HKDSE 2019: History paper straightforward and similar to recent past papers

Tutors from Beacon College and King's Glory, and students agree the exam wasn’t very complicated and contained the usual hot topics, with only one ‘difficult’ question

Joanne Ma |

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The data in this year’s exam was much easier to understand, compared to last year’s.

This year’s History DSE exam was quite straightforward and similar to past years’ papers, according to local star tutors.

A total of 5,440 candidates sat for the exam, which took place today.

“The data in this year’s exam was much easier to understand, compared to last year’s. The questions were not complicated either,” said Lori Tsang, a history tutor at Beacon College.

Tsang told Young Post that almost all of the hot topics reappeared, including Japan’s post-war economic development, Cold War and the relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong.

“Neither my friends nor I thought the paper was very difficult … I remember doing a past paper and I came across a similar question that appeared in the exam,” said Danessa Torralba, an 18-year-old student at Ying Wa Girls’ School.

When asked which she thought was the most difficult question, Danessa said it was Q4 in Paper One. It asked candidates about the main message of a cartoon regarding the Paris Peace Settlement.

“I think that was the trickiest part because the cartoon seemingly doesn’t say a lot. You really have to look at it carefully,” she added.

K. W. Ho, a history tutor at King’s Glory who preferred not to give his full name, said that normally if a question asks for the main message expressed in a cartoon, students can think of it from two perspectives: either the cartoon has made reality more beautiful, or has made it uglier.

“In that question, the cartoonist is mocking how Britain and France were setting some unrealistic goals for Germany. It’s implying that they had made it too difficult for Germany to repay the debts,” said Ho.

In the last sub-question in Q4, after identifying the main message conveyed in the cartoon, candidates were asked if they agreed that the Treaty of Versailles had become decreasingly important in terms of determining Europe’s international relations in the 1920s.

Ho said the students’ focus shouldn’t be on whether or not the Treaty was important, but rather how it had been important before and wasn’t later.

“Students could refer to the sources provided in the data. In the early 1920s, the Treaty of Versailles led to a very unfavourable relationship between Germany and Allied countries, like Britain and France. But as time went on - in 1929, as seen in Source H - the amount of money that they had to pay was reduced, meaning that the Treaty of Versailles actually had decreasing binding power and effects on the relations between the European countries,” Ho explained.

Tsang also said that most students might find the last sub-question of Q4 in Paper One difficult.

As well as what Ho outlined, Tsang said students “could also include and explain other factors that contributed to the treaty’s declining importance in chronological order.” 

For example, candidates could say that because of the emergence of other peace treaties such as the Locarno Treaties in 1925 and Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, the Treaty of Versailles had less and less impact.

Ho said that although the questions were all very straightforward this year, Paper One could still have been tricky if students were not familiar with the past paper questions and the question types.

“There are often some patterns in questions that give students a direction to answer. The following keywords in the questions appear a lot: characteristics, problems, whether the authors of the sources or cartoonists share the same view, the level of importance of certain things, and the ‘more than’ questions,” said Ho. “If they’re familiar with the question types, they will know how to answer immediately.”

Danessa agreed that doing enough past papers was key to scoring high marks in History DSE exam. “A lot of times they just reuse the questions and reformat their structure, so it’s actually kind of similar,” she added.

Both tutors and Danessa thought Paper Two was straightforward.

Tsang said that the second paper was as expected. He said that it’s important students remember to consider different perspectives in their answers. Sometimes, they also had to argue both sides of an argument and compare different historical events, he added.

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