Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Examination Strategies for CIE Economics (AS-Paper 2) (Part 2)

Technically, there are two types of essay that can be tested. The first type is what I call as the ‘1-part’ while the other is ‘2-parts’

Question (a) (8 marks)
The ‘1-part’ type of essays usually contain only 1-instruction/ 1-section. The breakdown of the marks will be generally 2 marks (intro) + 6 marks (3 analysis). Some examples:

a. Explain any two economic ideas that can be represented by the production possibility curve
b. Explain why all types of economic system benefit from the existence and use of money
c. Explain, using elasticity of demand, the possible reasons why in some countries there has d. been an increased use of private transport instead of public transport
e. Explain the benefits of an international trade
f. Explain the benefits of trade liberalisation to an economy of your choice

Question (a) (8 marks)
The next one is ‘2-parts’ type where an essay question requires candidates to consider two different/ related elements simultaneously. The suggested breakdown is 2 marks (intro) + 6 marks (2 analysis, one for each part). Some samples:

a. Explain, using the elasticity of demand, why a train company might introduce a policy of raising fares at busy travel times and lowering fares at less busy travel times
b. Explain whether the factors of production are always of equal importance within and between economies
c. Explain how income elasticity of demand and cross elasticity of demand can be used to classify different types of good

Question (b) (12m)
For a ‘1-part’ type, I generally recommend the formulae of 2 marks (introduction) + 4 marks (2/3 analysis) + 4 marks (2/3 arguments/ evaluations) + 2 marks (conclusion). Consider:

a. Discuss whether planned economies should always be replaced by free market economies
b. Discuss whether restrictions on international trade can ever be justified
c. Discuss why some governments decide that it is undesirable to leave provision of private d. goods such as train travel, to the private sector

Question (b) (12 marks)
This is the ‘2-parts’ type. The question will usually request candidates to compare two different economic policies for a particular problem or consider two different economic conditions and which one should be of greater concern. The approach is unique. I always tell my students to treat them as ‘two questions in one’. So, the proposed answering strategy is introduction (2 marks) + analysis & evaluation of first policy (4 marks) + analysis & evaluation of second policy (4 marks) + justification/ conclusion (2 marks). Some examples that are worthwhile to be considered:

a. Discuss the economic reasons for subsidising public transport and taxing private transport
b. Discuss whether a government should be more concerned by an unstable foreign exchange rate or by an unstable domestic price level
c. Discuss the effectiveness of government use of maximum and minimum prices to help consumers and producers
d. Discuss whether a period of inflation or a period of deflation is more economically desirable

How to Instantly Improve the Presentation of an Essay
1. You do not need impeccable English. This is not English Literature after all. All you have to keep in mind is to write in simple and short sentences. Make sure that they are coherent. If you want to score, you have to be able to successfully communicate with an examiner

2. Use lots of connectives. This short list here may give you an idea- This is because, This leads to, Although/ Despite, Subsequently, Nonetheless, It is worth remembering/ noting, Somehow, First, Second, Last but not least, However, Having said so and many more. Use them as frequent as possible. They will almost instantly make your paragraphs nicely tied to one another, building up a systematic progress throughout the entire essay

3. Use lots of economic jargons and examples. I personally call them the ‘amplifier’. They not only make your essays look good but also project the strength of your analysis and arguments. Let me show you it can be manipulated around:

Sample 1
Original version
Tariffs are generally bad. They invite retaliation. When another country retaliate, exports will also fall. This means current account deficit will remain wide. Also job losses are inevitable

Improved version
Tariffs are generally evil. Perhaps this is the reason why WTO is initiated. It is none other than to wipe out or at least gradually reduce tariff barriers around the globe. One most striking example is the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act 1929. It was originally introduced to fix the economic crisis in the USA. However, it didn’t take long for commercial partners to retaliate. Instead of fixing current account problem, maintain jobs and brought growth, it did the otherwise. Arguably, this is one of the few reasons which led the world’s largest economy into the Great Depression

Sample 2
Original version
A nation’s PPC shifts inward due to natural disaster. When there are fewer resources, nothing much can be produced. Economic growth falls

Improved version
The movement of the PPC depends on both the quantity and the quality of the resources. If there is an increase in the quantity and quality of factors of production, the PPC will shift outward. Likewise, it will shift inward. To illustrate, consider the tsunami which swept across the Japan in 2011. At that moment, all the land, labour and capital were destroyed. There were fewer workers around, land no longer suitable for agriculture and machineries were all devastated. Even if the Japanese economy tried to pull it off at that time, it was rather unlikely that they can reach their original peak

Sample 3
Original version
Economic/ monetary union is different from free trade area. Countries trade more with one another. Also factors of production have greater mobility. Economic growth will increase

Improved version
An economic/ monetary union such as euro zone is very different from a Free Trade Area like NAFTA. In the former, there is at least a greater sense of integration, where economies work closer than before. Freedom of movement is not only to goods and services but also extended to cover human capital and financial capital. On top of that, the economies are probably moving in the about the same business cycle. This possibly allows for greater harmonisation of both monetary and fiscal policy. This is the reason why single interest rate was introduced and the power is helmed by European Central Bank and countries are required to comply with strict public sector spending. Uniquely, they also use single currency known as the euro

4. Use diagram(s), wherever and whenever possible. One of the biggest complaints by examiners is that students hardly use any diagram to support their analysis. They also added that students will only engage diagrams in their answering provided if there is such instruction in the question, which otherwise they will omit it. It is a bad habit that must be broken. I personally told all my students to use diagrams whenever appropriate. Why? For two simple reasons. First, they improve the illustration of your answers and second, they give you ‘something to write/ describe’. It is worth remembering that no diagrams should be left unattended. It must be followed by clear and logical analysis as how the changes take place

More to come tomorrow

No comments: