Monday, October 13, 2014

Examination Strategies For CIE Economics AS (Section A)

Examination Strategies for CIE Economics Paper 2 (Section A)

1. Candidates are advised to allocate approximately 45 minutes for this section. The first 5 minutes is to thoroughly study the extract and the remaining 40 minutes for answering

2. Always read the extract slowly, carefully and analytically. Please pause and do some reflections after every sentence/ paragraph. Try to figure what is meant by that particular sentence/ paragraph itself, how are those information related or connected, what may lead to such outcome and what are the possible implications

Sample 1 (May/ June 2012, 9708/23)

Quick economic analysis:

a. What is economic integration?
b. Why are EU and NAFTA the two most well-known trading blocs?
c. Why is EU larger than NAFTA?
d. Is there any difference between the EU and Euro zone?
Sample 2 (May/ June 2010, 9708/23)

Quick economic analysis:

a. Why China is the world’s leading bicycle producer?
b. Does this relate to comparative advantage?
c. What type of comparative advantage China possibly has?

3. When it comes to reading chart, pay extra attention to the trends. Does it increase at a faster/ slower rate or does it fall at a faster/ slower rate? What may contribute to this? What are the possible outcomes? 

Sample 1 (May/ June 2010, 9708/23)

Quick economic analysis:

a. Bicycles production rose at a rate faster than cars
b. Gap widened after 1970
c. Bicycles production was always higher
d. Bicycles production seemed to be more volatile than cars

4. Besides asking lots of intellectual questions, one also need to be able to associate what they read to the economic terms involved. This can only be possibly done if one engages in analytical reading, thinking and is sensitive

5. Section A questions are usually crafted in such a way that 10 marks are relatively easier to get while another remaining 10 marks are harder to obtain. This connotation may not work for a candidate who is totally unprepared as all questions will then appear equally hard 

6. Many candidates seem to be misled by the instruction on page 1 which among mentions ‘Brief answers only are required for Section A’. What this implies is that students are not required to give long-winded explanations/ analysis as seen in Section B. Second, ‘brief’ indicates that only SOME questions specifically require short answers, such as those with the instructions like IDENTIFY, STATE and COMPARE. Short writings/ explanations are expected for instructions like ANALYSE, EXPLAIN and DISCUSS. No point-form answers which will be entertained

7. It is also worth remembering that 1 mark will only be awarded for every correctly explained idea/ element unless stated otherwise e.g. ‘Explain two reasons for…..(4m)’

8. Question (a) and (c) are usually light. They may involve identification, definition or data interpretation and the marks given are almost always 2 each

9. There are likely to be two EXPLAIN questions with each of them carrying 4 marks. One of them is rather direct because the answers are usually available somewhere in the extract. 
10. The other one is slightly more difficult because candidates are required to do some reflections and considerations

11. The last is always a 6 marks DISCUSS question. One is expected to provide three explained elements to each side. One-sided explanation carries a maximum of 4 marks. In the case of list-like answers for both sides, only a maximum of 2 marks will be awarded. Conclusion is usually but not always awarded. In such a case of uncertainty, candidates are always advised to provide one

How to Possibly Increase Every Chance of Scoring

1. Recognise the instructions carefully. Students who deliver poor result often have one trait in common-writing unnecessarily long when it is not even called for. Far too many candidates waste their precious time by offering lengthy explanations for instructions like IDENTIFY and STATE. This obviously means greater opportunity cost, lesser time and hence inability to address crucial EXPLAIN, ANALYSE and DISCUSS questions. To be honest, I personally came across numerous scripts that didn’t offer any attempt to answer the last DISCUSS question. 6 marks flee away just like that (about 9% of AS). Please remember the ‘1 mark = 2 minutes’ rule

2. Include reference in your explanations. They may be examples of goods and services which are placed under price control, goods and services that a country has comparative advantage in and figures from the extract, table or graph. This may help candidates to ‘salvage’ additional 1 mark or 2 marks (up to 3% of AS)

3. Define key words. This may not always be the case, but occasionally candidates can expect ‘random’ 1 mark or 2 marks (up to 3% of AS) offered for defining important economic concepts. This is not easy to tell as different examiners have different expectations and also some of them may want to extend some sort of ‘help’ to students. I do personally advice definitions to be included then

4. Max-out one side of the explanations (only for DISCUSS). The common format is 3 elaborated points for the merits/ advantages/ pros and another 3 for the demerits/ disadvantages/ cons. In case if candidates are unable to offer any arguments/ evaluations which are normally harder to think of, then please elaborate more or include another analysis. This is to prevent or minimise the loss of marks from argument

5. List out answers (only for DISCUSS). In the worst case scenario e.g. time scarcity, please do not entirely ignore this question. Listing out the points to some extent may help. Gaining 2 marks is better than none

6. Sharpen your argument skills. Practice this at home. You may want to consult your economics tutor over this. Learn to look at everything in two ways. Consider not only the benefits but also the costs. Apply this into every possible economic scenario e.g. mixed economy, appreciation, inflation, cut in government spending, an increase in the rate of income tax, an increase in interest rate, a rise in subsidy, a reduction in the indirect tax and so many more (I will provide a list of this). This is so important that they are actually the determinant of your grade for 9708/02. Too many candidates spoil the chance to score simply because they have poor argument skills

Questions to Focus on:


a. Concept of production possibility curve to illustrate the concept of opportunity cost/ growth

b. Demand and supply of diagram to support an economic analysis

c. Price elastic/ inelastic in demand and reasons for the case

d. Income elasticity of demand and nature of the good

e. Difference between a public good and a merit good

f. Merits and demerits of maximum price policy

g. Merits and demerits of minimum price policy

h. Pros and cons of indirect taxation onto alcohol/ cigarettes

i. Pros and cons of a subsidy

j. Production/ consumption of a good and how it is related to externalities


a. Effects of a tariff onto domestic consumption/ domestic production/ imports. Support with diagram

b. Comparative advantage and why a particular country has it

c. Difference between trading blocs e.g. free trade area vs. economic union

d. Comparison/ calculation which involves current account

e. Merits and demerits of a trading bloc

f. Impact of a change in price and weight onto CPI

g. Difference between money value and real value

h. Possible reasons for an appreciation/ depreciation. May involve demand and supply diagram

i. Benefits and costs of appreciation

j. Benefits and costs of depreciation

k. Pros and cons of heavy reliance onto a single commodity



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