HKDSE 2019: Chinese History exam of ‘normal difficulty’, with no unexpected topics

The candidate and tutor we spoke to both thought the paper was quite straightforward as predicted, although not all the questions were easy

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Many of the questions were expected and of “normal difficulty”.

A Chinese History DSE candidate from Pooi To Middle School, who did not wish to be identified, thought there was nothing out of the ordinary in today’s exam.

“They covered topics we predicted would come up…,” said the student. “It was similar to the exercises we did in school.

“Paper One was normal, and I felt I could handle it,” the student said, adding that there was a map question that might have been more difficult for students who had not prepared for those types of questions. In Paper Two, in the section on systems and political change, two of the questions – one on land reform, and oe on the imperial exam – didn’t provide any information. We had to work from memory,” the student added.

Kings Glory Education Chinese History tutor Shinno Choi also described Paper One as “not too difficult”.

“An interesting thing about the paper this year is that they provided a lot of information on the Western Zhou [dynasty]; students had to spend more time going through the information, but could also find lots of points to make from the information given,” she said.

She added that the topics chosen for the compulsory questions – the Western Zhou, the Cultural Revolution, and the Chinese economic reform – were not hot topics.

“Among the less studied topics, questions on the Northern Wei and Western Jin dynasties were difficult, but I don’t expect many students picked those questions,” Choi says.

“The An Lushan Rebellion, and the Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing sections, which more students were likely to have studied, were a bit easier.”

Regarding Section B of Paper One, Choi pointed out the appearance of cross-topic questions, which she had predicted would be in the exam. “The civil war question was quite difficult, so I expect people didn't attempt that question. Meanwhile, the socialist reform question was quite simple, and structured into a lot of smaller questions, which makes it easier to gain marks,” she said.

Paper Two is divided into six modules with three questions each; students have to pick two modules, and answer two of the three questions in each.

“Module One on the development and change of Chinese culture in the 20th century is unlikely to have been picked,” Choi said. “Module Two on land use covered the design of Chang’an city, as I predicted before the exam. I noticed students don’t tend to revise capital city design and the HKEAA is challenging this weak spot.”

She notes the question on the shift of China’s economic centre southwards during the post-Tang era, and the one on Qing era Hongs in Guangzhou, were fairly straightforward.

The modules on intellectuals had the hardest question, covering the life of Confucius, as it was a 25-point question which asked about his experiences of writing. “Students know he wrote the Spring and Summer Annals, but they might not know the process behind his writing,” she says. “The other two questions on Liang Qichao and Wang Anshi would be easier to score points in.”

Choi found the easiest question in the third module on systems and political change was the one on land reform, while the imperial exam question was a safe choice, and the question on military organisation was more difficult, she found.

Students choosing the religious history module were lucky, as the question asked about the history of Islam. “The Buddhist-Taoist conflict is a topic students don’t generally do well in, so maybe the exam board avoided repeating it after asking last year,” Choi says.

Finally, in the module on women’s status in society, the part on ancient history was quite direct, while the modern history section required a very firm grasp of the change over time.

“Students might study based on a certain time period, which doesn’t give them a clear view of the change,” she says. “And it might mean their answers to such questions would be unstructured and likely to miss out on points.”

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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