The 3-3-4 Scheme is the academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education in Hong Kong. This scheme began in the 2009 school year. By 2012, HKDSE replaced HKCEE (O'Level) and HKALE (A'Level).
Its core subjects are Chinese language, English language, mathematics and Liberal studies, with three elective subjects. It is different from the old curriculum because pupils now receive three years of senior secondary education and four years of university education. To move to university education, students must get a pass on those four core subjects in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
As a result, there is no more needs for a genuine sixth form college. The first and only such college in Hong Kong, PLK Vicwood KT Chong Sixth Form College, changed to being mostly a senior secondary college.
- The incorporation of a new subject "Liberal Studies" into the core subjects of the certificate (making it a total number of 4 core subjects alongside Chinese, English and Mathematics), targeted to raise student's awareness to world issues and political matters, develop critical & logical reasoning, and experience research processes of data gathering, sifting and analyzing through an independent research project, known as IES (Independent Enquiry Studies).
- The change in format adds a burden on teachers and students in the transition cohorts, as they may be accustomed to the old examinations.
- Liberal studies is a new subject, which requires additional training for teachers.
- Since the two public exams are combined into one, there is no longer a first exam to act as a filter. The wide range in the competency levels exhibited by the student population makes designing the new papers becomes more difficult and time-consuming.
- The exams, first started in 2012, were considerably easier than internationally-accepted exams such as the IB Diploma. Many often achieve high marks. Questions such as "Name 5 cities mentioned in the magazine article" appeared in the English exam. The history exam is often criticized as an easy course, as 50% of the grade is based on data analysis. Some believe that it is very unfair, as data analysis requires little historical knowledge. Others claim that the data-based questions also require candidates to make use of their background knowledge to make sense of the data provided and to express views over controversial statements, as they do in answering the essay-type questions.