Chapter 5 Assessment

5.5 Public Assessment



(e) Informativeness

The HKDSE qualification and the associated assessment and examinations system should provide useful information to all parties. First, it provides feedback to students on their performance and to teachers and schools on the quality of the instruction provided. Second, it communicates to parents, tertiary institutions, employers and the public at large what students know and are able to do, in terms of how their performance matches the standards. Third, it facilitates selection decisions that are fair and defensible.

5.5.2 Assessment design

The tables below show the assessment design of the subject with effect from the 2016 HKDSE Examination. The assessment design is subject to continual refinement in the light of feedback from live examinations. Full details are provided in the Regulations and Assessment Frameworks for the year of the examination and other supplementary documents, which are available on the HKEAA website ( t _framework/).

2016 to 2018 Examinations

Component Part Weighting Duration

Public Examination

Paper 1 (Compulsory Part)

Section A: Multiple-choice Questions

Section B: Data/Skill-based/Structured Questions Section C: Short Essay Questions




2½ hours

Paper 2 (Elective Part)

Section D: Data/Skill-based/Structured Questions Section E: Short Essay Questions



1¼ hours

With effect from the 2019 Examination

Component Part Weighting Duration

Public Examination

Paper 1 (Compulsory Part)

Section A: Multiple-choice Questions Section B: Fieldwork-based Question

Section C: Data/Skill-based/Structured Questions Section D: Short Essay Questions





2¾ hours

Paper 2 (Elective Part)

Section E: Data/Skill-based/Structured Questions Section F: Short Essay Questions



1¼ hours


5.5.3 Public examinations

The SS Geography curriculum focuses on using geographical concepts and knowledge within an enquiry framework to illuminate and interpret selected problems and issues arising out of the physical and human environment that people inhabit. Geographical enquiry requires an ability to understand concepts and knowledge, and the process skills involved in looking at the world in a geographical way; and it requires in particular higher-order thinking involving analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Also, the ability to weigh evidence and recognize contrasting viewpoints is important in developing ideas about the values dimension that underpins many geographical questions. All these skills and abilities need to be assessed in the new curriculum.

Different types of items will be used for the above purpose. Data/skill-based/structured questions and short open-ended essays are the major question types for the written examination as they are particularly appropriate for assessing students’ geographical enquiry skills and ability to handle information and spatial data. Also, data/skill-based/structured questions are useful for testing students’ technical skills, while open-ended essays allow them to demonstrate their ability to apply geographical concepts and knowledge in analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

The latter is also one of the very few assessment modes that is capable of assessing students’

ability to make decisions and values judgement.

The written paper of the public assessment will also include multiple-choice (MC) questions, which are capable of testing a wide range of learning objectives (from factual to evaluative understanding) and a rich variety of student knowledge and skills. They are also effective for assessing routine procedures (e.g. map-reading skills) and factual knowledge and, in particular, for distinguishing students who have mastered basic concepts from those who have not. MC questions permit a wide sampling and broad coverage of the content domain which is appropriate for a subject such as Geography which has rich content and a wide coverage.

Besides, MC questions minimise possible bias in marking, and they offer students who are weak in writing skills a fair chance to demonstrate what they have learned.

Fieldwork-based question will be introduced to the public examination to assess students’

fieldwork abilities. Students’ knowledge and skills in different stages of Geography fieldwork are to be tested.

Schools may refer to the live examination papers regarding the format of the examination and the standards at which the questions are pitched.


5.5.4 Standards and reporting of results

Standards-referenced reporting is adopted for the HKDSE. What this means is that candidates’

levels of performance are reported with reference to a set of standards as defined by cut scores on the mark scale for a given subject. Standards referencing relates to the way in which results are reported and does not involve any changes in how teachers or examiners mark student work.

The set of standards for a given subject can be represented diagrammatically as shown in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1 Defining levels of performance via cut scores on the mark scale for a given subject

Within the context of the HKDSE there are five cut scores, which are used to distinguish five levels of performance (1–5) with 5 being the highest. A performance below the cut score for Level 1 is labelled as “Unclassified” (U).

For each of the five levels, a set of written descriptors has been developed to describe what the typical candidate performing at this level is able to do. The principle behind these descriptors is that they describe what typical candidate can do, not what they cannot do. In other words, they will describe performance in positive rather than negative terms. These descriptors represent “on-average” statements and may not apply precisely to individuals, whose performance within a subject may be variable and span two or more levels. Samples of students’

work at various levels of attainment are provided to illustrate the standards expected of them.

These samples, when used together with the level descriptors, will clarify the standards expected at the various levels of attainment.


In setting standards for the HKDSE, Levels 4 and 5 are set with reference to the standards achieved by students awarded grades of A–D in the HKALE. It needs to be stressed, however, that the intention is that the standards will remain constant over time – not the percentages awarded different levels, as these are free to vary in line with variations in overall student performance. Referencing Levels 4 and 5 to the standards associated with the old grades A–D is important for ensuring a degree of continuity with past practice, for facilitating tertiary selection and for maintaining international recognition.

To provide finer discrimination for selection purposes, the Level 5 candidates with best performance have their result annotated with the symbols ** and the next top group with the symbol *. The HKDSE certificate itself records the Level awarded to each candidate.



In document Geography Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6) (Page 90-96)