High fives for top-scoring students
For the first time this year, the city's top students can literally call themselves stars.
Two pupils from the elite Queen's College boys' school were among the five citywide to reach the new benchmark for excellence - 5** in seven subjects - as the first Hong Kong Diplomas of Secondary Education (HKDSE) were handed out.
The two high-fliers were joined by three others from Pui Ching Middle School, Sing Yin Secondary School and St Mary's Canossian College, making them the best of the best out of more than 73,000 who took the new exams.
Under the HKDSE's grading system, the concept of 'straight As' has been replaced by 'straight 5s'.
The top 30 per cent of those who score 5s in each subject receive a mark of 5* while the top third of those get 5**. To receive the coveted mark of 'seven 5**s', pupils have to get such elite scores in seven subjects, including the four mandatory subjects of Chinese, English, liberal studies and mathematics.
High-achieving pupils this year faced the added pressure of being the first to take part in the new HKDSE system, making it that much harder to prepare.
'I didn't expect to get such high scores before,' said Lau Ming-him one of the two high-fliers from Queen's College.
'But now, after getting the results, I feel quite happy because my efforts have paid off.'
Lau, who aspires to be a doctor, said he spent an average of eight to nine hours a day preparing for the exams during his study leave. But he said he never tried to cram late into the night.
Lau's fellow top-scorer Chou Ho-yeung, of Pui Ching Middle School, said sitting for the first HKDSE exams made him 'feel like a guinea pig'.
'There was no reference point, and all I could do was to work on past papers from the old examination syllabus,' Chou said, adding that he was most worried about the Chinese language examination.
'It is not easy to grasp the answering skills in the reading section,' he said. 'And since this was the first ever DSE paper, it was difficult to estimate its level of difficulty.' Just 0.8 per cent of those who took the Chinese exam got a 5**, according to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, while 79.3 per cent of students achieved a level 2 or higher.
Teresa Kwok Fong-yan, of St Mary Canossian College, was the only girl to earn the top score.
'I feel really excited,' said Kwok who hopes to get a bachelor's degree in business administration (law) from the University of Hong Kong.
'Three years of hard work have finally paid off and now I get to pursue the course I want at university.'
Rounding out the list of seven 5**s were Ma Ho-yin from Queens College and Chan Chun-ho, of Sing Yin Secondary School.
Chou said he used 'mental maps' to link in his mind important concepts and vocabulary from each unit.
His Queen's College colleague Ma said he spent long periods studying, reviewing notes and paying attention to social issues to help him prepare for the dreaded liberal studies exam.
Many pupils were nervous about the exam for the subject, which was introduced to the curriculum just a few years ago.
But the top scorers said the key to their success was using relevant vocabulary and backing up their arguments with statistics.
'Even if the examiner is subjective, he or she has to give you credit for using evidence to support your arguments,' Chou said.
In the end, 90.8 per cent of pupils attained a level 2 or higher in the liberal studies exam, a far better success rate than in mathematics or either of the two languages.
The total number of students who sat the DSE exams amounted to 73,074, of which 98.2 per cent were candidates from 532 schools.
The examinations and assessment authority said that 25,431 students - or 37.7 per cent of the exam candidates - met requirements for four-year subsidised university programmes.
But there are only 15,150 places available at the city's eight publicly- funded universities.
The total number of students who sat the exams for the new HKDSE, with 25,431 gaining the required standard for the subsidised four-year university programmes
Reporters Dennis Chong, Wong Yat-hei, Jennifer Cheng, Helen Yu, Thomas Chan, Chris Lau, Joyee Chan, Jolie Ho, Lilly Zhang, Michael Au, Emily Ting and Elaine Leung
Photographers Nora Tam, K.Y. Cheng, Felix Wong and May Tse