6 top tips for the HKDSE Liberal Studies 2021 exam

  • Beacon College’s star tutor J Yeung shares professional advice on how to tackle the controversial subject
  • Revision is of course important, but following specific dos and dont’s will make preparation easier
Doris Wai |

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Liberal Studies is one of the most feared HKDSE subjects, but these tips will make revision easier. Photo: SCMP

Liberal Studies is, to put it mildly, one of the most feared HKDSE papers, with the immense hours of revision needed and the notoriously unpredictable questions.

Before you sink into despair, here are some dos and don’ts from Beacon College’s star tutor J. Yeung on prepping for the battlefield on April 26.

Do know your data and charts

There are four main types of database questions – patterns in data, trend, data generalisation, and conceptualisation. It is crucial to know how to answer all of these.

Yeung explains: “Finding patterns in data requires students to identify correlations. You will need to pinpoint the extreme values [smallest or largest figures] and characteristics of the data. Whereas for trend, you have to describe whether a particular phenomena is on the rise or in decline.”

As for data generalisation, you are usually required to summarise the data provided into one sentence.

Conceptualisation, on the other hand, tests your ability to interpret and make sense of the concepts behind comics and illustrations.

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Do justify your stance

“When answering ‘To what extent do you agree’ questions, you need to take a stance and write counter-arguments on top of your opinion,” says Yeung.

He adds that rather than simply identifying an opposing position, you are encouraged to explain why an idea is weak or illogical. You also need to provide examples and evidence to show why an opposing argument is invalid.

Additional marks may also be awarded if you include rebuttals in your arguments.

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Do watch the clock

A lot of students are pressed for time during the Liberal Studies exam.

“As a general guide, you need around 10 minutes for a four-mark question in Paper 1.

“Paper 2 is much easier, and you spend around 30 minutes on a question that carries eight points, and 45 minutes for a 12-mark question,” Yeung advises.

He also suggests timing yourself while you’re doing practice papers, and making it a habit to keep track of how long you take to tackle each question.

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Don’t be daunted by tricky terms

The HKEAA often uses seemingly complicated words and phrases that actually require students to do one thing: elaborate on contradicting viewpoints.

Yeung brings up last year’s Paper 1, Question 3 as an example where students had to identify two contexts in which a dilemma might arise between press freedom and social responsibility.

“This is actually a repeat of 2018 in which the word ‘controversy’ was used. Last year’s ‘dilemma’ question was a slight variation of the word ‘controversy’.

“Remember, whenever similar terms appear in the examination, you need to write both sides of the argument in the same paragraph and explain why they are in conflict,” he says.

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Don’t neglect “Modern China”

Students can most definitely expect questions on this module, and it is crucial to understand the country’s overall development in terms of social, economic, political and its diplomatic ties with other countries.

Yeung also suggests putting more focus on the similarities and differences between Hong Kong and China in terms of culture and family values. That said, there’s no need to worry about the impact of China’s developments on Hong Kong as “Modern China” tends to be a standalone module.

Don’t rely on mind maps

Rather than wasting time on diagrams and flowcharts, focus on mastering the concepts behind the six modules.

“Mind maps are more effective when you’re dealing with short words and phrases, as they trigger your brain into remembering information by jotting down keywords,” says Yeung.

“This is not the best way to revise for liberal studies which requires understanding of complicated concepts and applying them to questions.”

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