Hong Kong pupils taking the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams have said most of the elective subjects they had over the last week were “manageable” and without major surprises.
About 47,500 DSE candidates moved on to their elective subjects this week and completed the bulk of science and finance-related exams on Friday after an emotionally charged first round of tests.
The elective subjects tested included economics, chemistry, biology, and business and accounting and financial studies (BAFS).
Miranda Li Xiangyu, 18, a pupil at Heep Yunn School in Kowloon, admitted she breathed a sigh of relief after she completed the economics paper, one of her weakest subjects, on Tuesday.
“It is undeniable that economics is not my best elective since I don’t have that kind of business acumen,” Li said.
“But even if I score badly in economics, I will not include this subject in my best five. This means that I still have room for mistakes.”
She said that it was a “blessing” that Paper 2 of the economics exam was not “too challenging”.
“At least I was not in dire straits … Otherwise, this year’s cut-off will probably be higher and candidates will have cutthroat competition in getting higher grades,” she added.
Li said she had high hopes of top grades for her other elective subjects – Chinese history on May 10 and history on May 15.
“Personally, I am comfortable in my own skin as I have made every effort to study hard, especially for Chinese history and history,” she added.
Li said her dream was to study history at Chinese University, the University of Hong Kong or Lingnan University.
Daniel Yu, a tutor at King’s Glory Education Centre, said the level of difficulty in this year’s economics exam was “normal” as “not much surprise” was involved in the questions.
“The topics covered in paper 1 are standard types,” Yu said. “For well-prepared candidates, they would be delighted to see Section A [of Paper 2] coming out with not many surprises and that their hard work and preparation paid off.”
Most pupils said they coped with the exams and that biology, economics and BAFS were on par with previous years, although chemistry was a tough challenge.
Kevin Lau, a tutor at Beacon College, said this year’s chemistry exam was “slightly more difficult” than usual and he predicted pupils would have to get 87 per cent of the answers correct to achieve top grade.
“Students cannot give a precise answer simply from practising past papers. They really need to get the gist of the concepts to give the right answer,” Lau explained.
He added a few of the multiple choice section in Paper 1A might have caused problems as they were new question types
The DSE examinations will continue on Saturday and into next week, with candidates sitting other elective subjects, including geography and physics, as well as history subjects.
Li said she expected one of the hot topics in the history exam would be the end of the Cold War after the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union leader who played a key role in events, last year.
Lori Tsang, a Beacon College history tutor, predicted that topics likely to appear in this year’s exam included the opening up of mainland China and Hong Kong politics, as well as the Cold War.
“I know pupils will be very nervous the day before the exam. I suggest they revise timelines of history to refresh their memory of the chronological order of events,” she said.
“In history, the facts and event details don’t matter as much. Rather, they want to see your analysis of them.”
The DSE’s first exam, English, sparked anger after pupils took the paper on April 21.
It featured a reading component with an extract from Becoming, a memoir by former US first lady Michelle Obama, and her essay on Mother’s Day, which many found too difficult.
The exam results will be released on July 19.