HKDSE - Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education

University hopefuls must go beyond exam scores

Dou Wenyu says that, increasingly, university applicants must go beyond exam scores and learn to distinguish themselves in interviews by demonstrating critical thinking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 1:09am

The "3+3+4" education reform (three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary and four years at university) has undoubtedly been the most talked-about issue related to the "two-track" academic year.

It is plain to me and my colleagues that students are mainly worried about their academic results when it comes time to apply to university, sparked in large part by their frustration at the lack of clarity in admissions requirements.

Many who have taken the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination believe that their results are their only bargaining chips at application time.

Although they might know that colleges are looking for all-rounders, the process, from their perspective, remains largely unchanged. What they do not understand is that the admissions requirements have become more comprehensive for the four-year degree curriculum.

Whole-person development is our main criterion at the College of Business, where our key graduate degree is the Bachelor of Business Administration.

This comprehensive approach has enabled us to look not only at students' academic results, but also at their attitudes towards education and their spontaneity, through interviews.

During our large-scale interviews held early last month, we met more than 10,000 students over the course of eight days. We found the "human touch" and face-to-face approach yields the most promising candidates and, eventually, we believe, the best industry professionals.

When collecting feedback from students to improve the process, we learned that the approach put them at ease. Many said they valued the group discussion about current events in particular as a more realistic approach in assessing their analytical skills than an exam paper.

As for the information talk before the interview, it allowed prospective students to meet the professors and better inform themselves about our Bachelor of Business Administration programme before looking again at their application choices.

The admission interview is a means not only for the college to observe the applicants, but also an opportunity for each applicant to present himself or herself as a unique individual rather than simply an application number.

Most applicants agreed that a more diversified process that prompts them to demonstrate their ability to think critically allows them to show their true talents and uniqueness - characteristics that do not show up in test results.

We foresee that this "human-based" assessment criterion will undoubtedly be useful, as a complement to exam scores.

Textbook-based knowledge is the basic element to survive in this competitive world, but it is becoming more apparent by the day that having a wide range of applicable skills in a diverse range of contexts is also essential in the business world.

Employers consider a candidate's academic results as well as their individuality, and so do we.

Professor Dou Wenyu is vice-principal of the College of Business at City University of Hong Kong