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Examinations of private candidates in science, technical and computer subjects


Date of Meeting: 28 March 2001

Asked by : Hon SIN Chung kai

Replied by : SEM

Question :

The authorities have stipulated that candidates must have sat for examinations in certain science, technical or computer subjects as school candidates before they can sit again as private candidates in the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination; at the same time, practical examinations are being replaced gradually by teacher assessment as the assessment method for the practical components in the examinations in these subjects. Private candidates who wish to enter for those subjects which have done away with practical examinations must produce the teacher-assessed results they obtained previously as school candidates, for constituting their practical component results in the current year's examinations. Regarding examinations of private candidates in science, technical and computer subjects, will the Government inform this Council:

  1. of the justifications for stipulating that candidates must have sat for examinations in certain subjects as school candidates before they can sit again as private candidates;

  2. of the reasons for not retaining practical examination as one of the assessment methods so that private candidates who have never sat for the examinations in these subjects as school candidates can sit for them; and

  3. whether it will consider reinstating the practical examination for Computer Applications; if not, of the reasons for that?


Madam President,

a. According to the existing entry requirements for the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) laid down by the Hong Kong Examination Authority (HKEA), private candidates who wish to enter for A-level practical subjects must produce evidence of having taken the subjects concerned in a previous HKALE as school candidates. This requirement aims at ensuring candidates' full awareness of the safety requirements of operating the apparatus in order to prevent accidents. Such an arrangement also encourages candidates to engage themselves in practical work so as to thoroughly grasp the knowledge and skills of the subjects concerned.

Practical examinations for certain subjects such as technical and computer subjects have been replaced by the Teacher Assessment Scheme (TAS). If private candidates have not taken these subjects in a previous HKALE as school candidates, they will be unable to produce teacher-assessed results for the HKEA to fully assess their performance in the practical components of these subjects. In view of this, the HKEA stipulates that private candidates who wish to enter for certain A-level subjects must have taken the subjects concerned in a previous HKALE as school candidates. Private candidates may use the teacher-assessed results in the two preceding years.
b. At present, the practical examinations for a number of A-level subjects are gradually replaced by TAS, under which students' performance in certain aspects, such as practical skills in Biology and Chemistry, and project work in Engineering Science and Liberal Studies, is assessed by their teachers. Besides, the practical components of the examinations for technical subjects are also gradually replaced by TAS. TAS has a number of advantages, such as:
  1. teachers are the most suitable person to evaluate the progress of learning and growth of their students;

  2. it takes into account students' abilities in various domains and their overall learning process, and reinforces the positive effects of examinations. It will further tie in with the syllabus and encourages students to participate in analytical work and discussions;

  3. teachers may evaluate the students' initiatives and organizing power in their studies. In addition to the assessment results, teachers may have a more valid evaluation of the students' performance in the learning process; and

  4. in the teaching process, teachers may evaluate the students' abilities which are normally not assessable in public examinations. After appropriate moderation, the assessment records are included in the students' public examination results. Such an arrangement will remedy the inadequacies of public examinations which mainly evaluate students' performance through paper-and-pencil tests, and help address the drawback of determining the students' fate in a single examination.
TAS has been well received since its introduction in 1978. To maintain the level and standard of the assessment under TAS, the HKEA has invited people outside the schools to assess the students' performance and make random inspections of their coursework. In 1980, TAS was extended to a number of technical subjects, such as Metalwork, Design and Technology, and Electronics and Electricity, of the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE). From 1994 onwards, practical examinations of the technical subjects of the HKALE have also been gradually replaced by TAS.

Practical examinations of some of the A-level subjects, such as Chemistry and Biology, have been retained after the introduction of TAS. Private candidates can still enter for these subjects, whilst school candidates have to be assessed under TAS. As far as some other A-level practical subjects, such as technical and computer subjects are concerned, the practical examinations have been abolished after the introduction of TAS. This is because of the short duration and more complex nature of the practical tests involved and hence it is impossible to fully assess the candidates' performance in the application of technical skills in one single practical examination. As a result, the HKEA decided to gradually replace the practical examinations of technical and computer subjects by TAS from 1994 onwards.
c. The Advanced Supplementary Level (ASL) Computer Applications was introduced in 1994. Previously, practical examination was required for this subject. However, in view of the rapid development and wide variety of computer hardware and software in recent years and the fact that the examination syllabus is decided two years before the launch of the examination, it is difficult to specify the computer hardware and software to be used in the practical assessment. The HKEA therefore decided to introduce TAS to replace the practical examination for software applications in 2000. The extension of TAS to the ASL Computer Applications has been well received by teachers and students. They consider the assessment more flexible and capable of enhancing the effectiveness of teaching and learning.

At present, the HKEA has no plans to reinstate the practical examination for the ASL Computer Applications and will continue to implement TAS. Starting from this year, private candidates can enter for the ASL Computer Applications as school candidates with the teacher-assessed results they obtained in the previous two years.
Last revision date: 28 March 2001
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