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LCQ15: Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Kenneth Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (May 6):


     It has been reported that some candidates who sat for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSEE) this year complained respectively that during the Chinese Language and English Language listening tests, there was interference with the sound broadcast of the content of the tests by the Radio Television Hong Kong, and that Chinese translation was not provided for the abbreviations of English proper nouns in the Chinese examination papers on the Biology subject. In connection with the arrangements for HKDSEE, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) if it knows whether the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) has conducted comprehensive investigations into the aforesaid complaints; if HKEAA has, of the details of the investigations, the latest progress and follow-up actions; if not, whether HKEAA will conduct investigations immediately; if HKEAA will not, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether it knows the number of candidates, in each of the past three years, requesting to take the listening tests of the Chinese Language or English Language subjects in the "Special Room" in the examination centres before or during the tests, with a breakdown by subject and the time gap between the candidate entering the "Special Room" and the commencement of the test concerned;

(3) whether it knows the number of complaints about HKDSEE received by HKEAA from candidates in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by subject; of the details of the investigation results of such complaints and the follow-up actions; and

(4) as it has been reported that Chinese translation was provided for the abbreviations of English proper nouns in last year's Chinese examination papers on the Biology subject but there was no such an arrangement this year, if it knows the criteria based on which HKEAA determines whether Chinese translation of English terms needs to be provided in Chinese examination papers, and whether consistent criteria are adopted for various subjects; if they are not adopted, of the respective criteria for various subjects?



     My reply to the question raised by Dr Hon Kenneth Chan is as follows:

(1) According to the established mechanism of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), cases brought to the attention of HKEAA will be thoroughly investigated and considered. The HKEAA will contact the candidates concerned, invigilation staff as well as other candidates for further relevant information. Video recordings of the examinations will also be studied as appropriate for more background information in relation to the cases. All the information will be considered in detail by a Standing Committee of the HKEAA (Standing Committee) which comprises a team of senior assessment staff of the HKEAA. For general cases, the Standing Committee will process the cases with reference to a set of established guidelines and make recommendations to the Public Examinations Board (PEB) on the actions to be taken. After the PEB has approved the recommendations, the candidates will be informed of the outcomes. For cases involving special considerations, the Standing Committee will submit reports with recommendations to the PEB for its consideration. The PEB will examine the information of the cases carefully and make a decision. The decision of the PEB will be conveyed to the candidates concerned before the release of examination results.

     Regarding the overlapping voices which occurred in the Chinese Language (Papers 3 and 5) Listening and Integrated Skills examination, upon thorough investigation by the HKEAA and the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), it is confirmed that there was no irregularity on the original sound track. According to the investigation of the RTHK, some technical problems did occur during the live broadcast. Thus, the HKEAA has continued to follow up on the case of overlapping of voices in this subject and has obtained further information from the RTHK to evaluate the impact of the incident on candidates. The case will be submitted to the Standing Committee for its handling and consideration so as to ensure that candidates are fairly assessed.

     For the English Language (Paper 3) Listening and Integrated Skills examination, the HKEAA has promptly taken follow-up actions. It has deployed additional personnel in the said examination and also strengthened the monitoring during the broadcast so as to uphold the broadcast quality. On the examination day, there was no overlapping of voices during the broadcast.

     Regarding the use of English abbreviations in the Chinese version of Biology Paper 2 (with details in the reply to Part (4)), relevant comments on the examination paper will be presented to and discussed by the Biology Subject Committee in the post-examination review.

     The HKEAA is committed to the continuous improvement of the quality of its examination and assessment services. Each year, after the examination, a post-examination review will be held to review the conduct of the examination as well as to identify areas for further improvement in the quality of the examination papers, marking as well as administration of the examination. As far as examination papers and marking are concerned, the subject committees of respective subjects will also meet after the examination to review the relevant question papers and candidates' performance. These subject committees comprise subject experts and teachers, who will scrutinise the question papers and marking schemes, and make recommendations for further improvements as appropriate.

(2) Candidates sitting the listening examinations of the two language subjects are given at least 15 minutes to test whether the reception quality of their radios/earphones/receivers is satisfactory prior to the start of the examinations. In the events that the reception is poor, candidates can request to take the examinations in the Special Room. If the reception problem occurs after the start of the examinations, candidates can also make the request to the invigilation staff of taking the examinations in the Special Room at once.

     According to the current arrangements, candidates will be arranged to take the examinations in the Special Room under the following situations:

Mark penalty will not be imposed on candidates going to the Special Room under the following situations
*Radio/earphones not working; and
*Unable to tune the radio to the correct channel or radio with poor reception.

Mark penalty will be imposed on candidates going to the Special Room under the following situations
*Not bringing a radio to a radio-broadcast centre;
*Having forgotten to bring or lost earphones/batteries;
*Arriving 30 minutes or more after the reporting time; and
*Bringing an oversized radio (exceeding 18" x 6" x 6") or an electronic device other than radios, Walkmans, Discmans or radio-cassette players.

     Candidates going to the Special Room are required to write down the entering time and reasons on the "Special Room Sessional Report" (the Report) so that the HKEAA can verify if mark penalty is applicable. As the HKEAA has destroyed all the Reports completed by individual candidates after the release of results, data on the times at which candidates entered the Special Room are not available. The HKEAA has recorded the data of the HKDSEE candidates with regard to the reasons for going to the Special Room in the past three years in Annex 1.

(3) The numbers of irregularity reports or complaints received from the candidates of the HKDSEE in the past three years are tabulated in Annex 2. The cases are classified according to their nature (rather than subjects), e.g. reception problems in listening tests, centre environment/noise/invigilation staff and irregularities in speaking examinations, etc.

     Regarding the follow-up action taken by the HKEAA in handling examination irregularity cases, please refer to the reply to Part (1).

(4) Question 1 of 2015 HKDSEE Biology Paper 2 involves two biological terms: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH). According to the "Biology Curriculum and Assessment Guide (S4-S6)", students are expected to understand the significance of hormonal control of the menstrual cycle, thus what the question requires is knowledge within the curriculum.

     Following the practice adopted in previous Biology examinations, the English abbreviations of biological terms that are commonly used and found within the curriculum have been adopted in both the Chinese and English versions of the examination papers to facilitate candidates' reading and writing of such terms in the examination. Examples of these include using DNA to denote Deoxyribonucleic Acid, ATP for Adenosine Triphosphate, and NADP for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate. These English abbreviations are published in "An English-Chinese Glossary of Terms Commonly Used in the Teaching of Biological Sciences in Secondary Schools" (, including the terms FSH (page 54) and LH (page 85) used in Question 1(a)(ii) of Paper 2 this year. In the 2013 Biology examination paper, the English abbreviations of ATP, DNA, mRNA, NADPH and NAD were also used in both the English and Chinese versions of the paper.

     During question-setting, if the question involves terms that fall beyond the curriculum, the moderation committee will adopt appropriate presentation of the terms based on the requirement of the questions. The common ways of presentation include providing the full name, the abbreviation, or providing relevant information of the term in the question, etc. This requires the exercise of professional judgement based on the requirement of the individual questions and the impact of the presentation on candidates' understanding and writing during the examination. Taking the use of HCG (the full name is Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) in the Biology Paper 2 Question 1(a)(iii) of this year as an example, the question has clearly stated the related function of HCG and candidates only need to apply the information when answering the question. On the other hand, if the full names of the terms or explanatory notes are essential for candidates to understand the question, the relevant information will certainly be provided in the examination papers to facilitate candidates in answering the question.

     In conclusion, in setting the questions, the moderation committee of each subject will adopt the above principles and take into account the curriculum coverage, the context and requirement of the questions, and the impact on candidates' understanding and writing in adopting the most appropriate terms and ways of presentation. Under all circumstances, the English and Chinese versions of the papers are consistent with one another so as to ensure fairness to candidates attempting either version.

Ends/Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:43


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