Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination


Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination

The Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE, 香港高級程度會考), or more commonly known as the A-level, conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), is normally taken by senior students at the end of their matriculation in Hong Kong. In 2007, 36,608 candidates sat for the examination. 29,808 of them were school candidates and 6,800 were private candidates. [http://www.hkeaa.edu.hk/doc/isd/press_20070628_eng.pdf]

The exam is conducted from March to May, and the results are routinely released in the first week of July (or late June). There are altogether 17 A-level and 17 AS-level subjects in the HKALE. AS-level is commonly known as Hong Kong Advanced Supplementary Level Examination (HKASLE). AS-level subjects are taught in periods of half the number compared to that required for A-level subjects, but they demand the same level of intellectual vigour. Most day school candidates take four or five subjects in the HKALE. Apart from Chinese Language and Culture and Use of English which are taken by almost every school candidate, and other language-related subjects, all subjects can be taken in either English or Chinese. The same standards are applied in both marking and grading; the instruction medium is not recorded on the results notices or certificates.http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hong_Kong_Advanced_Level_Examination&action=edit

The results of the HKALE are expressed in terms of six grades A - F, of which grade A is the highest and F the lowest. Results below grade F are designated as unclassified (UNCL). The abolishment of fine grades used in 2001 and before (i.e. A(01), A(02), B(03), B(04), etc) was in force from 2002.

Grade E at the HK A-level or AS-level is considered equivalent to Grade E in their respective British GCE counterparts, although most Hong Kongers agree it is significantly harder to obtain the equivalent grade in the HKALE. The percentage of students who obtain Grade C and above in the HK A-level or AS-level is roughly the same as the percentage of students who obtain Grade A in their respective British GCE counterparts. [ [http://www.britishcouncil.org/eumd-hongkong-naric_briefing_note_29nov07.pdf A research study into comparison of grades achieved in the Hong Kong HKCEE and HKALE with the GCSE and A level examinations ] ]

Some subjects which demand substantial memorization and clarification of difficult concepts, such as Chinese History, Biology and Economics, have their syllabus partly equivalent to first-year undergraduate courses in terms of the length and depth on the syllabuses.Fact|date=June 2008

Student's result in HKALE is the most decisive factor that whether they can enter to universities through Joint University Programmes Admissions System(JUPAS). In 2007, about 80% of university entries are chosen from JUPAS applicants (this includes students with HKALE results, but also including student using the EAS sub-system which depends only on the result of Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination).

Background

Prior to 1993, students would need to choose among two university entrance examinations, the HKALE or the Hong Kong Higher Level Examination. The former originally led to a three-year course in the University of Hong Kong (HKU) at the end of Form Seven (Upper Sixth), mainly for students in English-medium schools. The latter led to a four-year course in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), then operated in Chinese, at the end of Form Six (Lower Sixth) for students in Chinese-medium schools.

Later on, a majority of education authorities considered that the "dual-band" examination system had became practically unsuitable; and that a unified matriculation system would be urgently needed, as stated in a report presented to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as early as in 1981. In the report, the "dual-band" system was found to be the crux that caused confusion and anxiety among Hong Kong students, in addition to the inevitably keen competition for tertiary places. (Hong Kong Education Department, 1981, p. 178)

Through considerable debates (Tang and Bray, 2000), programmes in CUHK switched to three-year systems as those launched in HKU in 1991. Consequently, the Hong Kong Higher Level Examination was abolished, and finally merged with today's HKALE. Advanced Supplementary Level subjects were also implemented at the same time so as to cater for different needs of candidates. (Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, 2003, p. 4)

The Use of English Examination

This AS-level examination, which is commonly taken with the A-Levels, tests the ability of students to understand and use English at a level required for tertiary education. The Use of English (UE) examination was introduced in 1989 and it had four sections. Since 1989 it tested students' listening, writing, reading and language skills; plus practical skills for work and study. Since 1994 the inclusion of a 20-minute oral examination was added.

There are five sections in the UE Examination:
* Section A - Listening Test
It lasts for 1 hour and is allocated 18% of the total subject mark. Candidates are required to follow what they hear to take notes or interpret pictures. The recorded exam material is broadcasted on RTHK Radio 2 and candidates have to use their own radios to listen. RTHK Radio 2 will broadcast a version of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on Greensleeves" played by the Sinfonia of London, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli before and during the intermissions of the test.
* Section B - Writing
It lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes and is allocated 18% of the total subject mark. Candidates are required to choose a topic out of four options and write an expository essay of approximately 500 words.
* Section C - Reading and Language Systems
It lasts for 1 hour and 30 minutes and is allocated 18% of the total subject mark. The reading part consists of multiple-choice questions based on a passage taken from a publication. One third of the total mark of the entire paper is allocated to this section. Types of questions in the Language Systems part are multiple-choice questions on cloze passage and continuity. There are also matching, cloze summary and proof-reading exercises to test candidates' overall language skills.
* Section D - Oral
It lasts for 20 minutes and is allocated 18% of the total subject mark. There should be a minimum of three candidates and a maximum of four candidates in each group. Candidates are given 10 minutes to read a passage of 300 words and prepare a presentation based on the passage which lasts no more than 2 minutes. After each candidate has given his/her presentation, the group is given two minutes to prepare mentally for a discussion which will last for eight minutes for 3 candidates and ten minutes for 4 candidates.
* Section E - Practical Skills for Work and Study
It lasts for 1 hour and 45 minutes and is allocated 28% of the total subject mark. Candidates are given a situation, a role and 2-3 tasks to perform. They are given a data file containing information in various formats and with the data file, they are to select the kind of relevant information they need to fulfill the tasks required. Writing tasks involved may be a report, an article, a letter, a proposal or a newsletter.

A pass in the UE is considered essential to being accepted to any degree program under the Joint University Programs Admissions System. Only students who received either an E grade in either Syllabus or a Grade 2 in the new system in English Language on the HKCEE are eligible to take the UE test.

Comparison with IELTS

A survey was conducted to equate the results in HKASL Use of English and the International English Language Testing System by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. [http://eant01.hkeaa.edu.hk/hkea/redirector.asp?p_direction=body&p_clickurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ehkeaa%2Eedu%2Ehk%2Fen%2Fir%5Fielts%2Ehtm]

2007 Use of English controversy

The controversy followed the HKEAA's announcement that if a candidate exceeds the word limit (500 words) in a task in Section E (Practical skills for work and study), anything written beyond the limit would not be marked. However, according to the marking guidelines issued in the previous year, students who did so should only be deducted 2 marks out of the style mark for doing so. Hence, criticism is resulted among many students. These students claimed that although the word limit instruction was stated in the paper, they were not clearly informed of the marking criteria, and that the marking scheme the HKEAA adopted in the previous year gave them a misleading impression. The authority later stated that candidates should have read all the instructions before attempting the questions. It also stated that candidates who followed the instructions strictly should be treated fairly.

Future development

The Education Bureau of Hong Kong has announced that in 2009 the new schooling structure, under which all students receive 12 years of pre-university education, will be implemented. The HKALE will be last administered in 2012 and merged with the existing Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination to form the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination at the end of the new, three-year senior secondary curriculum. The HKALE in 2012 will be available only for students taken the exam before.

References

*Hong Kong Education Department (1981), [http://www.edb.gov.hk/FileManager/EN/Content_689/edsys_e.pdf] . Retrieved on May 14, 2005.
*Tang, Kwok-Chun and Bray, Mark (2000). "Colonial models and the evolution of education systems - Centralization and decentralization in Hong Kong and Macau". Journal of Educational Administration 38 (5), p. 482.
*Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (2003). Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination - Regulations & Syllabuses 2005. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. ISBN 962-570-976-2

See also

*Education in Hong Kong
*Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination
*Joint University Programmes Admissions System

External links

* [http://www.hkeaa.edu.hk The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority]
* [http://www.iiehongkong.org/hked/hkeducation.htm#HKALE Institute of International Education - Information on HKALE]
*" [http://www.ylib.com/author/don/article.htm Middle Age is Tea-time] " (中年是下午茶 by [http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%91%A3%E6%A9%8B Tung Ch'iao] (董橋) (The controversial article that came up with complaints from the candidates in 2005.)
* [http://www.hkeaa.edu.hk/doc/isd/press_20070628_eng.pdf#2007 Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination Result (2007)]


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