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Under the current academic structure, 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. Since the inception of the HKDSE in 2012, most of the candidates have been presented by schools.

Most school candidates may take four core subjects (Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Citizenship and Social Development)^, plus two to three elective subjects from Category A Senior Secondary subjects; Category B Applied Learning subjects or Category C Other Languages subjects in the HKDSE.

In line with international standards and to ensure the transparency and explicitness of the results, HKDSE Category A subjects adopt Standards-referenced Reporting of assessment results. Except for Citizenship and Social Development, candidates’ achievement 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 results of Citizenship and Social Development are reported in one level, ‘Attained’. Achievements below ‘Attained’ are designated as ‘Unattained’.

Except for Applied Learning (ApL) Chinese (for non-Chinese speaking students), three levels of performance are reported for Category B ApL subjects including ‘Attained with Distinction (II)’, ‘Attained with Distinction (I)’ and ‘Attained’. Performance below ‘Attained’ is designated as ‘Unattained’ and is not reported on the certificate. For ApL Chinese (for non-Chinese speaking students), two levels of performance are reported, including ‘Attained’ and ‘Attained with Distinction'.

For Category C (Other Languages) subjects offered in the 2024 HKDSE and before, question papers of the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level from Cambridge Assessment International Education (Cambridge International) are used. Marking and grading are also 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' and are not reported on the HKDSE certificate.

Starting from the 2025 HKDSE, candidates will be required to take the stipulated language examinations administered in Hong Kong by the official organisations which are the official providers of the language examinations concerned. Candidates should enroll themselves with the examination administrators of the stipulated language examinations. Different reporting systems are adopted by the official language examinations. Candidates’ results obtained in these examinations at the stipulated proficiency level or above will be included as the HKDSE Category C results and reported on the HKDSE certificate. For details, please click here.

For examination statistics of the past HKDSE, please click here.

For more details about HKDSE, you may download the following booklets:

The HKEAA has also launched a series of videos to introduce the HKDSE. Please click here to watch the videos online.

^ In 2021, the Curriculum Development Council and the Public Examinations Board of the HKEAA jointly endorsed the proposals for optimising the four Senior Secondary core subjects (i.e. Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics Compulsory Part, and Citizenship and Social Development in lieu of Liberal Studies) and the phasing out of Combined Science and Integrated Science. The proposals were accepted by the Education Bureau (EDB). The optimising measures which are applicable to the 2024 HKDSE and beyond have been implemented from Secondary 4 in the 2021/22 school year. Please click here for details.