A good economics essay introduction captures the reader’s attention and gives an idea of the essay’s focus. It requires students to define key definitions and list the overview and scope of the question.
Clear Definitions: Define the keywords in the question
Definitions are important to showcase the student’s level of understanding of the content to the examiners. Therefore, students should make a list of definitions, as they will come in handy when preparing for the exams. Alternatively, students may purchase ready guidebooks, which list the common definitions that they need to memorise in the A-level economics syllabus.
Writing an overview
If the essay question asks about a specific country or a particular market structure, it is important to also describe some characteristics of the country or the market structure given in the question. For example, if the essay is on the Singapore economy, students need to write something like this:
“Singapore is a small and open economy. Its small population size and lack of natural resources will mean that it has a small domestic market and is heavily dependent on trade for growth and survival. Singapore is thus very vulnerable to external shocks, which cause instability to the economy.”
Next, if the essay is on a perfectly competitive market, then an appropriate introduction would be as follows:
“A perfectly competitive market is characterised by the fact that no single firm has influence on the price of the product it sells. A perfectly competitive market has several distinguishing characteristics: there are many buyers and sellers in the market; the commodity sold is homogeneous; there is free entry and exit from the industry; perfect mobility of factors of production; transport costs are assumed to be negligible; both buyers and sellers are independent in their decision making and there is perfect knowledge.”
Scope: State the scope of the question clearly
Students need to define the scope of the essay clearly from the beginning, so that they do not go out of point. Tell the examiner the areas that will be discussed in the essay briefly in the introduction so that he can anticipate what is about to come up in the script. Students can use phrases such as: “This essay aims to explain…” to state the scope of the question.
How do I write a good body?
Topic sentence and Economic Analysis
Each paragraph of the body should only contain one key idea, which should be conveyed in the topic sentence. The key idea should be based on economics theories, principles and concepts.
An example of a topic sentence is as follows:
“In Singapore, the government has encouraged employers to adopt a flexible wage system which would help reduce unemployment during economic downturns.”
Diagrams should be drawn whenever appropriate and references must be made to the diagrams (e.g. A rightward shift of the demand curve from DD1 to DD2). The axes should be labelled as specifically as possible. (e.g. Instead of merely labelling price and quantity, the axes could be labelled as Price of Housing and Quantity of Housing respectively). Arrows that depict the shifts of the curves should also be clearly drawn in the diagram. The diagram should be drawn using a pencil and ruler and should preferably take up about one-third of the foolscap paper.
Using Contextual Examples
Students need to include examples in their essay in order to demonstrate their ability to apply economic theories into real world events. When possible, students should use the context given in the preamble and avoid using hypothetical examples in the essays.
In Singapore’s context, an example of a natural monopolist is the Public Utilities Board (PUB), which supplies water. The domestic size of the market is too small to support more than one large firm.
The Singapore government adopts market-oriented policies such as manpower policies to upgrade the skills of workers facing the threat of structural unemployment. An example of such a policy is the Skills Redevelopment Programme introduced to retrain displaced workers for employment in the InfoComm sector, Workforce Development Agency (WDA) Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) programme to train workers in sector specific skills and job redesign to make jobs more attractive to workers, especially among the older workers.
How do I write good evaluation points?
The evaluation can be what sets students apart from others if written well. Here are some things that examiners are looking for when reading an evaluation:
1 Recognise underlying assumptions. For example, in dealing with questions on demand and supply, it is important to write about the ceteris paribus assumption and also to give an example of how it can be altered in the short term. i.e. taste and preferences of a consumer may change over time.
2 Consider the time frame: Different policies might have different impact on the economy in the short term versus long term. For example, supply side policies need time to take effect and thus, require a long time frame.
3 Consider the feasibility of the policy: The extent to which a particular policy can be implemented. For example, an expansionary fiscal policy might not be feasible for a country that is facing a huge budget deficit.
4 Consider the effectiveness of the policy implemented and whether it can solve the problem. Students could consider the unique nature of the economy given in the question. For example, an exchange rate policy would be more effective in a small and open economy, rather than a large and less open economy.
5 Consider the desirability of the policy: whether there are any side effects that the policy might have on other economic objectives, i.e. whether there are conflicts of goals.
6 Consider the existing state of the economy: whether the country is currently facing a recession or inflation, and the severity of the problems faced can also affect the main economic priority of the government.
What else do students need to take note of?
Always plan the essay before writing.
Ensure that the paper is completed within the allocated time
The Essay component is found in Paper 2 of the H2 A-Level Economics examination. As the name suggests, candidates are required to write their answers in essay style.
Section A of this component will focus mainly on microeconomics and questions while in Section B focuses on macroeconomics. Some of these questions may be based on real world economics context. Candidates are to answer a total of three essay questions, of which one must be from Section A, one from Section B and one from either Section A or B.
How is it different from Case Studies?
Case studies have data provided for you to support your questions. Essays on the other hand provide little to no data in the question. Essays require more reliance on your economic knowledge and concepts to apply them to the questions. While answers in case studies can be straightforward, essays usually demand for a balanced argument and judgement for your stand.
How do I know the requirements of the case studies question?
Similar to Case Studies, the requirements can be found in the question. Read the question carefully and look out for key command words such as “Discuss” or “Explain” as it would determine whether a balanced answer is needed for your argument.
You also need to know which economic topic the question is focusing on. There are many topics covered in both microeconomics and macroeconomics, so it is very important to know which one the question is looking at. Sometimes, candidates may misinterpret the question and use the wrong economic concepts from the wrong topic to answer the question.
How do I write a good economic essay?
Before you even start writing, plan and decide which questions to pick. This is a very crucial step as you have to be sure that your economic foundation for the topic tested in that question is strong. This ensures that you will have enough points and arguments to write for your essay.
Always start with an appropriate introduction. Summarise the economic situation in question and the points you will be touching on subsequently in your essay. Provide definitions for any economic terms or words. This gives a good picture to examiners on what your essay will be about and also a good gauge on whether you have understood the economic situation.
Structure your economics essay well and develop your arguments substantially. If the question requires for a balanced argument, make sure that you have both thesis and anti-thesis paragraphs. Your answers have to be well-structured so that there is a flow in your essay for the examiners to follow.
Analyse the issue on hand from a variety of perspectives. This will help you to craft substantial arguments with economic concepts applied appropriately, as you are able to explain your stand and the economic effects clearly.
Make reference to other real-world economic examples not mentioned in the question that are relevant to the argument or explanation. This will help support your points and give a better view of what you are arguing for. Remember to use relevant diagrams and contextualise your arguments if real world economic examples are involved.
End with an evaluation and a well-reasoned conclusion of why you chose your stand. This would show that you have applied and evaluated all the different economic perspectives consistently. A good evaluative comment displays a mature judgement in your essay.
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The Case Studies component is found in Paper 1 of the H1 and H2 A-Level Economics examination. There are 2 case studies in Paper 1. Each case study will present pages of economics data and issues related to the economics syllabus in textual, numerical and graphical forms.
This will be followed by questions relating to the data. These questions would require candidates to apply the relevant economic concepts and economic theories to answer and evaluate the economic issues, with reference to the data provided.
How do I know the requirements of the case studies question?
Read the question carefully and follow the instructions given. This is very important as candidates who do not follow the instructions will tend to deviate away from the question and apply the wrong economic concepts.
Pay close attention to the key command words and focus in the question. The command word will determine that kind of answer it expects. For example, the starting command words “Discuss” and “Explain” will produce a different answer for each question.
First mark: identify what is happening to the value of the variable. i.e. establish the general direction of the trend by statin whether the value of the variable that you are measuring has increased, decreased, remained stable, fluctuating, etc.
Second mark: provide a meaningful refinement or enhancement to the description of the trend in any of the following form: the rate of change, exceptions, reversals, or change to the level of volatility.
How do I prepare myself for the Paper 1?
Make sure that you have a good grasp of the underlying economic theories. A good foundation in economic knowledge will help you greatly in identifying what concepts the question seeks to assess you on. This will ensure that your answers are accurate.
Also, you need to have a set of data-handling skills (both statistical and textual knowledge). Case studies involve real life examples of economic situations locally and globally. You need to be able to draw a link between these real life economic examples to your economic concepts to be able to understand the underlying purpose and reason to the data. These skills are also useful in helping you analyse the data so that you can use these evidence in supporting your answers.
How do I write my economics case studies answers effectively with economics concepts?
Make use of appropriate and relevant diagrams to explain your economic analysis. Economic diagrams are helpful in showing you the effects of the economic happenings in the data given, hence you will be able to answer accurately. At the same time, economic diagrams are able to show examiners that you know your economic concepts well.
Always remember to quote from the data. The data given the the case study are there to help you find evidence to support your answers as it shows the economic effects. Make use of them to give a fuller answer.
Economics answers must not be long-winded. Sometimes, short and sharp answers are appreciated. Look at the question requirements and the number of marks allocated. Usually, these will tell you how long your answer should be. Long descriptions and answers do not equal to more credit given. Do not waste too much time overwriting your answers. Time management is key!
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