Hong Kong tertiary students’ conceptions of assessment of academic ability

Zhenlin WANG, Gavin Thomas Lumsden BROWN

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Students’ beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and responses towards assessment reflect the ecology of their specific context. The study examines Hong Kong tertiary students’ conceptions of assessment using focus group interviews and the content analysis technique. Using six focus groups, 26 Hong Kong university students were interviewed. Hong Kong tertiary students associated assessment with lifelong high-stake examinations. The assessment determined an individual’s personal value or worth and achievement was an obligation one had toward one’s family. As a legitimate tool for selecting the best candidates for educational and career opportunities, assessment provided upward social mobility, but also served the function of monitoring and surveillance to shape people’s behaviour according to societal expectations. Resilience was reflected in both self-regulative agentic responses of effort, persistence and gaming strategy, and passive escaping from the oppressive assessment system. The general emotional reaction toward assessment was negative; and participants cast doubts on the assessment validity, accuracy, and the limited utility confined by academic-only content. In addition to the portrayal of the Chinese student as an effective, persistent learner, this study shows that Chinese students are very aware of the negative, controlling impact of assessment on their lives. Copyright © 2014 HERDSA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1077
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number5
Early online dateMar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Wang, Z., & Brown, G. T. L. (2014). Hong Kong tertiary students’ conceptions of assessment of academic ability. Higher Education Research and Development, 33(5), 1063-1077.


  • Assessment
  • International education
  • Motivation
  • Research methodologies
  • Student experience


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