Applying for an HK University? Speak, speak, speak!

Speaking is what makes human beings unique. Our communications skills are second to none and those that are able to communicate well, often find an increasing amount of doors open for them. Yet, it is also a dread to many who may be timid, not confident or simply not having enough in the word bank to truly express yourself. This may be an issue for those looking to get into a higher education institution in Hong Kong, which increasingly treats verbal discussions, presentations and participation in classes as a component for the final grade and thus overall success.

In Hong Kong, whilst English is taught from kindergarten, it is still not the primary language that people speak. This could create barriers and a dent to their confidence when doing so; language is technical and very rigid. At the same time, this creates a confidence issue that can be detrimental to getting into a Hong Kong University.

Universities in Hong Kong are a bit different with assessment components when compared to their international peers. The starkest difference is how much local institutions weigh speaking and oral assessments. Most courses that you will be taking will deduct marks for not putting your hand up for participating in class or there would be things like assessed presentations. Sometimes, you might even be put into groups and asked to do a presentation in that format. If it is a group project, it’s important to find your own voice and make sure that you have a part to present, because by simply piling it on someone else would make you lose marks in most cases.

This sort of push to participate is almost uniquely tailored to Hong Kong with Universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and even the US, where assessments take the form of attendance, essays, quizzes, exams and dissertations. Whilst you may be required to show up to class, it is entirely possible to sit in a corner and not say a thing seeing as oral in-lecture or tutorial participation is not assessed.

When talking about the need to speak, one top humanities professor at The University of Hong Kong, noted that he was impressed by students conducting university papers, exams and other research work for a language that is not their native to them. However, he noticed that it was striking that when topics of conversation turned away from the academic to the general, many students struggled to get through it and were very nervous. 

It’s important to practice general English and Universities in Hong Kong try to add weight to that by making it compulsory for all undergraduates to go through an application of English unit in their first year that include presentation skills focusing on how you come off orally. There is also a resume, cover letter and interview skills workshop in the last year. Both of these carry weight towards your final grade points average (GPA). This makes these important and for students who are confident in conversational English, it allows them to breeze through these classes hassle free.

Then there are common core programs, introduced by Hong Kong universities over the last decade, these help expand one’s horizons with courses that range from natural disasters and the human element, sexuality and its fluidity, technologies implications for the future just to name a few. These units aim to expand one’s knowledge and critical thinking skills, both on the macro and micro levels. This means that there is a lot of in-class discussion and debate, which is an assessed component in itself.

To get through such common core courses, it’s important to have a natural curiosity and keep up to date with the news. Putting on the BBC or CNN for an hour a day, allows not only to witness how native speakers discuss and debate relevant real-life affairs, it also improves on everyday general usage and you’d have key topics making the headlines allowing you to grasp vocab. More science-based documentaries do the trick. Newspapers and magazines could also be of use, but it’s important these are from more fact-based publications and relevant subjects due to the proliferation of new media sources that are often brash and biased. 

YouTube has been a prolific addition to many students navigating Hong Kong universities as they allow for good content. Look for similar sort of content such as news, documentaries, tutorials and guides to speaking English, adult cartoons to name a few. Then there is the possibility of expanding your social interactions, from book and movie clubs to cooking classes all conducted in English. This allows you to have an outlet to practice English every week whilst learning a new skill. This may seem a bit far-fetched at first but students come out of it surprisingly happy and more confident in communicating in an English medium. 

Another way, although strange to some, could be based around joining a debating course or taking topics and practicing to recite them verbally in front of your mirror (yes, we’ve all done this at some point)

Speaking and communication is key and at Causeway Education there are courses designed to enhance that and put any prospective students for a Hong Kong University in good stead to have an easier, breezier and more enriching University experience in a truly global metropolis.

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