DSE 2022: Liberal studies exam free of controversy; touches on Covid and plant-based diets

  • Students who were well-prepared should be able to obtain a Level 4 grade easily, one star tutor says
  • This year’s exam required candidates to rely more on their own knowledge, putting those used to using a data source at a disadvantage
Doris Wai |

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Here’s a breakdown of this year’s liberal studies exam. Photo: Handout

Similar to last year’s DSE liberal studies exam, this year’s questions steered clear of controversial topics and focused on general questions related to the city’s volunteer service, the Tokyo Olympics, Covid-19 and remote work, changes to traditional Chinese customs, the cultural benefits of the upcoming Hong Kong Palace museum and the advantages of a plant-based diet.

According to Liu Tin-yan, a tutor from King’s Glory Education, most of the 44,600 candidates who sat for Thursday’s papers should have been able to pass fairly easily, and a Level 4 would have been within reach if they were well prepared. However, those aiming for a Level 5 or above had to go above and beyond to score these grades.

What to do if you’re sent to Penny’s Bay for the exam

“Overall, this year’s exam was more straightforward compared to 2021 and 2020, especially Paper 1. Surprisingly, there were only two data sources and there wasn’t a cartoon, so it should have been easier for students to grasp the questions as long as they understood what was asked of them,” Liu said.

Abbie Ko Huen-lam, a student at Good Hope School, shared similar sentiments about this year’s exam. “I think my performance was better than what I expected and I was able to finish both papers with confidence,” the 17-year-old said.

However, that does not mean all the questions were clear-cut and direct. Liu added that this year’s examination stood out from others because all eight-mark and above questions called for candidates to tap into their own knowledge. As such, those who were used to relying on data sources would have been at a disadvantage.

Some of this year’s candidates found themselves scrambling to finish Paper 2 as the exam required to put up an in-depth discussion. Photo: Shutterstock

“We can see that the 2022 exam called for students to do their own preparation work and elaboration. And because of this, time management would have been an issue,” she said.

One possible question some students might have fumbled was Paper 1, Question 1 in which candidates were asked to conclude two phenomena of Hong Kong people’s participation in volunteer service. She explained: “Unless students were specifically practising to answer such questions, I think most of them ended up only quoting the data instead of generalising how these features affect the situation.”

She also singled out Question 3B, which asked about the impact of remote work on society, and whether it should be promoted in Hong Kong.

What to remember before exam day

“This was a twist on what many students have come to expect – to only analyse the source provided,” Liu said, explaining that in this case, students also had to transform the data and integrate it into their argument.

Abbie pointed to the same question as a difficult one and shared that she had to spend more time making meaning of the data and putting it into a macro point of view.

According the tutor, Paper 2 was more challenging than Paper 1 because candidates were required to put up an in-depth discussion, show their ability to compare the different options presented, and make their own stance. This was another area candidates could have lost points in, as they are generally weaker in such questions. “Still, the issues showcased in this year’s exam were still quite general. Most of my students thought they were fairly manageable,” she said.

This year’s Chinese papers were tougher than last year, tutors say

Abbie, who is also a student at King’s Glory, said that she chose Paper 2, Question 1 on traditional Chinese customs because she had read up on similar topics, so she was confident about tackling comparative questions.

That being said, the DSE candidate added that even thought she was very well prepared for both papers, she found herself having to answer the questions in a rush, since she was taking the English version of the exam.

“It really helped that I followed Miss Liu [Tin-yan]’s tip to allocate 2.5 minutes for each mark the question was worth, and I definitely recommend this tip for future candidates,” she added.

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