ENG Departmental Seminar – Cognitive Validation of the HKDSE Speaking Exam

The English Department cordially invites you to join our departmental seminar, Cognitive Validation of the HKDSE Speaking Exam, to be organized on 16 November 2023 (Thursday).

Date: 16 November 2023 (Thursday)

Time: 2:30pm – 3:30pm

Venue: Room A314, S H Ho Academic Building

Speaker: Dr Amy Kong, Senior Lecturer of Department of English and Coordinator of English Language Centre

Registration: Complete this online form to reserve a seat. Available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Remarks: 1 iGPS unit will be awarded to undergraduate students who attend the seminar


Construct validity of a language test has always been measured through cross-sectional studies by gauging the correlation between two sets of test scores of a certain population, with minimal attention paid to the cognitive processes of test takers under test and non-test conditions. With the development of argument-based validation, more emphasis has been put on gathering a wide range of evidence to identify an explicit statement of interpretation of the test scores. One type of evidence is based on the rationales and expert judgment of the test content, and a common approach to examining the test rationales is cognitive validation, which addresses the extent to which a test requires a test-taker to engage in cognitive processes that resemble those that might be employed in non-test contexts.

This paper focuses on cognitive validation of the English-speaking exam of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), based on the Cognitive Processing Framework for Speaking (Levelt, 1989). It is noted that most of the objectives listed in the DSE Speaking Assessment Framework are in line with Levelt’s (1989) model. However, the objective of “establishing and maintaining relationships/spoken exchanges using formulaic expressions and appropriate communication strategies” seems to be an additional skill needed for group discussion. This construct also relies on the candidates’ listening ability to respond properly, and so the exam could be argued as an integrated task (listening and speaking) rather than simply a speaking exam. Last, the target domain of a selected HKDSE speaking task is not clearly outlined, making it hard to justify why the successful performance in this task implies the candidate’s high English-speaking competency in other contexts.


Dr Amy Kong is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, where she is concurrently serving as the English Language Centre Coordinator.

For enquiries, please feel free to contact us at eng@hsu.edu.hk.