It looks like Hong Kong examiners are on to us. They have figured out that students aren’t always able to properly make use of their knowledge, and instead try to get by using exam tricks and techniques.
While this can be a handy short-cut, if you are planning to go further with your education, you’ll need to learn to apply what you know to real-life situations.
For a while now, educators have been worrying that students don’t believe that what they learn in school is useful in the real world. They often hear students say “Why do I have to study maths?” or whichever subject they particularly dislike.
So teachers are now trying to help students understand that there are very good reasons to learn about maths – and biology, and geography, and so on. That’s why exam questions increasingly expect students to be able to relate their studies to what’s going on in reality, instead of just memorising abstract theories.
The easiest and most obvious answer is: by reading the news. You can find copies of Young Post on your desk, or look on the websites of Young Post, South China Morning Post, and other newspapers and news organisations in Hong Kong and around the world.
It’s especially important to know what’s going on in Hong Kong, because there’s a good chance that one of your exam questions will reference something that is happening here.
News sites and papers can sometimes look intimidating, but they are actually designed to be very easy to read. Each day, skim through the Hong Kong and China news. Start by reading only the headlines, and then stop and read the first two paragraphs of anything you think might come up in your exam. This will give you a broad idea of what the story is about.
News is written very differently from textbooks, novels, and even non-fiction books. The aim of news organisations is to get ideas across as quickly and clearly as possible. All of the most important information is in the first two paragraphs.
After that, there is a paragraph on context and, if the story is long enough, you may hear from stakeholders about what they think of the incident. Reading those golden first two paragraphs every day is like a protein shake for your brain, because you will get a wide spread of information that will help you deal with whatever examiners throw at you.
Setting aside around half an hour each day to browse through the news is a good habit to get into.
With so much homework and revision, we know that can be easier said than done, but why not use the time you spend travelling on the school bus or MTR each morning and afternoon to scroll through the top news stories of the day on your phone?
It can help you improve your English, boost your vocabulary, and soak up all the ideas that examiners may be planning to use in next year’s paper.