Here's how you're going to ace your HKDSE English language Paper 4 oral exam


Sitting the HKDSE English speaking exam can be really daunting. Follow our steps below to help you become a more fluent, confident speaker

Susan Ramsay |

Latest Articles

9 best Disney+ Christmas movies and TV specials to watch

Coronavirus: Study shows you are three times more likely to get reinfected with Omicron

Two doors fall off train in Hong Kong, prompting calls for investigation

SOTY 2021: How this winner champions inclusivity at school and helps the unprivileged

Tick, Tick ... Boom! review: did you know Andrew Garfield could sing?

Let’s talk topics

The topics that you’re going to get to talk about in Paper 4 are not going to be difficult; they won’t cover politics, religion or complex social issues. They will more likely be about things that you are interested in. Nevertheless keep an eye on newspapers and news sites to check out what people are talking about, and to learn vocabulary around the common topics.

In the video, Teacher Dan gives us some examples of what the topics might be. While he talks about them, quickly jot down some vocabulary that you might need to talk about those topics.

For example, he mentions “social activities” – what sort of social activities might you be asked about? What you like to do after school? Where are the best places in Hong Kong to spend time with your friends? What words would you need to talk about such things? Words like “relaxing” or “exciting” or “fun” (be careful not to confuse “fun” and “funny”, it’s a tricky word). Other words you might use would be “energetic”, “scenic” and so on.

As you think about the topics you will easily think up more words. What you are looking for, when you do this exercise, is to see which words are difficult to say. Catch them now, get the right word for what you want to say, and practise it.

Double-sided topics

If you do debating, you will be very comfortable with double-sided topics, or topics with two opposite opinions. This allows you to make comparisons between two things. You can also think of them as the “do you agree” topics, as you can give an opinion, then invite another candidate for theirs. Useful phrases to use for these topics would be:

“on the one hand” ... “on the other hand”....
“I hear you say you don’t like xxxx, but I believe xxxx”
“One of the advantages of xxxx is that xxxx”
“Ooh, I am not sure I would agree with you, candidate X. What if ...”
“Oh, that is an interesting point, candidate X, and in addition ...”

Projecting your voice

It can be hard, especially in Hong Kong, to speak loudly and clearly without shouting. But if you don’t speak up during the exam, the examiners won’t be able to hear you. On the other hand, you don’t want to deafen them either. You need to be just loud enough and clear.

Here’s an exercise to help you do this.

First, make sure you are breathing in a relaxed way. If you are tense, take in a short breath for three seconds, and then exhale
for about six seconds. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.

Next, yawn! While you are yawning, imagine you want to annoy your friend with a loud yawn:


You will hear what your projected voice sounds like. Notice how, when you yawn, your throat is open, not tight and tense as it is when you are shouting.

Then stand facing a wall, and say “hello” as if you were talking to a person. Take a step back and imagine pinning your voice to the wall, and say hello again. Each time you move away, you will have to raise your voice further to reach the wall. Then you can do it in reverse. Repeat until your parents complain.

Note: Don’t blast the examiners with your new-found voice. You just need to reach them.