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Candidates prepare for DSE English mock oral test: eye contact difficulties (Sing Tao Daily)

  • The oral examination for the English subject of the Diploma of Secondary Education Examination will be conducted in an epidemic-proof manner, with wider seats for candidates. The CNEC Lau Wing Sang Secondary School has arranged a "practical test" for Form 6 students, who, although they have heard the content of the speeches, find it difficult to communicate with each other through their eyes.


    The oral examination for the English Language subject of the Diploma of Secondary Education Examination will be resumed in March for the first time after a two-year suspension under the New Zealand Crown Epidemic. Unlike the previous arrangement, candidates are required to wear masks throughout the examination, and their seats are at least 1.1 metre apart, so teachers and students have to adapt to the examination venue arrangement again. A secondary school conducted a mock oral examination in accordance with the new requirements of the Examinations and Assessment Authority (EAA). Teachers and students found that the candidates' speeches were quite clear after the seating distance was widened, but they needed to practise raising their voices; some students found that they could not see the timer clearly, and it was difficult for them to communicate with the other candidates. Reporter TSOI Kin-hang


    The Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEAA) announced earlier that the seats of candidates in the resumed English oral examination will be widened, and some candidates are worried that they will lose marks because they can hardly hear the speeches of other candidates. In order to "test" the effect of the new requirement, the school removed the partition and widened the seating distance in accordance with the new requirement. It was the first time for the participating teachers and students to take the mock oral examination in accordance with the new configuration of the examination centre.


    Timer not visible from both sides

    According to the new regulations, the candidates' seats are arranged in a fan shape, with a distance of 1.1 metre between the seats. Therefore, the distance between the candidates on both sides is about four metres, and the furthest distance between the examiners and the candidates is about two metres. The four participating students were worried that they might not be able to hear clearly what they were saying because of the distance. The reporter asked them to conduct a group discussion with their usual speaking volume to see whether the new requirement had affected their performance. After the test, all four said they could hear other candidates clearly, and three of them said they had not intentionally raised their voices.


    However, the "practical test" revealed other problems other than the voice line. Secondary 6 students Chu Hoi Ching and Siu Ka Hei, who were sitting on both sides of the test, said they could not see the timer clearly after the seat distance was widened, and Chu Hoi Ching could only see the side of the timer. SIU NGO TING, a student sitting in the middle of the room, had to "twist his head to the left and to the right" when he spoke, "Eye contact with other students is a bigger problem, I have to turn my head so drastically to look at the other students, this kind of angle makes me very tired.


    The new rules also require candidates to wear masks throughout the test. Although Timothy SIU NGO TING, who wears spectacles, has put tissue paper inside his mask, his spectacles fogged up from time to time during his speech, making it difficult for him to see the other candidates clearly. In the past, there was a view from the academic sector that a transparent partition would be better to widen the candidates' seating area, but after the students' "practical test", they held the opposite view. Chu Hoi Ching pointed out that the plastic boards separated the sound, and since the candidates were wearing masks, "it was even more difficult for us to hear the speeches of the other candidates. Timothy Siu also pointed out that the plastic sheets would reflect light, making it difficult to see the other candidates.


    The two expatriate teachers who served as examiners in the "practical test" agreed that although the distance between the candidates was wider, they could still hear the candidates' speeches clearly. However, it would inevitably have an impact on the students who had a weak voice and lacked confidence, so they would focus on training the students to improve their voice and familiarise them with the layout of the examination venue.


    Online practice may be less effective


    With the outbreak of the mutated virus Omicron in full force, some experts have said that secondary schools may have to suspend face-to-face lessons if the outbreak becomes more serious. The school's head of English, Miss Tam Wing-han, believes that if fresh candidates suspend classes and practise for the oral examination online instead, the effectiveness of the test will be greatly reduced. "Online training can only provide students with the content and skills of the discussion, but it cannot help them adapt to the examination venue," she said, adding that it is difficult for students to train their voices and make eye contact online. She hoped that the situation would stabilise, so that students could continue to practise face-to-face in preparation for the Diploma of English (DEA) examination.


    Teachers and students are concerned that the new rules for the oral examination of the English Language subject in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE), with wider seating distances and the need for candidates to wear masks throughout the examination, will affect their performance. If you would like to know more about the "real test" and the immediate reaction of the candidates in the mock oral examination, you can scan the QR code on the right to watch the video now.

    Sing Tao Daily