found that 86.9% of journalists thought that press freedom had declined. Besides, according to a report by a famous international organisation, Reporters Without Borders, the world ranking of Hong Kong’s press freedom fell from 18 in 2002 to 58 in 2013”

I almost whooped out loud.

Source B was an extract from a later paper, which I thought was a little... odd

Source B: Adapted from a newspaper commentary dated 25 February 2014

Besides the three powers: executive, legislature and judiciary, the media is usually considered to be the ‘fourth power’ which monitors the other three. The media exercises its power and rights via press freedom and freedom of expression. Some messages and ideas are spread by the media positively, some negatively. The modern media is a transmitter of messages and cannot evade its responsibility. Press freedom is not absolute. Countries may restrict press freedom by law.



  1. What factors do you think might influence press freedom in Hong Kong? Explain your answer. (8 marks)
  2. ‘A high degree of press freedom would enhance the effectiveness of governance by the Hong Kong government’ To what extent do you agree with this view? Explain your answer (12 marks)    

I didn’t read the rest of the paper – which just goes to show that habits are really ingrained.

“slow down...” what?

At the back of my mind I was wondering about the choice of that opinion piece. Was it some sort of veiled warning not to side with the idea of full press freedom? Perhaps I was reading too much into it, but I battled to shake the feeling. But I'm a journalist. I decided to go with the idea of "full press freedom or bust".

I wrote, hard and I wrote fast. And I felt the dragging limitations of writing with pen and paper, not being able to shift paragraphs around, not being able to hit the internet to check something. Again, pressure drained me of any of the myriad good quotes I know about press freedom. And, for those of you that don't know, I give talks about this, my publication has won global recognition for it, so I know what I'm talking about.

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All that I had been taught about “plan your answer” and “make notes” blah blah... no. There’s no time. Correction tape became my go-to tool, and I found I could blitz out entire paragraphs if I had to, just to put things a little more elegantly. Even so, it was a crude rendition of my argument that left me wondering what it is that we’re testing.

I understand that if we were to go solely on SBA (School Based Assessments) then all sorts of factors like favouritism and cheating come into play. This is a student’s chance to be assessed in the cold light of anonymity. The electronic logistics of taking this exam on a digital platform are too challenging for now.

But don’t believe that what the examiner reads is the best of what you can do. It’s more like a flying visit. So I am a little in awe of those who managed to get a 5**.

When I finally escaped and found my way home I was exhausted. Vegging out in front of the TV, and scratching my dog behind her ears was about all I could manage for a good few hours. I pity the poor students who have to take another exam or study for the next one. Later, when the results came out, I was inspired to once again reach out to our readers to try to mitigate the pain that those who had not done as well as expected might be feeling. Judging by our online poll, that was quite a few of them.

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I kept on thinking about who would mark my paper. I tried to imagine them trying to decide on how to score me. Then I remembered that I had not defined anything – again. I wondered if the marker would be just as tired, and I couldn’t imagine how many papers they mark in a day. Are they just as exhausted when they deal out those all important marks?

Ramsay's result for Liberal Studies: Level 3


Next up: The controversial English reading paper


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