The 2016 DSE elective Chinese History exam was easier than ever, say teachers

By Ben Pang

Some say the simpler exam paper is to entice more students to sign up for the subject

By Ben Pang |

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If you didn’t know Sir Kai Ho Kai’s story, you would have been stuck.

This year’s DSE elective Chinese History Paper exam was much simpler than last year’s because more popular topics appeared in this year’s paper, secondary school teachers say.

H. Y. Fung, a history tutor at Modern Education, noticed that there were not many cross-dynasty questions which required students to compare the political systems in more than one dynasty in Paper One.

“This type of cross-dynasty question is particularly challenging as students need to study two different periods. That means they don’t need to memorise a lot of stuff, which helps them get higher scores in this subject,” he says.

For example, Q3(a) in Paper One only asked about Emperor Wen of Sui dynasty and his achievements, whereas Q3(b) focused on Emperor Taizong of Tang, his politics and the situation in the Tang dynasty. “Question 3 and Q4 in Paper One were straightforward and students should have been able to handle them. The questions’ scope was limited to what these two emperors had achieved, rather than asking candidates to compare their achievements.

“I think the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) has tried to make the exam easier to persuade more candidates to choose this elective, because the drop-out rate is high,” Fung says.

Fung also noted that Q3(b) was similar to the Chinese History exam in the HKAL [HK Advanced Level examination], as it asked students to evaluate whether the occurrence of the Golden Years under Emperor Taizong of Tang was due to his own ability as emperor or circumstances at that time.

G.T. (Ellen Yeung) College’s Vice Principal and Chinese History Panel Head Lau King-fai said this year’s Paper One consisted of more map-reading, matching and fill-in-the-space questions, which weren’t worth many marks each. This made it easier for students to secure marks. He added there were only a few questions that asked students to take a stance and use historical evidence to support their views.

A Chinese history teacher surnamed Yiu said she was surprised to see a question (Q7) in Paper One that referenced the Russo-Chinese relations. “It was not a popular topic as it’s not easy for students to discuss Chinese foreign policy. Q7(b) asked students to use historical evidence to support the statement in the data. If students didn’t have any historical knowledge related to their findings, they would lose all 10 marks,” she says.

Paper Two included six modules. Candidates had to choose one particular module and answer two out of three questions in each module.

DSE candidate Mak Wing-sum, 17, from CCC Kei Yuen College chose Module Three: scholars in different eras. She said this year’s Paper Two was trickier than last year’s. “Paper Two in previous years typically asked us to compare two scholars’ theories and academic contributions.

"But Q9(a) and (b) were very tricky as these questions only focused on one particular scholar – Sir Kai Ho Kai. An in-depth analysis of his contributions to Chinese revolutions, the city’s medical and educational development in the early 20th century would have been challenging if we hadn’t prepared ‘his story’ in detail,” says Mak.

To do well in the Chinese history exam, Fung suggests students read more history books like Ray Huang’s 1587, a Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline, which can help students understand more about the Ming dynasty and answer questions on it with more depth.