2017 DSE English Writing Question 2 (Sample)

Learning English through Poems and Songs

You have been inspired to share your feelings about opportunities on your online blog. In your blog write about one opportunity that you missed and one opportunity that you took.

Take or Lose Your Chance

I have always wanted to be an actress. That was the reason why I joined the school drama club. In the same year, our school had joined the Hong Kong School Drama Festival and would perform the play “Romeo & Juliet”. I desperately wanted to play the role of Juliet. How wonderful it would be if I could have a chance to perform the famous Shakespearean play as well as play the main female character! But I knew that I had to get myself well-prepared for the audition so that I could beat the other candidates and win the role. Therefore, I went to Mrs. Lau, my English teacher, to learn the play, portray the role of Juliet and practice acting as Juliet. “Remember, you are passionately in love with the wrong person. The tension throughout the tragedy comes from here. A fatal love brought about by the force of fate.” Mrs. Lau would remind me.  We rehearsed every day after school. The preparation took a lot of hard work.

When the day of audition finally came, I was just as excited as the other students who were going to audition. I entered the classroom where three senior teachers sat behind a long table. I stood in front of them waiting for their instruction. “Can you play the part and recite the scene of Romeo & Juliet which impresses you the most?” One of the panel beamed at me. I thought for a while, took up the courage and told them I would like to play the balcony scene. One of the panel came out and acted as Romeo. “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” I recited. At that time, I felt like losing myself and was fully immersed in being Juliet. After I finished, the panel nodded and told me to wait for the news. I was so delighted that I could complete the audition with so much ease and confidence, thanks to all the efforts that I had put into in the last month. Two weeks later, to my amazement, I received a letter notifying me that I had successfully got the role! I would play Juliet in the public performance! It was almost a dream come true. 

The drama festival finally arrived. The whole drama crew and I were so excited. While we were heading to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, my mobile phone suddenly rang. “Hi, Miss Chan, this is the Hong Kong Theatre. We have a main character role right now for the upcoming show. Can you come over to interview today? Our boss is only available today because he will fly abroad tomorrow.” I found myself suddenly caught in a dilemma. “This might be a precious opportunity to work with a real theatre company if I would be selected. However, I could not give up the performance for the interview. The whole crew is waiting for me!” I said to myself. “Sir, thank you for asking me but I don’t think I can come over today because I have an important appointment.  I am so sorry about that.” I ended the conversation reluctantly. “The festival must go on.” Then I joined the crew and went on stage.

In your life, when opportunity comes your way, you either seize it or miss it. Just like what I did. I seized the opportunity to play Juliet in the school drama festival but I missed the chance to become a real actress in the real world. It changed your life for the better or for the worse. Who knows? For one thing, at least, I know that I have tried my very best.

2017 DSE English Writing Question 5 (Sample)

Learning English through Popular Culture 

Recently the Hong Kong Government published a list of intangible cultural heritage items that the city should protect. The following were on the list: Traditional egg tarts and mahjong 

Write a letter to the editor of the Hong Kong Daily supporting the Government’s choice of these two features of Hong Kong culture, suggesting why they are worth protecting and how they can be protected. 

Dear Editor,

Egg Tarts and Mahjong: Our Old Hong Kong

Traditional egg tarts and mahjong bring back memories of the old days. The scene of my mother playing mahjong while we children eating egg tarts decades ago comes back to my mind again. They are the important part of the old Hong Kong. Recently, the Government has included these two local cultural features as intangible cultural heritage. It is a welcome move. As Hong Kong has developed into an international city where East meets West, we are under the constant influence of Eastern and Western culture, ranging from Japanese food, Korean pop culture to American TV dramas and Hollywood movies. As foreign culture prevails in Hong Kong, Hong Kong local culture is losing appeal and fading away from our daily life. To prevent our local culture from dying, the Government should protect our cultural heritage in order to pass on the history and memory to the next generation.

Traditional egg tarts were signature food of the last century. They were famous for its crust and sweet flavour, and were sold and served by local bakeries and cafes. Almost every Hongkonger has eaten egg tarts. Do you remember those days when you were waiting for the hot, freshly made egg tarts at one of the nearby bakeries in the neighborhood as a treat after school? When we were poor and young in those days, we always scrambled to the bakery and lined up for the egg tarts which were ready to be sold at a quarter past three after the school bell rang. We were satisfied because egg tarts were not only yummy but also cheap. Egg tarts actually grew up with us. They are our collective memory of the old Hong Kong. Therefore, egg tarts are worth protecting. 

Mahjong was a famous game among Hong Kong people of the last century. The sound of playing mahjong was often heard along the corridor of the housing estate. Some TV game shows were even based on mahjong and attracted millions of audience. Mahjong was also a game among family, friends and relatives during the Chinese New Year because it is a symbol of solidarity. However, mahjong is disappearing from our daily life because there are so many entertainment options available. Similar to egg tarts, mahjong is our collective memory of the old Hong Kong. Therefore, mahjong is worth protecting.

To help protect and preserve our cultural heritage, the Government can promote egg tarts by making a short film advertisement about egg tarts and the old Hong Kong and inviting famous people to star in the film. Also, the Government can offer subsidises to food trucks at the tourist spots which sell egg tarts. It can help promote egg tarts as our local cultural heritage to our visitors. As for mahjong, the Government can organize a “Mahjong Contest” in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre where Hong Kong people can participate and play mahjong as contestants to win the championship. It aims to promote mahjong culture in our community. 

I hope that, by doing so, our cultural heritage can be preserved in our community and passed on to the next generation as part of the history of Hong Kong. 

Yours faithfully,

Chris Wong

2017 DSE English Writing Question 7 (Sample)

Learning English through Social Issues

You are working on a project called “Hong Kong’s NEETS”. NEETS are young people who are not in education, employment or training. Many of these young people spend their time at home playing video games or surfing the internet.

Write a report to explain why the number of NEETS in Hong Kong is rising and suggest what can be done to help these youths. Give reasons to support your suggestions.

Hong Kong’s NEETs

In an affluent society like Hong Kong, there exist a certain number of hidden youths who neither work nor study but stay at home playing video games or surfing the internet. They are called NEETs. A recent survey shows that the number of NEETs is on the increase. The figure is quite alarming. In this report, I will explore the reasons behind the phenomenon and suggest some solutions to the problem.

At one extreme, many NEETs come from well-off family where they are spoiled and pampered by helicopter parents who help their children deal with every aspect of daily life such as spoon-feeding and shoelace-tying, and do not allow their children to experience setbacks in daily life such as conflicts among schoolmates and shortage of resources. They live in an overprotected and well-provided environment where problems and difficulties are eliminated, not to mention the fact that they do not have to worry about or struggle for survival. As a result, they fail to develop self-care ability and problem-solving skill and become overly dependent on their parents. As they grow up, they are unable to face pressure from school and hardship from work. Therefore, they become socially withdrawn and would rather stay at home and live in the virtual world where they can stay within their comfort zone, forget life demands and escape from the harsh reality of the real world. 

At the other extreme, many NEETs come from poor family where children are neglected by their parents who have difficulty in making a living and can barely make ends meet. The children do not have enough resources for their growth. For example, when they encounter difficulties in their studies, they cannot afford to hire a tutor to help them and thus are unable to catch up with school demands. Gradually, they become failure under the education system and lose hope in the future prospect. Even though they might be willing to work, the salary is too low to entice them to stay on the job. Thinking that it is not worth the effort, they would rather stay at home and live off their parents. 

To address the issue, the government should provide schools with more financial assistance to employ more social workers and counselors who can help NEETs come out of the shell by listening to their problems and walking with them, by introducing them to support groups where they can find peers with similar problems and support each other or by introducing them to interest groups where they can socialize with peers having similar interests so that they will not feel alone.  

The government can cooperate with the commercial sector by providing subsidies to create more job opportunities such as part-time jobs as a stepping stone for NEETs to get a sense of the demand and requirement of a job and get a taste of whether they can work under stress. Starting with a small step by taking a part-time job, they may feel easier to get on with work and engage with the society. When they build up on-the-job experience, they may feel motivated to do a full-time job. 

The government can also provide subsidies or establish funds to support NEETs who would like to further their studies but lack the necessary resources. When better equipped through continuing education, they are more likely to find a better job and have more incentive to work.

With the above measures, I hope that NEETs feel encouraged and empowered to re-enter the society and live a meaningful life. 

2019 DSE English Writing Question 6 (Sample)

Learning English through Drama

You are a reporter for the entertainment section of the Young Post. You have been asked to review a new film called Cinderella which is based on the comic series Princesses of Power.

  • Write a review of the film
  • Include a brief description of the plot, how the characters are portrayed in this new version of Cinderella and why the director wanted to make this film
  • Give your review a title

Super Cinderella

The new animated film Cinderella, released in 2019, is adapted from the all-time classic fairy tale. It tells a modern tale of Cinderella, an ordinary girl in her twenties, who tries to save lives at the critical moment of the city where she lives in. Born with superpower, the young Cinderella is reminded by her deceased mother not to use her power until when the right time comes because her superpower can only be used once and will disappear at midnight. 

Living with her stepmother and two stepsisters who treat her cruelly, the young Cinderella endures the hardship and refuses to use her magical power to save herself. As Cinderella is growing up, a dark superpower is looming large on the horizon and threatening the citizens of the city. Seeing that the city is full of violence, injustice and riot, the grown-up Cinderella realizes that it is the right time to use her power to save her fellow citizens. Cinderella stops all sorts of crimes committed by the dark armies and destroys all the black magic played by the dark lord. 

The royal family member Prince Henry finally challenges the dark lord to a fight. When the dark lord comes very close to stabbing Prince Henry, Cinderella comes to the rescue, stabs the dark lord and saves Prince Henry.  At this time, the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella loses her power instantly. Cinderella runs away leaving her shoe behind. The following day Prince Henry searches everywhere in the city who can fit in the shoe. Cinderella tries the shoe on and reveals that she is the one who saves him. Then Prince Henry asks Cinderella to marry him and they live happily ever after in the city. 

It is thrilling to see that the new Cinderella, directed by the female director Sara Kwok, turns the original fairy tale upside down by portraying Cinderella as a superwoman. “By modern adaptation of the classic and re-imagination of the female protagonist, I would like to give a feminist touch to the story that modern women, represented by Cinderella, is just as strong and able as men instead of being stereotyped as weak victims waiting to be saved. I would like to give such an impression to the little girls who come to the cinema to watch this film.” Sara explained her motive of making the film.

Apparently, it might seem that the ending does not surprise us when it follows the same way as the original one that marriage is the final happiness of a woman. However, as the story suggests, the happy ending somehow demonstrates that modern women can seek her own happiness, be it marriage or not, but here in the form of marriage, by her own power. 

Cinderella is a great choice if you look out for something unconventional that stimulates your children into thinking about gender role and female empowerment. However, despite its creativity, it might not be as lovable as the all-time favourite classic that both boys and girls would find.  

2018 DSE English Writing Question 5 (Sample)

5. Learning English through Debating

You are representing your school at an inter-school debating competition. The motion is: ‘The policy of reporting students’ class position should be abolished.’ Write a debate speech arguing for OR against the motion.

Teachers, Judges and Fellow Schoolmates,

Good morning, today’s motion is “The policy of reporting students’ class position should be abolished.” We, the affirmative side, strongly support the motion.

Before I commence with my arguments for the motion, the opposition side argues that the policy brings the reality of competition in the real world to schools in advance and encourages students to strive for themselves at an earlier stage. To a certain extent, this argument might be true; however, the policy also leads to many detrimental effects to which we should not turn a blind eye.

First of all, the policy kills the motivation of learning and the interest in learning. Examination is only a means to test our knowledge and learn from mistakes. The result can somehow reflect our strength and weakness in different subjects so that we will know which potential to develop. It defeats the purpose of examination when students are only supposed to get high marks in every subject but not to find out their own interests and endowments. Moreover, the policy differentiates students based on their grades and ranks and divides them into high-achieving and low-achieving students. This division has a labelling effect that stigmatizes students by putting them into categories. Low-achieving students will then lose motivation and interest in learning because they always stay at the bottom of the ranks.  It is at odds with the principle of education.

The policy encourages competitive atmosphere in the learning environment. Under the culture which emphasizes “winning at the starting line” and awards those who win first and early, parents will push their children to excel in the examination and enroll them in many tutorial classes. Likewise, students will compare their results with others in order to beat their peers and not to lose out. Comparison adds so much pressure and burden to their studies. Consequently, many students who are under tremendous pressure break down and result in mental problems such as depression, anxiety or phobia. The policy does more harm than good to the students.  

Under the policy, learning becomes exam-oriented and grade-oriented. Parents and students will focus only on academic results and overlook other areas of achievement. Students are drilled to excel only in the examination and thus neglect other areas of development such as social skill, communication skill or collaboration skill. As a result, students become monotonous and fail to appreciate other qualities such as social and emotional intelligence. They fail to discover and develop their potential to the fullest. 

As the policy poses a hindrance to the execution of an all-rounded education, I appeal to you to support today’s motion. Thank you.

2018 DSE English Writing Question 7 (Sample)

Learning English through Drama

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) wants to encourage more people to watch stage plays. To do this, they want to show video-recordings of live drama performance from theatres all over the world.

You have just watched one of these recordings. Write an article for Showbiz magazine discussing whether these recordings are a good way to attract more people to watch stage plays.

From Video-recordings To Stage Plays

Many people might have heard of stage plays, but how many of them will actually buy a ticket to watch them in the theatre? To cultivate general public interest in watching stage plays, HKAPA proposes to show video-recordings of live drama performance from theatres all over the world. Recently, I have watched one of the video-recordings shown by HKAPA, the internationally acclaimed musical Les Miserables performed by London Theatre. The experience is amazing. I believe that these video-recordings would be a good way to attract more people to watch stage plays.

Video-recording is a cheap and convenient means for the general public to try watching stage plays. Drama is not only a less popular form of art but also an expensive kind of entertainment. As the cost of watching a drama video is very low and drama videos are more accessible, if you find the drama daunting or boring, you can always give up watching in the middle of the play. For instance, if you are impatient with the three-hour long musical Les Miserables which consists of a number of acts and scenes, you can always walk out and stop watching it. Besides, I have never watched Les Miserables on the stage, but after I watch its video, I become very interested in the musical and have a strong desire to watch its live drama performance. Therefore, video-recordings help enhance the incentive of the general public to try watching stage plays.

Video-recording helps introduce the general public to stage plays of different genres and subject matters. Some plays are tragedy which carries heavy messages whereas some plays are comedy which is amusing, funny and light-hearted. For example, the classic literature Les Miserables by the French writer Victor Hugo is considered to be serious and daunting, but when I watch the musical on the video, I am attracted to its lofty themes such as human suffering, injustice and revolution because of its engaging presentation. People can discover which types of stage plays interest them through watching video-recordings.

As the video-recordings are of very high quality, it feels like watching live drama performance on the stage. When I watch Les Miserables on the video, I find that each scene is intriguing with its intense atmosphere, fancy costumes, state-of-the-art lighting and sound effects, magnificent props and set design, impressive make-up, sophisticated facial expressions of the characters, brilliant orchestra and first-class performance. The songs and lyrics are so touching and powerful that they pierce into my heart. The vocalists are overflowing with passion and feelings. The actors and actresses deliver the lines with vigor and energy. Their voice displays rhythm and emotions. The whole performance is breathtaking, not to mention the real live stage performance.

Video-recording can never replace the spectacular view and wonderful experience of live drama performance. However, it is definitely a good way to introduce the less popular form of art to the general public and attract them to go to watch stage plays in the theatre.

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 2 (Sample)

Learning English through Workplace Communication

You are the boss of Reboot Online Company and you have recently received complaints from some staff about the number of work-related emails and text messages received out of office.

Write a letter to staff addressing their complaints.

Dear fellow staff,

I am writing in response to the complaints lodged by some staff about the number of work-related emails and text messages received out of office. After looking into the matter, I would like to address the problem as follows.

It is a general practice that staff ought not to take on further workload when they are out of office. “Out of office” refers to two conditions. First, you are physically not in the office outside office hours. Second, you are on annual leave or sick leave during office hours. Under these two circumstances, you are not supposed to carry out any job duties. If you are receiving job instructions out of office, that means you are working overtime. As a general policy, overtime work should be limited to urgent work, heavy workloads or emergencies only so that staff can maintain work-life balance and a healthy life. 

However, the recent situation has changed. In view of business expansion in the emerging markets, the demand for our technology service has grown a great deal. Clients become more demanding and the business environment in these markets is very competitive and challenging. As a result, we are expected to deliver our service much faster than usual. Therefore, you are receiving work-related emails and messages delegated by your supervisors when you are out of office.  

It is understandable that too much overtime work will pose a threat to staff’s health and lower their productivity. To prevent our staff from being overloaded, there will be a special arrangement for out-of-office job instructions. First, supervisors should decide whether the tasks are really urgent before delegating to their subordinates. Second, staff whose grade is below supervisory level can communicate to their seniors whether they still have capacity for the assigned work. Third, an overtime timesheet system will be brought in to keep the overtime that staff spends on their tasks or job duties each day. If staff keeps working overtime for an unreasonable amount of time, they should report to their seniors with their timesheets. For example, if a staff member is sick and gets off work on time, he should report to his supervisors that he is unable to do any more tasks out of office. Or, if a staff member is already very busy with his current tasks, he should report to his supervisors that he does not have any further capacity for any duties out of office. It is hoped that close communication between seniors and subordinates can help staff make a balance between work and life.

It is always our company’s principle that our staff and employees are the most valuable asset and that they can achieve a healthy work-life balance. Frequent and excessive overtime work out of office at the expense of employees’ health should not be allowed. The new measures should alleviate the worst condition. 

As the business environment continues to be challenging, I sincerely hope that we can work things out together and endure hard times hand in hand.  

Yours faithfully, 

Chris Wong

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 8 (Sample)

Learning English through Poems and Songs

Poetry House is offering a scholarship for ten young writers to attend their summer poetry workshop. The workshop will promote the art and craft of poetry in a creative environment and participants will have a chance to discuss their work with guest poets from around the world.

Write an application letter, explaining your interest in poetry and why you should be selected to take part in this workshop.

Dear Sir,

Application for Poetry House Scholarship for Summer Poetry Workshop

I am writing to apply for the Poetry House scholarship to attend the summer poetry workshop. It has always been my dream to meet with internationally renowned poets and learn poetry writing from them face-to-face. I have been interested in poetry reading and writing since junior secondary form. There are a few reasons why I am interested in poetry. 

First of all, poetry is a creative form which can convey a variety of messages in a concise and interesting way. Unlike short stories or novels which normally tell stories ranging from a number of pages to hundreds of pages, poems are generally written in several stanzas and are used for different purposes. I can write in just a few lines to describe an object, express my feelings, narrate an important event, reflect on a meaningful experience, present my point of view about something or just to send a lovely message to my friend. It is a much easier and more convenient vehicle for me to try creative writing as a layman on different kinds of subjects and themes. For example, I can mimic some short poems by well-known poets. As a young writer, when I can successfully write a poem, I have a sense of satisfaction which encourages me to experiment with writing different kinds of poems.  

Moreover, poetry broadens my mind and expands my imagination. By making use of poetic devices, poems are composed in an uncommon way. For example, the poem ‘Color’ by Christina Rossetti associates different colors with different things in nature. It paints a creative picture in my mind using different images. Also, the use of metaphor helps me think of ordinary things in a new perspective and refresh my ordinary life experience. Poetry helps me see simple things imaginatively. 

Furthermore, poetry helps express my emotions and achieves inner healing. For instance, when I read “Autobiographia Literaria” by Frank O’hara, I can identify with the poet’s loneliness in his childhood and his amazement in the discovery of poetry. It makes me feel that someone who has the same life experience empathizes with me and that I am not alone in the world. It is emotionally therapeutic for me. 

I am eager to take this precious opportunity to participate in the poetry workshop because I can not only learn to compose poems under the guidance of the guest poets in a creative environment, but also discuss with them how my work relates to the Hong Kong context. After the workshop, I am sure I can contribute to the poetry development in Hong Kong by creating more poems with local voices. Besides, as an underprivileged student, I am lacking in both funds and favourable environment to support my pursuit of poetry writing. Therefore, the scholarship is an important passport for me to open my eyes to the latest ideas about poetry writing. In addition to my strong interest in poetry, I am a poetry club chairman at my school and I have won an award in the latest Hong Kong poetry competition. I enclose my poetry work portfolio for your information. I would be grateful if I am given a consideration for the scholarship and am offered a place in the workshop. I look forward to receiving your reply soon.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Wong

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 4 (Sample)

Learning English through Social Issues

You write an advice column for Teen magazine and you have received the following letter:

I’ve been thinking about my future. I love animals and I’ve always wanted to be a vet. But when I told my parents, the first thing they said was ‘No’. I feel really frustrated. What should I do? – J.C. 16 years old

Write a letter of advice.

Dear J.C.,

I am writing in response to your letter concerning your choice of future career. I am sorry to hear about your frustration and would like to offer some advice to you.

First of all, you should understand the worries of your parents about your future. Although you love animals, it is hard to make a living as a vet in Hong Kong. In general, it is not common for people in Hong Kong to keep pets as there are many residential buildings which ban keeping pets. As a result, the demand for a vet in Hong Kong is very low and the job market for a vet is very small. You have to be exceptionally competent in order to secure an employment as a vet in Hong Kong. You might think that you can work as a vet in foreign countries. However, it is hard for a vet to apply for a work visa in other countries. Even if you are allowed to work overseas as a vet, you will have to leave your homeland and will need to face many problems living and working overseas such as culture shock and communication barrier. Other problems may come along.

Second, you should know that it is difficult to turn interests into career. There are many people who like singing, drawing and dancing. In fact, however, very few of them can work as a singer, a painter or a dancer and make a decent living. There is only one in a thousand chance that you can develop a successful career from your interests. More often is that interests remain hobbies in your spare time. For example, you may think about being a part-time volunteer at SPAC to help take care of abandoned animals in your free time. 

Third, you should know that you can always choose to be a vet. You may first think about a more practical career like dentistry or nursing, earn enough money, then study a part-time vet programme and open a pet shop if you like. People pursue a second career after they make enough money to realise their dream. 

After considering the above obstacles, if you still want to be a vet as your first career choice, then you should try to convince your parents that you want to follow your passion and that you are able to overcome the obstacles in the pursuit of your career as a vet. You have to show them that you understand all the negative sides of following your dream and that you agree to bear all the responsibility and consequence of your choice. 

To pursue one’s dream is never easy. I hope the above suggestions are helpful to you.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Wong

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