HKDSE 2020: Expert advice on how to handle the Business, Accounting and Financial Studies exams

  • Star tutors give tips on how to manage your time and ace the exam.
  • Make sure to elaborate on your answers and tailor your explanations to the given scenarios.
Nicola Chan |

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Nervous about the exam? We've spoken to top tutors to help you out.

The Business, Accounting and Financial Studies (BAFS) DSE takes place on May 16. To help you ace the exam, Young Post spoke to two star tutors – Beacon College’s Andy Yeung and iCon Education’s Leo Lau – for some last-minute advice and test-taking strategies.

Paper 1 tests candidates’ knowledge of the compulsory part of the BAFS curriculum. It is divided into two sections: Section A comprises of multiple choice (MC) questions, while Section B consists of short questions.

Most short questions are usually situational questions, and students tend to lose points for not elaborating on their answers, Yeung says. “It is especially common when they are tackling questions related to the ‘Introduction to Management’ and ‘Personal Finance’ modules.”

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If students are asked to state the consequences of HSBC putting a halt on paying out dividends, for instance, just saying “the stock price would drop” is not enough, he says.

“To get full points, they must show the entire process of their deductive reasoning. In other words, they should first point out that such an action would make HSBC stock less appealing to its shareholders, causing some of them to sell their shares. The increase in suppliers would then give rise to a fall in its stock price.”

Lau shares similar opinions, and reminds students to always tailor their explanations to the given scenarios.

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“Be precise and specific when you write,” he says. “Avoid generic words in your answers.”

Take for example a question about the advantages of adopting division of labour in a clothes manufacturing company. Instead of saying the separation and specialisation of work tasks would “affect” productivity, students should make it clear that it would “increase” work efficiency.

Choosing your words carefully is critical, Yeung agrees. “Don’t forget to apply the jargon and theories you have learned. They are what differentiate you from candidates who didn’t do their revision.”

Section B is subdivided into Parts 1 and 2, in which students are required to complete compulsory questions, and answer one of the two given questions respectively.

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Yeung’s advice is to read through all the questions before attempting both parts. “There’s no need to answer the [compulsory] questions in order,” he says. “Start with those you are most confident of answering. Then, tackle the more challenging ones. It will make your exam go more smoothly.”

In the past, some candidates have been known to answer both questions in Section B Part 2, even though only the answer that scores higher counts towards the final grade. “Students should just pick and spend time on the question they’re more familiar with,” Yeung says. “If they have time left over, they should double-check their MC answers.”

When dealing with MC questions, most students only care about arriving at the right answers, and use elimination for questions they don’t know the answers to, Lau says. Although this saves time, he encourages using time spent doing past papers to consider why the other options are incorrect.

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“Quite often, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority will modify the questions from past exams and recycle the answers that go with them. What might have been a correct answer in the past may be wrong this time. Beware of these trick questions.”

Yeung advises candidates opting for the Accounting or Management module as their elective to aim at finishing the MC questions in no more than 35 and 45 minutes, respectively. “Make sure you complete all the MC questions before moving on to the short questions. Each MC question is worth two points.”

Moving on to Paper 2A, both tutors urge Accounting students not only to focus on practising their calculation skills, but also to prepare for the highly predictable explanation questions. These short questions, Lau says, can provide up to 10 points out of a total of 80.

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“Compile past exam questions of this type, as well as their suggested answers. Digest them and memorise a couple of model answers, then skim through them again just before heading to the exam,” he says.

If you’re short on revision time, prioritise studying the most heavily tested concepts and topics, Yeung advises, such as accrual and prepayment; allowance for doubtful debts; books of original entries and measures and depreciation. These are likely to appear in the sub-questions of a larger question on highly challenging topics, such as correction of error and incomplete record.

Meanwhile, if you’re a Management student taking Paper 2B, it’s best to finish the case study questions in Section B before moving back to the short questions in Section A.

“This will lower the chance of writing essay-length answers to short questions,” says Yeung.

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