(1) What is the format of Section A?
The legacy syllabus of Unit 5B: Development Economics and Unit 6: UK in the Global Economy has been merged into a new unit called Unit 4: Global Economy. It has exactly the same format like the previous paper 6, where it is divided into two sections namely Section A and Section B. Section A is the essay while Section B is data response (I will discuss about Section B in near future)
Candidates will be given three pairs of essays and are asked to choose one pair out of those three. In the past, essay (a) and (b) carried 40 marks and 60 marks respectively. Under the new unit, both are 20 marks and 30 marks. For the 20 marks essay, candidates have to provide three explanations and two evaluations while for the latter, four explanations and three evaluations. That means, roughly 12 paragraphs considering both together. These are to be completed within about 60 minutes, which means each paragraph is roughly about 5 minutes. Well, time is really scarce in this case!!! I would advise candidates to ‘steal’ about 5-8 minutes allocated for Section B to choose, brainstorm for points and drafting out the essay
(2) How do they make these essays difficult?
(a) Adding distracting sentences
June 2005 Q1 (a)
Evaluate the significance of the factors which have contributed to increased globalisation in recent years (Pretty straight forward)
June 2008 Q2 (a)
The value of world trade has been growing at a rate faster than world GDP. Assess the factors which might explain this trend (Candidates were asked to explain what could have contributed to rising world trade which means rising globalisation)
(b) Making it sound so factual
June 2006 Q3 (a)
In 2000/01 the UK’s public expenditure was 37% of GDP. This is forecast to increase to over 42% of GDP by 2007/2008. Examine the likely economic implications, apart from increased taxation of this trend (20m)
June 2007 Q2 (a)
Between 1999 and 2001 the UK had a fiscal surplus but from 2002 there has been an increasing fiscal deficit. Examine the likely cause of this trend (20m)
June 2007 Q3 (a)
In April 2006, the unemployment rate was 16.5% in Poland, 8.2% in Germany but only 5.2% in the UK. Examine the factors which might explain the differing unemployment rates in these EU countries (20m)
June 2008 Q1 (a)
In March 2007, the UK’s inflation rate was 3.1% whereas it was 1.2% in France and 1.7% in Italy. Assess the factors which might explain the differing inflation rates in these EU countries (20m)
Normally candidates WOULD AVOID answering ALL THESE questions since they thought that they ‘must’ possess the general knowledge of the economic circumstance around that time or in that country. The good news is that, you DON’T HAVE TO. You can of course, always write using the ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE (if you really know) or argue THEORETICALLY or the combination of both. If the theoretical approach, my advice use words/ phrase like perhaps/ may be due to/ likely
(3) How to decide?
This is the most subjective part of our discussion. Assuming that a candidate is REALLY WELL PREPARED, definitely there will be one pair of essay which is more appealing. What I’m trying to say is, probably you have done past year questions somewhat similar to that or some points and evaluations might start to linger around your head as you read through
Worse come to worse, pick a question that is related to trade. I am not saying 100%, but I have 80% confidence, based on previous trend and weightage of the curriculum, there is likely to be one pair of essay pertaining to globalisation and international trade, current account deficit and international trade, WTO, trading bloc and international trade or solving problems related to current account deficit
(4) How do I allocate my time?
As discussed earlier, tentatively about 25-30 minutes for essay (a) and 35-40 minutes for essay (b)
(5) How long is each paragraph?
Given the severe time constraint, I think a normal candidate will only be able to produce four or five sentences. However, some really good candidates are able to work like a printing press, ending up seven or eight sentences. In a nutshell, you should not be too concern with how long but rather asking yourself whether you have explained each point/ evaluation sufficiently or not
(6) Some writing tips
(a) Powerful adjective words. Some candidates are not that good but fortunately they really know how to twist with their language skills. Those who took up Literature may have and added advantage over this. Although marks are allocated to clarity of expressions, good usage of grammars/ vocabulary can more or less ‘influence’ the quality of your overall essay. It might get 1/2 marks extra. I give some random examples like, the gold price has increased to an unprecedented level in recent weeks, the level of national debt has skyrocket to an unchartered territory, Portugal and Greece are two out of five peripheral areas in Eurozone etc
(b) Good working knowledge. Consider these two candidates:
The central bank has slashed interest rates to 0.5% (normal)
The Bank of England’s latest rate of 0.5% is the lowest in the history of 316 years ever since the Bank was last founded (better version)
UK has experienced good economic growth before the crisis (normal)
UK has experienced an uninterrupted economic growth since 1992, equivalent to 63 quarters before taking a u-turn (better)
You don’t have to worry about the fact that you are putting in. Examiners are normally very experienced. In fact when I was a delegate, I had had a good opportunity exchanging thoughts with Brian Ellis (Chief Examiner for Economics) when he came down to KL, Malaysia two years ago. He told me that examiners will clarify those facts/ statement by researching up
(c) Use lots of link words/ phrase. This is meant to create steady flow of thought which will make your essay more look more systematic. Besides it does help the examiners to identify which are your points and which are evaluations. Do use subsequently, this leads to, next, this is because, as a result, although etc
(d) Economic jargons. Use lots of this to make your essay more appealing and attractive to the reader. Insert more words like deflation, sustainable development, expansionary monetary policy, paradox of thrift, Golden Rule, structural unemployment etc. But before doing so, please improve your mastery and understanding of these words/ concepts
(e) Diagrams. There are possibly four types of diagrams that can be used in Unit 4. They are the usual demand-supply diagram, J-curve, AD-AS analysis and Laffer curve. Use diagram wherever possible to help improve your communication with the examiner
(f) Think one step ahead. Before start writing, choose those points where you already know its evaluation(s)
(7) What to do when I get stuck with a sentence?
From my writing experience, it has a lot to do with how you start the sentence, e.g. usage of incorrect link words can ‘halt’ your idea sometimes. In such circumstance, waste no more time. Erase part or the entire sentence. It could also be due to choosing points that you are not so familiar of
(8) So, how do I organise my essay?
Writing style. It is fine if you would like to write all explanations followed by all evaluations. The good thing is, probably clearer flow of ideas. If you were to provide an evaluation after each explanation, you may ending up taking so long for each evaluative comments. The only thing is, your essay may look a little bit ‘awkward’ with such sequence
If not, you may also consider the alternate style. Each explanation is soon followed by an evaluation. Here, the essay may be more presentable. The only backdrop is you may take too long brainstorming for an evaluation
(9) Do we need to provide introduction?
A brief one will do. You may want to define certain key words in the question or adopt a method I called ‘copy the line’. For instance, assess the reasons for rise of China with there are few reasons that explain the awakening of China etc. Ending/ summary/ drawing conclusion is optional