HKDSE 2019: Top exam tips for English Language Paper 3: Listening and Integrated Skills

By Ben Pang

Kenneth Lau, a tutor at Beacon College, has some useful hints to help you ace the paper - but the ultimate advice is to practise

By Ben Pang |

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Paper 3: Listening and Integrated Skills has two sections, Part A and Part B. In Part B, you must decide whether to complete Part B1 or B2.

Part A generally consists of note-taking (form-filling, sentence completion, Q/A, flow chart), a map or logical questions. 

Kenneth Lau, a tutor at Beacon College, advised students to be extremely cautious about sentence completion, as grammatical accuracy matters. For instance, in Q23 (Task 2) last year, students had to be aware of the given clause which read: “First, when the game starts”. This clause placed the emphasis on the tense (the simple present) and subject-verb agreement. Students should therefore complete the sentence using the same tense and correct subject-verb agreement: “the game sends a document to the player’s phone”. 

If a question requires you to fill in the blanks, bear in mind the parts of speech, singular/ plural nouns, active/ passive voices, and tenses.

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Q/A is deemed one of the toughest question types in Part A, with a few of them asking candidates to write questions. To tackle this part, refer to any examples that are given. When the examples are noun phrases, follow suit. When it comes to forming questions, don’t forget auxiliary verbs. When revising, make sure you drill sentence formation and understand how to structure a question. Also be aware of reported speech in the script as you need to turn it into a direct question. 

In Part B, students are required to complete a total of three tasks using information from the Data File and the recording. Lau noticed a trend towards tasks that involve writing to your teachers or school principal, or to your boss in an organisation. He recommended students be very aware of their assigned roles and the nature of their school or company. For example, last year’s Task 8 asked students to write a funding report for their own board game company. Lau stressed that, since it’s not a large-scale company and the report is only circulated internally, it was not recommended to write an overly formal report. 

“Some students typically avoid writing spoken or informal language, but what stands out from others is their ability not to make it too distant. Surely stronger candidates are aware of their readers - their own staff, thereby using a polite but cordial manner in this ‘formal report’. This seems to be in line with the required appropriacy in this task,” he said. 

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Another example was Task 10 in the 2017 paper. It asked students to invite popular swimmer Mariana Tse to be a guest at the Opening Ceremony of a mega mall. Lau said some students overlooked the correlation between the guest and the mall. 

“The mall was a gigantic project featuring a waterfall, a ship and a lake. Such a setting suited Mariana’s profession as she was a world-renowned swimmer. Instead of merely including all basic information like the venue, date and time of the opening ceremony, why not make a strong connection between the guest and the mall. It was also a good idea to make her feel honoured by saying something like ‘This is a brilliant opportunity to take a prominent role at this grand opening’,” said Lau.

For data like pie charts, tables and graphs, it’s not advisable to copy all statistics. “Some tasks in Part B test students’ ability to summarise and categorise the information. According to the instructions given in the data file, students can select the most relevant statistics and present them under the umbrella of a certain category. You should als present these statistics from general to specific, or in a chronological order,” Lau said.

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If the instructions in Part B ask you to paraphrase, try to use synonyms, change the sentence structure, or alter the parts of speech. This ensures the words you use are in line with the appropriacy/ coherence of the assigned tasks. 

Prior to the exam, drill the formats of text types, such as reports, speeches, proposals and letters (personal, business, invitation, complaint, application, defence, inquiry and reply to inquiry).

These tips should help you when it comes to sitting Paper 3. But ultimately, the English exam is testing your language proficiency. Use the days you have left to practise, practise, practise. Good luck!