HK Diploma at CSS

HK Diploma at CSS


The HKDSE is a well-established qualification recognized widely worldwide with many education pathways open to those who take the diploma. Besides those attending local tertiary institutions, many HKDSE graduates from CSS also opt to study abroad, with the UK being by far the most popular overseas destination, followed by the US, Australia and Canada.  

CSS students begin the HKDSE in Form 4. At the end of F4, students may continue with the HKDSE in F5 or begin the IBDP programme, depending on their subject choices, learning-style preferences and higher education and career aspirations.



The HKDSE is a three-year programme. Students take four compulsory core subjects (Chinese Language, English Language, Liberal Studies and Mathematics) and another two or three additional subjects of their choosing. There is also a school-based experiential learning component known as OLE (Other Learning Experiences).

The HKDSE Curriculum Model


The language of instruction for all HKDSE subjects at CSS is English, except for the core Chinese Language course. However, students who are non-Chinese speakers are exempted from the HKDSE Chinese Language examination* and sit the GCSE Chinese exam instead, usually in F4.

*NCS students are defined by the Education Bureau as students who:
(a) have learned Chinese Language for less than 6 years while receiving primary and secondary education; or
(b) have learned Chinese Language for 6 years or more in schools, but have been taught an adapted and simpler Chinese Language curriculum not normally applicable to the majority of students in local schools.


HKDSE Elective Subjects Offered at CSS

 Key Learning Area

HKDSE Elective Subjects Offered at CSS #

Mathematics & Science

Extended modules in Mathematics (Either M1: Calculus & Statistics or M2: Algebra & Calculus); Biology, Chemistry, Physics


Business, Accounting & Financial Studies (BAFS), ICT, Design & Applied Technology, Technology & Living (Food)


Economics, Geography, History


Visual Art, Music, Literature in English









#The elective subjects the school offers is subject to student demand.


HKDSE Performance Levels and University Applications

There is no pass or fail distinction for the HKDSE. Upon completion, each candidate receives a certificate with their results in each of their individual academic subjects; there is no discrete diploma award.
The HKDSE awards grades according to a criterion-based system with performance standards at five different level, Levels 1-5. Top performing students within the Level 5 band are awarded 5* or 5**.
HKDSE Performance Levels
 5 Level 5** 
Level 5*
Level 5
 4 Level 4
 3 Level 3
 2 Level 2
 1 Level 1
 U Unclassified








For local university applications, students use an online application system called JUPAS. To qualify for an undergraduate programme in Hong Kong, students must meet a minimum of 3-3-2-2 in their core subjects (Level 3 in Chinese and English, Level 2 in Liberal Studies and Mathematics). The minimum requirements for local sub-degree programmes are five subjects at Level 2: Chinese Language, English Language plus Level 2 in any three other subjects.

Non-Chinese speakers may take GCSE Chinese in lieu of HKDSE Chinese Language to qualify for local undergraduate programmes (typically, Grade C or E is required, depending on the institution). More details can be found here.

Universities in the UK are increasingly making conditional offers of grades in only 3 subjects, or 3 subjects with minimum scores in certain other subjects. HKDSE Liberal Studies and Chinese Language are not always required, depending on the institution and programme being applied for. IELTS is recommended for applications to the UK, though a Level 4 in HKDSE English Language is often accepted. All applications go through UCAS, the offical UK university applications system.


Experiential Learning Programme: Other Learning Experiences (OLE)
OLE is a core component of the HKDSE curriculum that aims to broaden students' horizons, and to develop their lifelong interests through a wide, varied range of essential learning experiences beyond the classroom and academic study.
At CSS, the whole-person development of students is central to our ethos. During their OLE sessions, HKDSE students participate in an extensive co-curricular programme involving experiential learning experiences in the creative arts, sports & action, community service & leadership development, as well as benefiting from talks by visiting speakers and university admission tutors. 
In F5, we run a special CASOLE programme where all F5 students, irrespective of which diploma they are studying, participate in experiential learning activities together, with separate OLE / CAS sessions held when and where required.

Highlights of the CSS OLE Programme

OLE Strand

Examples of experiential learning experiences

Moral & Civic Education

Dialogue in the Dark Tour, ICAC Headquarters Visit, Educational Talks from School of Poverty Caring, YMT Elderly Resources Centre Visit, HKIE School Talks

Community Service

OLE Experiential Learning Trips

Career-related Experiences

World of Work placements, Youth Employment Start Y.E.S. Drama Show, Hok Yau Club JUPAS Seminars

Aesthetic Development

Mural Painting, Lok Wah Catholic Primary School Art Project, The World of Tim Burton HK Exhibition Visit, Films in Schools (FiS) Outreach Programme

Physical Development

Bowling, Rock climbing, Dragon-boating, Ice skating, Hip Hop, Bubble Soccer, Shaolin Martial Arts, Badminton, Basketball, Table tennis, Kick-boxing, Athletics, Yoga, Archery


Form 4

Form 5

Form 6

Students undertake an extensive week-long work placement under our World of Work programme where they explore possible career options and get an invaluable taste of what working life is like with various organizations and institutions.

Two intensive experiential learning experiences for all students:

  • a 2-3 day overnight camp at the beginning of F5;

  • and a week-long experience during Creative Week later on in the year, which typically involves traveling and staying in another country. The experience may be action or service oriented

OLE in Form 6 focuses on careers and higher-education related experiences, and preparing students for life after school.



Formative and Summative Assessment

Formative Assessment

Summative Assessment

The aim of formative assessment is to gather feedback that can be used by the teacher and the students to guide improvements in on-going teaching and learning. These are low stakes assessments.

Formative assessment can be quite formal (a short quiz, an essay plan, a practice assessment). It can also be informal, including asking questions verbally or listening to a group discussion. 

The aim of summative assessment is to measure the level of proficiency that has been achieved at the end of a unit with reference to HKDSE criteria and standards.

Examples of summative assessments include projects, exhibitions and performances, essays, reports, unit tests and exams.










Summative Assessment at CSS

The major summative assessments are the school examinations that take place once a year at diploma level, typically at the end of the year, or towards the end of Term 1 in the case of the F6 mock examinations. Other smaller summative assessments may take place within each individual subject in the form of a range of summative assessment tools that may include in-class exams or unit tests.


Assessment Criteria and Grades

Each subject area will have assessment criteria specific to that subject in line with those specified by the HKEAA. These subject-specific criteria are based around the generic level descriptors. 


The HKDSE Generic Level Descriptors

Performance Level


Level 5

Candidates at this level typically demonstrate:

  • comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the ability to apply the concepts and skills effectively in diverse and complex unfamiliar situations with insight
  • ability to analyse, synthesis and evaluate information from a wide variety of sources
  • ability to communicate ideas and express views logically

Level 4

Candidates at this level typically demonstrate:

  • good knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the ability to apply the concepts and skills effectively in unfamiliar situations with insight
  • ability to analyse, synthesise and interpret information from a variety of sources
  • ability to communicate ideas and views logically

Level 3

Candidates at this level typically demonstrate:

  • adequate knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the ability to apply the concepts and skills appropriately in different familiar situations
  • ability to analyse and interpret information from variety of sources
  • ability to communicate ideas and express views appropriately

Level 2

Candidates at this level typically demonstrate:

  • basic knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the ability to apply the concepts and skills in familiar situations
  • ability to identify and interpret information from straightforward sources
  • ability to communicate simple idea in a balanced way

Level 1

Candidates at this level typically demonstrate:

  • elementary knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the ability to apply the concepts and skills in simple familiar situations with support
  • ability to identify and interpret information from simple sources with guidance
  • ability to communicate simple idea briefly


How students' levels are arrived at in an assessment

For each subject:

  • Each unit has at least one summative assessment task (or tasks), assessed according to HKDSE criteria for each subject

  • Teachers then work together to standardise their marks for that task, to make sure that they are all marking at the same level


How we decide on the final subject grade

  • This level based primary on students' performance in both formative and summative assessments as well as in SBA (school-based assessment) in HKDSE subjects that have this component

  • The overall level is not simply based on an average of scores in assessments or just the latest score

  • The teacher gathers evidence for the judgment by analysing the achievement levels of students over the course of the marketing period or year, which represents their summative performance for that period, paying particular attention to patterns in the data (such as an increasing level of performance), consistency and mitigating circumstances.

  • The judgments will reflect the teacher's professional opinion on the achievement level of each student at the end of the marking period or year


School-based Assessment (SBA)

For School-based Assessment (SBA) is an assessment where students are assessed by their subject teachers. All students have to complete the SBA in subjects which have this component and  the marks awarded are counted towards their final results in the HKDSE. Students' performance in SBAs are also taken into account when awarding final subject grades and predicted grades in school.

The following are HKDSE subjects offered at CSS that have an SBA component:

Core subjects

  • Chinese Language
  • English Language
  • Liberal Studies

Elective subjects

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Design & Applied Technology
  • Information & Communication Technology
  • Literature in English
  • Technology and Living
  • Visual Arts


Further Information