The HKCEE (Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination), refers to the public examinations local secondary school students take at the end of Form 5 (Grade 11). They then take another public exam at the end of Form 7 (Grade 13 )—the HKALE (or A-level Exam).
This year, we are seeing the last batch of F5 students (they are just finishing their exams this week) before switching to the new system, which has one public exam at the end of F6.
These Cert. Level exams aren’t that difficult (especially when compared to the insanely difficult A-level exams), but they do cause a lot of stress.
For one thing, if you don’t do well enough, you will have to leave the school you are studying in. A typical school has about 200 Form 5 students, but only 90 Form 6 places, so more than half of its F5 graduates end up getting booted out. They can end up attending another (usually less prestigious) secondary school, pursuing vocational studies or leaving the educational system altogether. For some students, having to change change schools can be a blessing in disguise; they sometimes end up gaining more opportunities to develop their talents at the new school. However, if you are in Form 5 and faced with having to leave behind the friends you have made during the last five years of secondary study . . . well that can be tough.
(And, in some schools, when you come back to pick up your diploma, you go up on stage in your new school’s uniform as the audience takes note of who made it back and who didn’t.)
In addition to worrying about short-term threat of not being able to get a spot in F6, students also have the added burden of knowing that their results in the exam are going to follow them around for life. Most employers ask to see your Cert results. In the civil service application, for example, that seems to be the first thing they are looking for.
So, yeah, sitting for the HKCEE is stressful.