HKDSE 2019: Rock your Geography exam with tips from two star tutors and lessons learned from past papers

Top tutors J. Yeung of Beacon College and Titus Chan of Modern Education give you the best advice about emerging trends on the Geography paper

Joanne Ma |

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The new fieldwork-based questions on the HKDSE Geography exam may be tricky for some students.

Having a thorough understanding of both geographical concepts and current issues is key to doing well in this year’s Geography exam, according to local star tutors.

“Candidates should be able to master the breadth and depth of Geography regarding different issues,” Johnny Yeung, more commonly known as J. Yeung, a tutor at Beacon College, tells Young Post.

Depth-wise, for topics in physical geography like rock formation and global warming, students ought to have a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms and theories, and be able to explain them from top to bottom, Yeung says.

With human geography such as urban renewal planning and industrial development, students should have a broad knowledge of local and global news.

For example, on the topic of “Changing Industrial Location”, the syllabus requires students to understand the industrial development in both the mainland and the United States. In the 2017 paper, students were asked about how some US policies supported the local farming industries.

Another thing to note is that this year, a brand new section involving fieldwork-based questions will be introduced in the exam. Yeung says students have to pay particular attention to the final part of the section, as it aims to differentiate students who will get level 5 or above from the others.

As for what to expect in that section, Yeung says candidates may be asked to reference other data on top of those that have already been provided in the question, to display more comprehensive research.

“If the aim of the field trip is to determine the sustainability of a new town, we need indicators in all social, economic and environmental aspects, but the questions might only focus on one,” Yeung explains.

Candidates may also have to spot the limitations in the set of data provided, and also recommend and suggest better methods.

Titus Chan, a tutor at Modern Education, suggests students familiarise themselves with different field sites, including coasts, industrial areas, and inner cities.

“They should also memorise the research methods, as well as the primary and secondary data that can be collected there,” he adds.

Chan also says students should remember the four sampling methods: random, systematic, stratified and quota sampling, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

For data-based questions, Chan says students have to use all of the data provided in the questions to answer them. “Especially when there’s a map, they have to look for the map key or legend because it’ll usually give them some hints.”

Yeung points out that candidates have to pay attention to recurring topics like local urban renewal, new town development, and sustainability. In 2017, there was a data-based question on the urban renewal situation in Sheung Wan. Also, last year, students were asked about Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area in a question that carried 18 marks.

“Students should be able to answer about the impacts or conflicts stemming from the government policies and give abundant examples of similar projects as well,” says Yeung.

Another concept that has been tested quite often in the exam is the nutrient cycle in the topic “Disappearing Green Canopy”, about tropical rainforests. According to Yeung, in 2017, there was a 12-mark essay question based on this concept.

“Geography DSE papers have become more and more difficult, because they really require students to dig deeper into each concept,” adds Yeung.

For instance, when answering questions about global warming, students who are aiming to do exceptionally well in this exam should explain all the stages in great detail. They ought to include and explain keywords that show how the greenhouse effect intensifies the phenomenon, such as counter-radiation, short-wave and long-wave radiation, the functions of radiation, and so on.

Chan adds if students are asked to describe the environment in the Sahel between the Sahara Desert and Sudanian Savanna in Africa, they cannot simply write “poor soil”. They need to describe the soil in more detail and the depth of it, the salinity, the moisture and whether it’s prone to soil erosion.

On top of that, they should refer to the figures provided and generate their own evidence in their answers. For instance, calculating the annual range of temperature, the mean temperature, or the annual rainfall based on the given data.

“Geography is quite a scientific subject, but instead of numbers, you have to present everything in words. So using the right language is also very important in geography,” says Chan.

Therefore, in the final few days leading up to the exam, he suggests students practise writing essays on a daily basis to familiarise themselves with writing in a precise manner.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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