HKDSE - Category A: Senior secondary subjects

There are 24 category A subjects in HKDSE, including 4 core subjects (Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies) and 20 elective subjects. The elective subjects are categorized into different learning areas, including "Language Education", "Personal, Social and Humanities Education", "Science Education", "Technology Education", "Arts Education" and "Physical Education".

Click on the following subjects for searching notes, exam papers, or viewing statistics.

The figures on the right are the number of entered candidates and percentage of each subject.

Core subjects

Elective subjects

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There is no definition for pass or failure in the HKDSE. However, we can take the minimum requirement, 3322, for admission to the universities as a reference. That is, level 3 or above as pass mark for the Chinese Language and English Language, and level 2 or above as pass mark for other subjects. By this definition, in the HKDSE of {{yearPass}}, {{maxpasssubj}} had the highest pass rate, {{maxpassrate}} while {{minpasssubj}} the lowest, only {{minpassrate}}.

Choices of subjects

In the core subjects, Chinese Language, English Language and Liberal Studies are compulsory. Whereas, Mathematics is divided into two parts: Compulsory Part and Extended Part. To apply for the local undergraduate programmes using HKDSE results, the compulsory part of Mathematics together with other core subjects are required. They are therefore generally called compulsory subjects. Nevertheless, the candidates are free to choose the Extended Part of Mathematics and all the elective subjects according to their interests and abilities. The Extended Part of Mathematics, if chosen, will be together with the compulsory part regarded as one subject, although the result of both parts will be reported separately on the certificate. Although the Extended Part of Mathematics is part of Core Subjects, many programmes of the tertiary institutions consider the Extended Part of Mathematics as an elective subject when calculating the admission score. For applying local sub-degree programmes, only Chinese Language and English Language in core subjects are required. Mathematics and Liberal Studies are optional.

Most of the Category A subjects consist of compulsory parts and elective parts. Compulsory parts serve as a broad-based foundation of knowledge and skills. Whereas, elective parts cater for candidates’ different interests, needs and abilities, and extend their studies in specialised areas. This attains a balance between breadth and depth.

Some of the Category A subjects including elective parts are listed below:
  • Mathematics (Extended Part) – A candidate may choose either Module 1 (M1): Calculus and Statistics, or, Module 2 (M2): Algebra and Calculus.
  • Business, Accounting and Financial Studies – A candidate may choose either Accounting Module or Business Management Module.
  • Combined Science – consists of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. A candidate needs to choose two out of the three parts. Therefore, there are totally 3 combinations: Biology and Chemistry, Biology and Physics, Chemistry and Physics.
  • Ethics and Religious Studies – the elective part includes two modules: Buddhism and Christianity. A candidate may choose one of them. EDB is planning to add Confucianism, Islam and Taoism to the elective part at a later phase.
  • Technology and Living – composed of two strands: Food Science and Technology, and, Fashion, Clothing and Textiles. A candidate may choose one of them. Each strand consists of 3 elective parts for selecting 2 out of 3.
Not all the secondary schools offer all the elective subjects. The school candidates are therefore restricted when choosing elective subjects. If a school offers an elective subject that contains elective parts, the school may not have all the elective parts in the curriculum. According to the survey report conducted by EDB in 2016 on 448 secondary schools in Hong Kong offering the local senior secondary curriculum in the 2016/17 school year, on average each school offered about 11 elective subjects. The key points of the survey results are listed below:
  • The elective subjects offered by over 90% of the schools were: "Mathematics Extended Parts", "Economics", "Geography", "Biology", "Chemistry", "Physics", "Business, Accounting and Financial Studies".
  • The elective subjects offered by less than 10% of the schools were: "Literature in English", "Science: Integrated Science", "Technology and Living".
  • For the Extended Part of Mathematics, some of the schools offered Module 1 or Module 2 only. Some offered both of them. Overall, number of schools offering Module 2 was more than the schools offering Module 1 by 28%.
  • For Combined Science, more schools offered the combination of "Biology + Chemistry", totally 42 schools.
  • "Technology and Living: Fashion, Clothing & Textiles" was offered by the fewest number of schools, only 6.
The same report indicates that the pattern of elective subjects offered similar to those of the last 7 school years.

School-based assessment

Some of the Category A subjects in HKDSE include School-based Assessment (SBA). The assessment is carried out by the candidates’ own subject teachers. The marks awarded will be part of the results in the HKDSE.

School candidates have to complete SBA of their entered subjects in order to obtain the marks of the SBA part in the final results of HKDSE. Private candidates are not required to join SBA. Their SBA marks in the final results are obtained by referencing the SBA marks of the school candidates having the same results in the public exams. The private candidates of Visual Arts have to submit their own portfolios in lieu of SBA. The weighting of the portfolio is the same as SBA of school candidates. To know more, please visit: HKDSE - School-based assessment

Language version

The candidates may sit the examination of each core or elective subject in either Chinese or English (except language subjects and Chinese History). However, school candidates would be restricted by the medium of instruction policy of their schools. Usually, the candidates are required to choose the languages that accord with the medium of instruction of the schools to complete their SBA and to sit the HKDSE. In the examination, the candidates will be examined using the exam papers of their language choice. The content of both language versions are identical. The language medium used by the candidates will not be recorded in the results report or the certificate. The grades obtained by the candidates or their further study will not be affected by their choice of language version. To know more about the medium of instruction policy of local schools, please visit: HKDSE - Local secondary schools

Levels of results

The results for Category A subjects are indicated by 5 levels, from the lowest Level 1 to the highest Level 5. Within Level 5, approximate 10% of the top candidates are awarded Level 5**. Approximate 30% of the next top candidates are awarded 5*. The rest 60% are awarded Level 5. However, for "Chinese Language", "English Language" and "Combined Science", the cut scores for Level 5** and Level 5* are determined by other systems. The ratio may not be 10% and 30%. The results below Level 1 are "Unclassified" or designated by "U" and are not reported on the certificate. Therefore, there are totally 8 possibilities in the results of Category A subjects, from high to low as: 5**, 5*, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, U.