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All you need to know about the new Spanish HKDSE


Since 2012, Spanish, along with German, French (as European languages), Japanese, Hindi, and Urdu, have been offered by the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) as Category C subjects of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). However, from 2025, the examination for these “Other Languages” (OL) will undergo changes. Students and parents can use this article to gain a better understanding of what the new exam format will entail and who will be responsible for its arrangement. As many might be aware, in the previous HKDSE exams, the Cambridge Assessment International Education offered the OL exam at the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level and conducted the marking and grading. Additionally, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority administered the OL examination and reported the results of OL candidates on the HKDSE certificate.

  1. New arrangements for Spanish and other languages starting from 2025.

  2. Highlights of the HKDSE Spanish exams, which include topics such as the language proficiency students can achieve in the exam, the appropriate type of exam according to their age, and the exam dates.

New arrangements

The new arrangements from 2025 are as follows:

  • Candidates must take the language examinations with an official cultural organization recommended by the respective Consulate General (CG).

  • The exam is aligned with the national language level standards for the recognition of results.

  • Candidates’ results in the language examinations received from these organizations will be forwarded to the HKEAA for inclusion in the HKDSE results and dissemination to universities.

Highlights of the HKDSE Spanish Examinations

How will the new arrangements affect the Spanish language? The designated language exam is the Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE). In Hong Kong, the exam provider/administrator is the Instituto Cervantes of Shanghai, with the exam administrator being UOW College Hong Kong (UOWCHK). You may register here for the DELE exam, exams take place in May and November and the registration is open from 2 months to 1 month before the exam date.

What do diplomas DELE and Instituto Cervantes refer to?

The DELE diplomas are recognized certifications that confirm proficiency and expertise in the Spanish language. 
They were created following the standards of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). As per the information in this document, examinations are available at various levels ranging from A1 (the lowest) to C2 (the highest). 
Established in 1991 by the Spanish government, the Instituto Cervantes is a public organization dedicated to the global promotion of the Spanish language, including its teaching, study, and use, as well as the spread of Spanish and Hispanic-American culture. The Instituto Cervantes has a presence in five continents, operating over 75 centers. 
The Instituto Cervantes is in charge of creating DELE exam content, coordinating exam logistics (determining dates, fees, and venues), and awarding DELE certificates on behalf of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

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 What is the level of language that Secondary Education students can achieve? 

Based on the amount of time spent studying and practicing Spanish, as well as considering the students' age and general knowledge, they are expected to achieve either A2 or B1 levels. In terms of the exam paper/component, it consists of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. 
Based on the criteria for different levels and the age of Secondary students, the most suitable test to achieve A2 or B1 level is the DELE A2/B1 for young learners exam, a single test with two possible results based on the scores. 

The Diploma of Spanish level A2 certifies the ability of the user of the language to:

  • Comprehend and utilize commonly used everyday phrases that are typically connected to topics that are particularly important to the individual, such as personal information, family, shopping, hobbies, and more. 

  • Engage in basic and clear communication exchanges about familiar or habitual topics. 

  • Describe basic information about their past and surroundings, as well as address any questions they may have about their immediate needs. 


The B1 Spanish diploma confirms that the individual has the ability to:

  • Comprehend the key ideas in spoken and written texts in standardized language forms that are not too localized, as long as they are about familiar topics, such as work, education, or everyday life. 

  • Function effectively in the majority of scenarios and settings where these specific areas of application are encompassed. 

  • Create basic and logical writings about topics you are familiar with or personally interested in, such as sharing experiences, events, desires, future plans, and opinions. 

Why students are not taking the standard DELE exams for adults at the A2 or B1 level?

The tests consist of authentic texts (written and spoken) from real life or closely related scenarios without standalone grammar or lexical inquiries. The DELE exam for adolescents is specifically designed for students aged 11 to 17, thus including content and contexts appropriate for their age group. When young learners pass the DELE A2/B1 exam with an A2 or B1 grade, they achieve the same level as adult candidates who pass the regular DELE A2 or B1 exam. The certificate does not specify "for young learners" (para escolares).

The Instituto Cervantes' teaching programs in China estimate that it takes 240 hours of teaching/learning to reach the A2 level and 420 hours to achieve the B1 level to obtain the diplomas. However, the amount of teaching time does not guarantee that students will reach these levels or be confined to them, as some gifted students may choose to pursue higher levels.

Tests are conducted in both May and November, with the May exam results released in August, and the November exam results in February (about three months post-exam).

Do you want to prepare for Spanish HKDSE or DELE? contact us!
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