SIMPLIFIED Chinese characters will be formally accepted in future public exams in preparation for the 1997 changeover, the Hong Kong Examinations Authority announced yesterday. The chairman of the authority Kenneth Fang Hung said: 'As 1997 is approaching and as the mainland adopts simplified Chinese characters, the authority decided to accept the use of such characters in public exams.' The secretary for the authority Choi Chee-cheong said there had been students using simplified Chinese characters in exams in the past, and marks had not been deducted. He said there had not been a public announcement on the acceptance because they did not want to 'lead education by examination'. And he said the change would only be stated in the Handbook for Candidates and not in the examination regulations and syllabus as the authority did not want to create an impression that it was encouraging the use of such characters. The authority yesterday also decided to release the confidential marking schemes for the Form Five and Form Seven public exams to teachers starting from next month. While Mr Fang warned teachers not to give the copies to students, he admitted that it was difficult to control the distribution of the marking scheme which candidates regarded as a 'bible'. The authority also decided to drop a reform proposal to improve the Form Five public exam - the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination - because a majority of the schools were opposed to it. The proposal suggested dividing mathematics, Chinese and English into two or three modules based on levels of difficulty, while Form Four students were allowed to take a public exam on the basic modules.