The key to success in IBDP Chinese A

Many parents and students presume that students with Chinese as their mother tongue will naturally perform well on the IBDP Chinese A exam. In reality, getting a score of 6-7 (the top mark is 7) is no easy task, even for students whose first language is Chinese.

In recent years, the number of students taking IBDP Chinese A has increased rapidly, despite the difficulty of the exam. (One of the most challenging requirements for students is that both Paper 1 and Paper 2 require them to write a 1000+ word essay in just 1.5 hours). With keen competition coming from Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese speaking regions such as Taiwan and Singapore, Hong Kong students have no apparent advantage. Additionally, in Hong Kong, the quality and standard of Chinese education varies from one international school to another. Students whose mother tongue is Chinese often do not receive the level of education they need for long-term success and yet are required by their schools to study IBDP Chinese A. As a result, many students end up scoring a 5 or less. We invited Dr. Wade Ling, an experienced Chinese specialist, to share the key to success in IBDP Chinese A.

“In a recent IB seminar, I was asked the same questions by many parents: ‘Should my child take IBDP Chinese A or Chinese B?’ ‘Is a bilingual diploma really more advantageous for applying to top universities?’” Dr. Ling believes that the main issue lies not in whether a bilingual diploma is useful, but in the fact that many international schools in Hong Kong simply do not allow local students or those with a Chinese background to choose IBDP Chinese B (Second Language). Instead, they are obliged to take IBDP Chinese A. Undeniably, students can benefit from obtaining a bilingual diploma, but the question remains: how many of these students in Chinese A have really attained native proficiency in Chinese?

Dr. Ling stresses that the phrase “local students” is a moniker that does not necessarily imply a “native proficiency language standard”. Language ability is not something that can be attained overnight. Many international school students consider English their first language, and they have therefore neglected the need to learn Chinese properly. Meanwhile, schools may overlook the importance of helping students build a strong Chinese foundation and fail to equip them with mother tongue proficiency.

The key to success in IBDP Chinese lies in building a strong foundation. This “foundation” not only includes listening, speaking, reading, writing and other general Chinese skills, but also more specific training for the IBDP Chinese A exam, focusing on three parts: literary text analysis, essay writing and oral presentation skills.

Dr. Ling has stated that in his many years of teaching, he has met dozens of local students who are made to sit the IBDP Chinese A exam without having the native proficiency language standard they need to perform highly. Their common problems are: slow reading and comprehension of literary texts; inability to express their views accurately in Chinese and frequent misuse of sentence structures or vocabulary; irregular or infrequent literature-reading habits; and lack of oral fluency. All of these issues will ultimately weigh down a student’s overall score.

Because of this, Dr. Ling believes that there is a need for parents to act now to help their children establish a long-term Chinese learning plan, one which enables them to lay a strong language foundation in IBMYP that can ensure a smooth progression to IBDP Chinese A studies in the future.

This summer, NTK is offering a range of IBDP and IBMYP Chinese courses to help students strengthen their Chinese foundation and master exam skills. Our courses run from June 17 to August 31 and are now open for registration.