After 34 years as the main gateway to university study, the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination officially became history yesterday as the last 27,000 students to sit the tests got their results.
The exam will be replaced by the Diploma of Secondary Education under a new education system.
For Yuen Pui-chuen, his results yesterday did not tell him what he'd hoped - he failed again in the Chinese section.
The 20-year-old is now opting for a subdegree course offered by the Institute of Vocational Education.
'All I want is to get a place in university eventually,' Yuen said.
Student counsellors say candidates should think carefully because they have more choices to pursue further studies.
Social worker Kwok Man-fong, of the Hok Yau Club, said that although this year's HKCEE students could still stick to the old curriculum and study on their own for next year's A-levels, they could also opt this year for subdegrees in tertiary institutes.
Those who fail to obtain the minimum five passes can enrol in the Yi Jin programme, which can lead them to the subdegree stream.
Lit Ho-cheung, director of the club's student guidance centre, said students should think carefully before making a decision about their course of action.
For Cheung Ka-wang, getting a pass in English and Chinese means a bright future.
'A lot of things depend on your academic qualifications. If you don't have the qualifications, you will not get promoted,' the 27-year-old, who sat the exam this year for the third time, said.
Cheung said he believed he failed in previous attempts to enter university because he failed the HKCEE's language component, even though he had a high-level vocational diploma.
'After moving into the world of work 10 years ago, I am still taking the exam,' the sports instructor said.
'Sometimes I wonder why society is like this.'
He said he wanted to use the improved exam grades to get into university to eventually become a social worker.
This year, 85 per cent of all HKCEE candidates, or 22,411 people, had sat in last year's exam.
Examiners said that many of the test retakers wanted to improve their scores or took the exam for an intellectual challenge.
For Yvonne Cheung Yau-ping, a 50-year-old property agent, failing for the fifth time in Chinese did not discourage her.
'It's not going to be the end of the world,' she said.
'At least I developed an interest in Chinese writing.'
Cheung Yau-ping first took the exam in 1981 and planned to sit the secondary education diploma exams under the new curriculum next year with her 18-year-old son.
'Getting a pass is my biggest wish in life. Otherwise, it would be such a shame for me,' she said.
Meanwhile, the Correctional Services Department said the 12 inmates who took this year's HKCEE achieved satisfactory results.
Altogether, the inmates sat 74 exams, achieving one distinction, five credits and 44 passes.