HKDSE 2020: Nothing unexpected in Geography exam, as it asks questions about sustainability and urban development

  • Students say the questions were similar to what they studied in mock exams, but there was a lot to write
  • One teacher calls the questions ‘ conventional and creative’
Joanne Ma |

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Student wait to be seated for the HKDSE at the Textile Institute American Chamber of Commerce Woo Hon Fai Secondary School in Tsuen Wan.

This year’s HKDSE Geography paper was well-designed with just the right balance between creative and mainstream questions, according to teachers.

More than 8,700 candidates sat the exam on Monday.

Samuel Chan, an experienced secondary school teacher who has taught the subject for more than 40 years, said that the biggest concern for students this year was the fieldwork-based question which was only introduced last year. Apart from explaining the data collection process for a study on the urban environmental quality of an area, students were also required to write a report to present and analyse the data as well as verify it.

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“The difficulty was that there was a lot to write and yet so little time,” Chan said.

Chan also noticed there were plenty of open-ended questions in this year’s paper. “These questions required students to take a stance and present their reasons,” he added.

An example would be Section D, Q7 in Paper One, where candidates were asked to discuss whether redevelopment was the most appropriate urban renewal strategy in old urban areas in Hong Kong. To answer such questions, students should have a comprehensive knowledge of the issue. They should examine revitalisation and rehabilitation as strategies as well, Chan said.

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This year’s paper covered various issues concerning Hong Kong, such as housing problems, sustainability, inner city development and urban decay. But knowledge of global problems was also important, as one of the essay questions in Paper One focused on the worldwide problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’d say this year’s paper was both conventional and creative. There were mainstream as well as

breakthrough questions,” said Chan.

Titus Chan, a geography tutor from Modern Education, also said that this year’s paper was well designed.

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“The questions were not surprising, but they were not entirely conventional. For example, Q1 in Paper One was about mudflow.”

“Although this topic is covered on the syllabus, it was not asked often in past papers, so students might have found the question quite new and challenging.”

He said the fieldwork-based question was not difficult. “As long as students were specific about why they chose to use certain sampling and data handling methods, they should have done quite well.”

He pointed out that there were some new twists to familiar questions. For example, in the second part of Paper One, Section D, Q6, there was a question on whether land use zoning was more effective in reducing soil loss from volcanic eruptions than from earthquakes. While land use zoning was not a new concept in the exam paper, the question was set differently this year.

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“Apart from testing candidates’ knowledge of land use zoning, it required them to state the differences between the characteristics of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes,” he said.

Ian Chan Chin-pok, a 17-year-old candidate from St. Paul’s Co-educational College, said there was nothing unexpected in the paper. He had come across such questions in his school’s mock exam and in the exercises prepared by his tutor.

“Although I have worked on similar questions, I still could not finish both essays in Paper One and Two. I knew the answers, but I guess I wasn’t writing fast enough,” he said.

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