Under New Academic Structure (NAS), all students are expected to complete three years of junior secondary education followed by three years of senior secondary education. Upon completion of this six-year secondary education, students will take the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE), which aims to measure the attainment of students. The HKDSE was administered for the first time in 2012. Most of the candidates are presented by schools.
Most school candidates may take four core subjects (Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies), plus two to three elective subjects from Category A Senior Secondary subjects; Category B Applied Learning subjects or Category C Other Language subjects in the HKDSE.
In line with international standards and to ensure the transparency and explicitness of the results, HKDSE Category A adopts Standards-referenced Reporting of assessment results. Candidates’ achievement under this category is reported against a set of standards divided into five levels (levels 1 to 5), with 5 being the highest. Candidates with the best performance in level 5 are awarded a 5**, and the next top group is awarded a 5*. Attainment below level 1 is designated as “Unclassified”.
The assessment of Category B Applied Learning (ApL) subjects is undertaken by course providers. The results are reported as “Attained” and “Attained with Distinction”. Performance below “Attained” is designated as “Unattained”. Starting from the 2018 HKDSE, the reporting of students' performance in ApL subjects would be further refined from the existing two levels of "Attained" and "Attained with Distinction" to "Attained", "Attained with Distinction (I)" and "Attained with Distinction (II)". Performance of "Attained with Distinction (I)" is comparable to level 3 while "Attained with Distinction (II)" is comparable to level 4 or above of the Category A subjects of the HKDSE. For ApL Chinese (for non-Chinese speaking students), the existing levels of results, i.e. “Attained” and “Attained with Distinction”, will continue to be used. Refinement of these levels would be considered when more data is collected.
For Category C Other Language subjects, question papers of the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level from Cambridge Assessment International Education (Cambridge International)* are used. Marking and grading are conducted by Cambridge International. Results are reported in five grades (a-e) on the HKDSE certificate, with grade e being the lowest and grade a being the highest. Results below grade e are designated as “Ungraded”.