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Category A: Standards-referenced Reporting
In line with international standards and to ensure the transparency and explicitness of the results, Standards-referenced reporting (SRR) is adopted to report candidates' assessment results in the HKDSE Examination. What it transpires is that candidates ‘levels of performance are reported with reference to a set of standards as defined by cut scores on the variable or scale for a given subject. The set of standards for a given subject can be represented diagrammatically as shown below:



Within the context of the HKDSE there are five cut scores, which are used to distinguish five levels of performance (1–5), with 5 being the highest. Performance below the threshold cut score for level 1 is designated as “Unclassified” (U). To maintain current levels of discrimination for selection purposes, results of level 5 candidates with the best performance are annotated with the symbols ‘**’ and the next top group with the symbol ‘*’.

For each of the five levels, a set of written descriptors is developed that describe what the typical candidate performing at this level is able to do. The principle behind these descriptors is to describe what typical candidates can do, not what they cannot do. These descriptors merely represent “on-average” statements and may not apply precisely to individuals, whose performance within a subject may be variable and span two or more levels.

A set of generic descriptors is drawn up to provide an overall brief description of the performance standards of candidates at different levels across subjects. The generic descriptors encompass the major learning outcomes that are common across subjects, namely knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the ability to apply concepts and skills, higher order abilities such as interpretation, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, and the ability to communicate. There are also subject level descriptors which describe specifically the performance standards of candidates in the expected learning outcomes of each subject. Please click here to access the webpage of "Subject Information" for the level descriptors of individual subjects.

In addition, samples of candidates’ performance and level descriptors at various levels of Category A subjects are available on this website. These samples, together with the generic descriptors, will be able to clarify the standards expected at various levels.

The setting standards for the HKDSE, levels 4 and 5 are set with reference to the standards achieved by candidates awarded grades A–D in the HKALE. In doing so, it is hoped to ensure a degree of continuity with past practice, for facilitating tertiary selection and for maintaining international recognition. It needs to be stressed, however, that the intention is to make certain standards will remain constant – not the percentages of candidates awarded different levels, as these are free to vary in line with fluctuations in overall candidate performance.

In addition, the HKEAA has established a grading system which aims to maintain standards between successive years and inter-subject comparability within the same year. For details about the grading procedures and the SRR approach, please refer to the booklet on Grading Procedures and Standards-referenced Reporting in the HKDSE.

Generic Level Descriptors and Samples of student performance