DSE 2022: What to study for the Mathematics exam and why you need a strategy – advice from a top tutor in Hong Kong

  • Don’t skip revising statistics – the topic is easy to grasp and accounts for four to five questions every year, says Dick Hui from King’s Glory Education
  • Sketch out any problems you’re stuck on, and leave time for checking your answers at the end
Kelly Fung |

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On the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) Mathematics exams, the last thing you want to do is mindlessly fill out the answer sheet because you’re in a time crunch.

When solving complex equations, it can be challenging to keep your mind sharp, especially if you don’t know your strategy.

But fear not – we’ve got you covered. Young Post spoke to Dick Hui from King’s Glory Education for pointers on how to ace this challenging exam.

DSE 2021: Maths exam Paper 2 saw spike in difficulty

For Paper 1, make time to check your answers

When working on this paper, Hui suggests students spend 15 minutes on A(1), 30 to 45 minutes on A(2), and one hour on Part B. The remaining time should be spent checking your answers.

It’s easy to lose points on careless mistakes, so make time to go over your answers at the end of the exam. Illustration: Shutterstock

Section A(1) is usually straightforward

This first section tests students’ understanding of topics taught in their junior secondary years, such as factorisation and the simplification of indices. Questions here are usually straightforward, Hui says, and those aiming for a passing grade must get at least 30 from a total of 35 points.

Section A(2) has challenging ‘explain’ and ‘proof’ questions

This section explores topics such as similar and congruent triangles, volume and polynomials. Hui says these problems are more challenging. At least five to seven of the 19 questions will be “explain” and “proof” questions, which students may find difficult.

If you’re aiming for 5 or above, prepare thoroughly for Part B

As for the dreaded long questions in Part B, Hui says the more advanced questions revolve around 3D trigonometry and coordinate geometry, which are likely to appear as 12-point questions. Candidates aiming for a 5 or above should make sure they are familiar with these topics and revise them thoroughly.

Even if maths is not your strong suit, Hui encourages you to attempt tackling the first sub-question in each long question. These are about two to three points each, totalling 10 points.

“They are fairly easy most of the time. If students are able to finish all the first sub-questions in the long questions, it’s quite promising that they would get at least Level 3 to 4,” he explains.

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When studying for Paper 2, don’t skip statistics

There are 45 multiple-choice questions covering the entire syllabus in Paper 2, and students have one hour and 15 minutes to finish it.

“There are about 15 to 20 questions that are tricky to tackle, which often involve trigonometry, logarithmic graphs and polar coordinates,” Hui says, adding there is likely to be one question on 3D geometry and trigonometry.

Trigonometry, logarithmic graphs and polar coordinates are often the trickier topics on this paper. Illustration: Shutterstock

One topic Hui says he cannot stress enough is statistics – this topic is crucial, and students should never skip revising it.

“It’s easy to grasp, and it accounts for a relatively high proportion in the exam,” he explains, adding that every year, there are about four to five multiple-choice questions on statistics.

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Tips to get you through the exam

Sketch it out: If you are stuck on a question, Hui encourages visualising it by sketching diagrams or plotting graphs based on the information provided – especially for questions that involve polar coordinates, coordinate geometry and mensuration. This can clear your mind and keep you on the right track.

Learn to move on: Let go of questions you cannot answer, and move on to the next question.

“Always finish the questions you know how to answer – don’t get stuck,” says Hui. “It is easy to ... make careless mistakes, so students should reserve some time to check their answers and weak areas after finishing the whole paper.”

Get into exam mode: Practise past papers, and time yourself in the coming weeks. Hui recommends students do past papers at 8.30am to get used to working under pressure during exam hours.

“Get into the tempo of the examination when doing past papers,” Hui says. “And turn it into a routine.”

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