HKDSE 2019: History exams repeat themselves says top tutors; study past papers and hot topics like Brexit and public housing

Tutors from King’s Glory Education and Beacon College say that questions usually touch on current issues, so brush up on world events before the test

Joanne Ma |

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The HKDSE History exam usually has questions which relate to current world events.

The HKDSE History exam is less than two weeks away, but that still gives you plenty of time to prepare – as long as you know what kind of questions to expect. Young Post asked two star tutors for their predictions.

K. W. Ho, a history tutor at King’s Glory who prefers not to give his full name, says the exam questions are likely to focus on the same topics as previous years, but with some changes to how they are worded.

“Ideally students should be familiar with past papers,” adds Ho, “because then they will at least know what topics might recur.”

For example, questions on the post-war development of Japan have appeared in several past papers, but there is a different focus each time.

Last year, candidates were asked whether Japan’s development from the end of the second world war to the 1970s was shaped by US influence. In 2015, they were asked if Japan’s economic development during the same period was due to internal factors. That paper also included a question which asked if the US Occupation period laid the foundation for Japan to develop into an Asian power after the second world war.

Lori Tsang, a history tutor at Beacon College, says students need to be familiar with Hong Kong politics from the post-war period to 2000, as questions related to this period frequently crop up. It’s also likely that questions on China’s post-war development will appear in the paper, says Tsang.

Both Ho and Tsang predict that questions about post-war politics, especially the Paris Peace Settlement and Appeasement Policy, will be asked this year.

“Questions usually reflect current issues. So I also suggest students have an understanding of the European Union, European economic development, and Brexit,” says Tsang.

For instance, in 2017, when Brexit was being widely discussed in the news, students were asked about the factors that hindered economic cooperation in Europe from the 1950s to the 1970s. Ho says the most common type of questions require students to identify the main or most important factor leading to a historical event. They may also be asked whether they agree or disagree with a certain statement.

“Students have to break down the question and understand what it is actually asking,” says Tsang. “Whether it is focused on a specific period of time in history, or it requires students to talk about the changes and comparisons.”

For instance, last year, there was an eight-mark question that asked whether “the colonial government of Hong Kong demonstrated an ability to improve its governance in the period 1967-97”.

The first thing students should notice about this question is that it requires them to compare how things were at the start of this period to how they were at the end, as hinted by the word “improved”. If the students agree with the statement, they need to explain how the British colonial government’s policies addressed the problems during this period – such as public housing – and what outcome this had.

As for common mistakes, Ho advises students take care when choosing examples to support their answers.

If, for instance, a question asks for examples from Europe, candidates won’t be able to get away with mentioning European campaigns in other parts of the world. They must stick closely to what the questions asks.

It’s also important to pay attention to the wording of questions. Ho mentions that a lot of students tend to mix up “more than” with “rather than”. When students see “more than”, they should find things to compare (e.g. political, economic, or social aspects) and make point-to-point arguments.

Meanwhile, “rather than” questions may be framed a bit like this: “’Militarism was a loss rather than a gain to Japan up to 1945.’ Comment on the validity of this statement,”; if students think the statement is valid, they should first explain why militarism is a loss and then talk about why it is not a gain.

Finally, Tsang says that when students are asked to explain the cartoons in Paper 1, they should always look for ways in which they contain contrasting messages.

“The cartoons usually contain sarcastic remarks which can be interpreted in more than one way,” he says.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

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