DSE 2022: Tutors say Chinese reading and writing papers overall more difficult than last year

  • While Part A of the reading section was fairly straightforward, Part B was tough since it included more summary questions and abstract texts
  • This year’s writing options were a narrative, writing an essay based on a comic, and an argumentative essay
Yanni Chow |

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What did you think of the Chinese reading and writing exam? Photo: Shutterstock

This year’s Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) Chinese reading paper had some tricky questions, while the writing paper was more difficult than usual, according to Chinese tutors.

Almost 45,000 students sat for the exam on Tuesday.

Y.Y. Lam, star tutor from Defining Education, said this year’s questions about the prescribed classical Chinese texts were easier than those on last year’s paper.

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Out of the 12 assigned readings for Part A, 魚我所欲也 and 聲聲慢 from 宋詞三首 were chosen this year.

Lam said the questions were pretty straightforward, even the ones asking for the meaning of certain word.

“If they [students] revised, they would have known how to answer the questions,” he said.

Although the exam required students to provide an exact quote from 聲聲慢, it shouldn’t have been too challenging for students, since they should have memorised the excerpt.

Dig into your memories for quotes from the texts. Photo: Shutterstock

Lam said that Part B, the unseen contemporary Chinese passages, was more difficult, as it included more summary questions.

“For example, they required students to use four words to summarise a concept, which was not easy,” he said, adding that in previous years, these questions usually had a more lenient word count.

He noted that these types of questions have appeared more frequently over the last two years, calling them a true test of one’s Chinese ability.

Lam also thought that students would have had a harder time understanding and interpreting the passages, since the themes are unfamiliar to teenagers.

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“The last long question asked for the hidden meaning of a line in a poem. The line read ‘when a half-god half-human leaves, god will come’. I don’t think it’s something a 17-year-old would handle very well,” he said.

DSE candidate Helen Lee said she thought the passages carried more abstract ideas. Luckily, she had studied pieces by the same author so she could understand his style and therefore, had an easier time finishing this part.

“There were also fewer long questions, so I could finish answering everything within the time limit,” said the 19 year-old student at PLK No 1 WH Cheung College.

The unseen classical Chinese texts also revolved around concepts that students seldom come across. Lam said they needed to digest the whole passage, then use their own words to interpret it instead of copying everything from the text.

“It required a stronger foundation of Chinese,” he said.

This year’s classical texts may have included some unfamiliar concepts. Photo: Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Hung Wai-kuen, a Chinese language tutor from King’s Glory Education, said this year’s writing paper was more difficult than usual.

Students were given a choice between three questions, and had to choose one to write about.

The first question, a first-person narrative from the point of view of a school uniform, shared the uniform’s feelings about parting ways with its owner and reflected on their experiences together. It was similar to a question asked on the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) in 2011.

“Students might have been surprised by this question, since they hadn’t seen it in a long time,” he said.

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The key to acing this question would be to imagine the owner’s background and illustrate the relationship between the uniform and the owner.

“The crucial thing was thinking about how the challenges the owner faced were shared with the uniform,” Hung said, giving examples such as the owner being bullied and how that could end up in washing mud or blood off their clothes.

The second question provided a comic strip and asked students to write an essay using “the loss outweighs the gain” (得不償失) as a topic. The last time the writing paper had a picture aid for a question was in 2014.

Hung said this was a really advanced question to attempt.

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In the comic strip, a boy who ate too much ended up sick and admitted to the hospital, where he watched a news segment about the world’s food crisis.

Hung said students should have started by writing about the comic, then used examples of how people experience the idea of “the loss outweighs the gain” often, highlighting how one person’s actions not only affect themselves, but also the world.

The third question was a typical argumentative essay debating whether it is better to know a little bit of everything, or have one expert skill in life.

Hung said that since neither side was hard to argue, students should have illustrated their point using specific people as examples. A good counterargument and refutation would be what sets high-scoring students apart from the others.

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Lee chose question one because she thought the second was too risky, and said she’s not used to writing argumentative essays.

“My friends told me question one was challenging and could easily go off topic, but I disagree. I immediately had ideas about what to write when I saw the question,” she said.

Paper 3, Listening and Integrated Skills, will take place tomorrow.

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