Monday, March 19, 2012

FAQs for Essays in Section A, Unit 4: Global Economy (Edexcel)

What is the format of the essays in Unit 4?

Unit 4: The Global Economy contains two sections, namely part A and B. In our discussion today, I will focus primarily on section A. There are three pairs of essay questions where candidates will have to choose any one pair. Once the pair is chosen, both question (a) (20 marks) and (b) (30 marks) will have to be answered. Students are not allowed to cross-select, e.g. 1(a) and then 3(b) although both contribute to 50 marks

How many points and evaluations?

For the 20 marks essay, candidates are required to provide 3 explanations and AT LEAST 2 evaluations. Although you may provide more than 2, but due to major constraint in time, I strongly advise that only 2 best evaluations should be included in your answers. As for the 30 marks essay, you will be required to provide 4 explanations and JUST 3 evaluations

How much time should I spend?

The recommended time is 1 hour, which is equivalent to 60 minutes. Now, let’s do some analysis here. Total paragraphs are 12 (5+7) and technically that means 5 minutes per paragraph. Within each paragraph, usually the length will be ranging from 50-70 words, depending on how fast you can think and write. That seems a little bit inadequate. So, what I usually propose is 30 minutes and 35 minutes respectively for each essay or even slightly more

What is the writing format?

I usually kick start by providing a simple introduction of perhaps maximum 2 sentences. If I’m not mistaken, they will not contribute any marks to your writing but I still suggest them to be placed in so that your essays really look like a proper piece of writing. There are 3 techniques here which you can use. First is defining any key words/ issues in the question e.g. globalisation, recession, tariffs etc

The second method is what I called as copy-the-line. Just follow and rephrase the question e.g. “There are several factors that lead to the rise in globalisation”, “There are few ways where trade barriers can be put in place” etc.

The third is what I called as factual-introduction. Provide some knowledge of what you understand about the topic, for instance, “The increase in world trade is at a rate faster than growth in global GDP”. Go for the first two, since the third method may be time consuming for weaker candidates

You can choose to write all points followed by evaluations but in my opinion I will see the flow better if I write explanation which is then immediately followed by evaluation

What are the core elements of a good essay?

Most of the time, I came across many essays that are ‘dry’. They are purely theoretical in nature and there is a severe lacking of application and reference to what is really happening outside the real world. It is ‘monotonous’. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why there are grade boundaries. What I’m trying to say here is that, although you may fulfil all requirements e.g. 3 points and 2 evaluations, chances are you still cannot score full marks. As such, do provide real case scenarios and try relating it to the theories. Along the way, please use economics vocabulary such as comparative advantage, common external tariffs, trade diversion, export-oriented industrialisation etc

Next thing that you have to watch out is your English. Pay particular attention to grammars, punctuations and if possible try to increase the usage of adjectives e.g. overheating economy, permanent unemployment, peripheral areas of eurozone etc. I realise that they can be ‘sweeteners’ to your essays. Also, try to create a good flow e.g. First, subsequently, as a result, although, this leads to, this is because, somehow etc sentence to sentence or paragraph to paragraph

What should you do if you are lacking in general knowledge?

In economics, it is all about reading and understanding. In the next posting I will teach you how to maximise your reading. You can actually gain even though you do lesser reading and lesser practice. It is always a perspective of techniques. I will also answer your question why some candidates invested so much time studying and practicing and yet their performance is dismal/ average compared to those who studied lesser. Back to the question, there is no shortcut. You hear me. As a matter of fact, the specification has already mentioned that all candidates are required to have general knowledge of global economies for the past 10 years. Selecting certain topics to study while ignoring others is a definite suicide. Every single thing in macroeconomics is inter-related. If you feel that foreign exchange is too hard to understand and by ignoring that will do you good, think again. Everything is related to foreign exchange. Globalisation and inflow of foreign capital can affect value of pound, trade deficit can affect value of pound, high level of national debt can also influence strength of pound, even a change in interest rate by Bank of England can also affect pound, more immigrants in UK can also alter the value etc. See that now?

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