The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination is administered by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Most candidates take four core subjects - Chinese and English languages, mathematics and liberal studies - and two or three elective subjects. Results are divided into five levels, with 5 being the highest. A Level 5 with the best performance will be awarded a 5**.
Disabled pupils do their schools proud
Pupils with disabilities overcame their challenges to do well in the Diploma of Secondary Education examination - including one who scored a record for her school.
Choi Hoi-ki scored 23 points with 5* in Chinese and liberal studies, the best performance in a public exam for the Hong Kong Red Cross Princess Alexandra School, a school for people with special education needs.
Choi, 23, who was diagnosed with chronic arthritis when she was seven and has to take painkillers every four hours to ease the pain, stayed up studying until 2am every day.
Encouragement from her best friend, Yeung Siu-fong, helped her overcome the challenges.
"[Yeung] told me if I was not admitted into a university, she would rather give me her offer," Choi said tearfully as Yeung, who lost her arms in an accident when she was nine, wiped the tears with a tissue held between her toes. Yeung has been studying foot-painting for four years, and was the only pupil to take visual arts in the exams at her school, scoring level 2 in the subject.
"Students with disabilities don't have many options if we fail to get into a university," she said.
She plans to apply to art institutes in Hong Kong and Guangzhou to pursue a career in Chinese painting, while Choi will apply to study Chinese literature at the University of Hong Kong.
A special-needs school is not the only place where disabled pupils can do well. Terry Lam Wing-shun, 22, a blind student at St Paul's College, obtained two level 5 scores and four level 4s.
He joined the college from the Ebenezer School for the visually impaired.
"The government and the school provided me with resources, and Ebenezer also had teachers to support me.
"I am thankful especially for St Paul's because they subsidised my school fees, otherwise my parents wouldn't have been able to send me here," said Lam, who was blinded in an accident during a medical procedure when he was four.
"I mostly use the computer or Braille textbooks to study," he said. "For text-heavy subjects like liberal studies and history, I perhaps study at the same speed as those who can see; but when it comes to more pictorial subjects like maths and economics, I might take more time," he said.
Lam plans to study literature, social work or social sciences in the university. He and Choi will compete with some 28,000 pupils who also meet the minimum requirement for places in local universities.