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**.
Anxiety ... and relief over 'toughest' subject: Chinese
The pupils who aced the exams say Chinese was the one that worried them the most
Chinese-language results came as a pleasant surprise to some top scorers in the Diploma of Secondary Education exams who found it the most challenging subject and did not expect to do well.
La Salle College student Christopher Sum Hiu-fung, who scored seven level 5** results, said he had expected just a 5 - two grades lower.
"I think the Chinese-language exam is a game [testing] answering skills," said the high-flier, who aims to apply for the medicine and surgery programme at the University of Hong Kong.
"You need to have a certain amount of knowledge of the subject, but when you're sitting an examination, you have to be clear about the rules of the game."
Fellow top scorers Tsang Ka-hing and Christopher Chan Wang-hei from Queen's College were also worried about the Chinese examination.
"The Chinese writing was the toughest," said Chan, who plans to study economics in Britain. "I worried about going off-topic."
Tsang said it was difficult to grasp the grading criteria for Chinese writing, making it tough to prepare for the examination.
Cheng Yuet-yi from St Paul's Co-educational College, who also got seven 5** results, said she put in extra work for Chinese because it was the toughest.
"I put the most effort into Chinese of all the subjects," she said. "The assessment for writing is subjective. I practised a lot of Chinese writing with a private tutor to help me get better at it." Another perfect scorer, Cheung Yik-in from True Light Girls' College, said she was least confident in Chinese.
"There are a lot of unknown factors … particularly in the oral test," she said.
True Light principal Tam Kim-hung agreed that students had a hard time dealing with Chinese.
"We are an [English-medium] school, so people don't spend as much time on Chinese. Also the expectations of the exam are quite high, especially the ancient Chinese literature section of the examination," he said.
But top scorer Tsang Yee-wai, from The Church of Christ in China Heep Woh College, disagreed. "I don't feel this year's Chinese-language subject was difficult. I think I didn't just sit an examination, I also learned something. I chose to write about bias and it was a good chance for me to reflect on the subject," she said.
Heep Woh principal Chu Kai-wing said he had not heard any students say the Chinese exam was difficult.
"We have 90 per cent of our students getting level three or above - better than last year's 86 per cent," he said.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Nine pupils from eight schools scored top marks with 5** in seven subjects.
Angel Tsui Yan-ki, 18, Good Hope School
"I didn't expect to get 5** on Chinese and Liberal Studies."
Cheng Yuet-yi, 18, St Paul's Co-educational College
"There is much social injustice, which inspires me to become a lawyer to help people."
Tsang Ka-hing, 18, Queen's College.
"I want to thank my mother for her support. She would not watch television while I studied."
Christopher Chan Wang-hei, 19, Queen's College
"I plan to go to Britain to further my education."
Terry Tsz Cho-ho, 17, Federation of Youth Groups Lee Shau Kee College
"Do not limit yourself to the syllabus and textbooks."
Cheung Yik-in, 18, True Light Girl's College
"I believe there is no shortcut to getting good grades."
Christopher Sum Hiu-fung, 17, La Salle College
"I am choosing a career in medicine."
Erica Wong Nga-yee, 17, Ying Wa Girls' School
"My dream is to start up a business to promote fair trade."
Tsang Yee-wai , 18, The Church of Christ in China Heep Woh College
"I was not the top student in Form 5. I used my failure as a learning experience."