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Steps to Ace DSE English Paper 3B

The significance of DSE English paper 3B might surprise you. However, it can have a remarkable effect on your overall grade. Strong candidates can go from a 5* to 5**; weaker candidates can use this paper to make a significant jump in their grades.

Success in this paper is well within your reach. If you can tackle part B2, then by following a few simple steps, you can to score the very highest marks for that paper:

1. Before the recording starts
You have five precious minutes before the start of the recording. You’d be surprised how many candidates waste this opportunity and stare blankly into space while contemplating life for a while. Unsurprisingly, that’s not the best use of your time. Here are a few things you should do instead in those first five minutes:

  • Read the instruction email/memo carefully. By looking at the subheadings of the note sheet, you can see which parts of the recording you have to pay special attention to. Spend no more than 30 seconds reading the instructions for each task.
  • Skim through the data file so that you know what to expect when you have time later to look at the page in detail.
  • Study the situation carefully. Many people lose marks by signing off their letters/emails in the writing tasks with the wrong name. Be sure not to make that mistake.

2. During the recording
I know what you’re thinking – what else will I be doing besides writing, writing and more writing? The truth is, successful candidates do far more than that. During the recording, you should bear the following in mind:

  • While the announcer reads the situation aloud in their steady monotone, skip ahead. You’ve already read this part yourself, so move on to examine the data file in detail.
  • When writing down points from the conversation, do not use complete sentences. Use point form and abbreviations to write faster. Don’t worry about making a mess as no one will look at your note sheet.

3. While identifying points in the data file
This is the part that most candidates are unsure about. The data file is, indeed, overwhelming but when you read it systematically, the points for your tasks are quite clear on the page!

  • Divide the tasks into different parts according to the instruction email/memo. If it’s one of those tasks in which you have to reply to an enquiry or complaint, pay closer attention to the enquiry/complaint email for these divisions instead (but don’t ignore the instruction email/memo, as it might give you some ideas for your introduction or conclusion).
  • Clearly label the points in the data file to avoid missing them out.
  • Generalise your examples. Unless the instruction email/memo explicitly asks you to use specific examples, you are expected to generalise the details from the data file. For example, if ‘football’, ‘hockey’ and ‘water polo’ are discussed in the data file, you should refer to them collectively as ‘team sports’.

4. While writing
After locating all the necessary information, it’s time to put your points together. When doing this, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Paraphrase, but not too much. Stronger students often make the mistake of paraphrasing excessively. Not only is this time-consuming, but it is also unnecessary. Looking at this paper’s mark scheme makes it clear that about 95% of the keywords you need can be taken directly from the data file. You should paraphrase some of the information in order to gain language and appropriacy marks, but stick to:
    i. Changing the sentence from active to passive, or vice versa.
    ii. Changing the parts of speech of some words in the sentence.
    iii. Replacing unimportant words with synonyms.
  • Pay attention to the tone and format. The written tasks typically require you to write in a formal style. Pay attention to overly casual or colloquial expressions in the data file and turn them into more formal phrases. For example, in the data file, they may use the word ‘kids’, which is a rather casual expression. Instead, you should use the word ‘children’ or ‘youngsters’, depending on the situation.

There you have it! There is no reason why you cannot ace your DSE English Paper 3B if you follow these steps. Don’t let this paper pull down your overall grade – now you know the steps to success you can pass it with flying colours!

At i-Learner, we understand the importance of catering to the needs of students of varied abilities. This is often neglected at higher levels, which prompted us to design this elaborate structure of senior secondary courses to provide the best education to students preparing for the HKDSE Examination.

Our DSE course is specifically fashioned to mould to students’ needs through small-class teaching so as to maximise their chances of attaining the best results possible in the most important examination of their lives. To better facilitate our students’ learning journey, our DSE course is paired with our specially-designed e-Learning platform so that students practise and further polish the techniques acquired in class.

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