HKDSE 2019: Economics exam more challenging than previous years, required application of theory to real-world situations

Both top tutors and most students agreed that this year's paper demanded an excellent understanding of fundamental economic concepts

Doris Wai |

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This year's HKDSE economics exam required a deep understanding of basic concepts.

Experienced tutors and most students agreed that this year’s HKDSE economics exam was a lot more challenging than previous years. Both papers were heavily based on application of theories and required an excellent understanding of economic concepts.

“This year’s paper was challenging but interesting. It required a deep understanding of basic concepts and how to apply them to real-life situations related to human behaviour,” Modern Education tutor Cyrus Chung said.

The questions in Paper 1 were also more demanding, and students needed to analyse a lot of data. Chung referred to Question 39 in particular which asked “Which of the following results can be a negative number?” Yang said this type of question required students to use their reasoning skills. Andrew Lo from Beacon College said that while this question was not new, the content asked was different, and this meant students needed to apply concepts across topics.

Carl Hung from King’s Glory Education, agreed that this year’s multiple choice questions required candidate to apply economics concepts in different situations. One example was Question 12 which was related to the law of demand. Rather than asking students to calculate the relative price, which they are familiar with, the question asked them to additionally apply a ratio of quantity to get the answer.  

As for Paper 2, Chung said, “There were a lot more data response questions when compared to last year. One question was about the trade war between the US and China, and even though most students may have basic background knowledge about this topic, it is not enough. They needed to present and justify viewpoints from different stakeholders.” Hung agreed that students may have had difficulty elaborating if they did not know relevant details about the trade war.

An 18-year-old DSE candidate from Queen’s College, who asked not to be named, agreed. He says, “Even though I did spend time preparing for hot topics like the US China trade war, I am not confident about doing well on this question. I barely finished writing my answer because of the time spent on understanding and digesting the question.”

Chung adds that even for conventional questions such as the different policies of an economy, students needed to apply them to the given scenario in order to score full marks. He added that most of this year’s exam traps were in the form of “decoy information” that was meant to mislead students, so a good understanding of foundational concepts was very important to filter out unnecessary details.

Justin Yung, 18, from Chong Gene Hang College felt that this year’s paper was not too difficult when compared to past exam papers. However, there were some tricky terms that required an in-depth understanding of concepts to answer. While he was surprised by Paper 1, Question 39, he felt confident answering it based on practice questions.

Justin was unfazed by the increase in date response questions, and found them manageable. Time management during the exam was a problem though. Justin says, “Even though I could answer all the questions, I would have been able to give better quality answers with more detailed explanations if I had more time.”

On the other hand, the same student from Queen’s College said he struggled with the exam overall even though he had spent enough time preparing for it, and that most of his peers felt the same as he did. He thought it was much harder than previous papers and was shocked by the number of data response questions in Paper 2.

“There were many unexpected questions, and one of them even asked for an example of a public corporation. I was totally unprepared for this! Only a few cases were covered in the textbook and the information was insufficient to answer this question,” says the student.   

As for paper 1, he found the multiple choice questions to be very different from previous examinations and that both the questions and answer options were ambiguous. When asked about Question 39, he says, “This type of question forces us to relate to different question types.”

His advice for students sitting for next year’s paper, “Revise every single detail and go through as many case studies and examples as you can, because what you think is insignificant just might appear as a question.”

Edited by Jamie Lam

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