A-levels first and last for man who took it in 1980

Official who took the inaugural exam oversees end of a test that has been taken by 922,000

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 3:46am

When Wan Tak-wing took Hong Kong's first University Advanced Level Examination in 1980, he did not expect to become the person in charge of the same exam this year when the final curtain falls on it.

The results will be released today, after which Hong Kong will bid farewell to the A-level exam which has been taken by some 922,400 candidates over 34 years.

A total of 5,322 private candidates registered for the exam this year, including 24 with special needs. Just over 4,500 sat it, making it the smallest group in the exam's history. The eldest candidate was a 64-year-old who took only one subject and the youngest was 14. About 80 per cent of the candidates were repeating it.

Five obtained two As and 63 received one A. About 56 per cent of the candidates passed, obtaining E or above. Almost 70 per cent of those who sat the exam took only one subject, around 18 per cent took two and only one took eight subjects.

The advanced supplementary-level subject in use of English was the most popular, with about 86 per cent of the candidates taking it, and the least popular subject was physics, which had no takers.

Wan, who sat the physics exam when it had just been introduced, said the exam this year was only for private candidates and not comparable with last year, when more than 40,000 private and school pupils took it.

Wan said only about 10,000 candidates took the exam in its first year, and about 2 per cent, including him, scored enough marks to enter university.

"We didn't have much pressure preparing for the exam at that time and the exam was perhaps easier [than the later ones]," said Wan, who is acting general manager of the assessment department of the Exam and Assessment Authority.

"Students have been studying harder to get good scores. This is also what we hope to see."

He joined the authority in 1989 as a director for mathematics and has played a part in every major A-level change since.

Those changes have included the introduction of exam papers written in Chinese in 1992, the establishment of the Joint University Programmes Admissions System for students entering government-funded tertiary institutions in 1994, the introduction of AS-level subjects such as liberal studies in the same year and the last A-level exam for school candidates last year.

Last year was also the first year of the Diploma of Secondary Education exam, following the introduction of the new senior secondary curriculum in 2009.

"The A-level is an important milestone in Hong Kong's education," Wan said.

Tong Chong-sze, secretary general of the authority, said the A-level had completed its task.

"It has served Hong Kong very well over the 34 years," he said. "We're now ready for the next phase of our mission. We believe the DSE will continue to serve the city well."