HKDSE candidates share their thoughts and feelings before the exams

  • The Hong Kong protests and class suspensions due to Covid-19 have made this year especially difficult for students taking the assessments. 
  • Some students are worried they won't remember what they studied, while others fear catching coronavirus in the exam hall.
Nicola Chan |

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Are you taking the HKDSE this year? What are you most nervous about?

From the citywide anti-government protests to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the past year has not been easy for most Hongkongers, let alone students braving the public exams. 

One day before the long-awaited HKDSE Examination kicks off, Young Post asked candidates across the city to share their thoughts and feelings. 

Evangel College’s Janice Kwok thinks most students, including her, are not mentally prepared for the imminent exams. “Everyone was distracted by the protests, then, the coronavirus outbreak and the postponement of the exams. Everything just happened all of a sudden, and we couldn’t focus on preparing for the DSE the same way candidates in the past could.”

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Although the pandemic has slowed down, the 17 year-old is concerned about catching the virus during the exam - as an additional “five hundred thousand students will be commuting during rush hours” to attend the core subject exams. “Since the government didn’t do what is best for the students, all we can do now is to protect ourselves [with anti-epidemic measures],” she adds.  

“I am going to screw up,” exclaims another Form Six student who prefers to remain anonymous. Like Janice, the La Salle College student, 17, says the social unrest and Covid-19 have been stressing him out, and have “completely sabotaged” his study plan and progress.

“Some make-up classes were cancelled [due to the school suspension]. As a result, some subject teachers were not able to cover the entire exam syllabus,” he explains. When the mock exams took place online, they could not serve their purpose - of helping students get used to the tense exam atmosphere - either, he adds.  

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Another panicking candidate, Edwina Chan,18, says her revision schedule has been greatly affected by the delay in exams. “I feel extra nervous and lost, as my initial study plan doesn’t seem to work anymore.” 

The Maryknoll Convent School (Secondary Section) student is also worried about the potential spread of coronavirus at the exam halls. “A few days ago, an HKU medical student tested false-positive [for Covid-19] and went for an exam ... If similar incidents happen during the DSE, it would put candidates’ health at risk,” Edwina says.    

The ongoing public health crisis has led to the closure of public facilities, affecting a substantial number of students who prefer to revise at public libraries or study rooms. Sophie Lam, 17, is one of them. “It’s more difficult to concentrate when I’m at home, but I have no other options when all the public places for studying are shut.” 

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School teachers have assisted her and her peers with revision during the school suspension, but video conference sessions are not as effective as face-to-face learning, she adds. “Our minds drift so easily when it’s e-learning,” she explains. 

Studying at a local co-educational secondary school in the Northern District, Sophie also reveals to Young Post that her cross-border peers, which make up half of her year group, could only have partial access to the learning materials uploaded to Google classroom - and attend the online mock exams -  using VPNs.

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“Some of their families are now struggling financially after renting a flat in Hong Kong for the mandatory 14-day quarantine before the exams,” she adds. “So one of my friends, who’s a mainland student, is now sharing her flat with two other cross-border students who couldn’t afford the high cost of living.” 

In spite of the unusual circumstances and uncertainties facing DSE candidates, Ying Wa College’s Zenith Yeung says he’s ready for the exams. 

“When I first learned the DSE had been postponed, I felt drained. But I also knew that I must keep up and not slack off … [So] I managed to keep up with my studies,” the 17 year-old says. “It’s all about determination."