Saturday, January 15, 2011

Common Problems in Unit 2: Managing the Economy (Edexcel) and How To Improve It

(1) Not knowing which question to choose
This is the largest dilemma for candidates. If wrong question is picked, 10-15 minutes would have been wasted just like that before a U-turn. Candidates would normally panic, unable to think rationally and carefully, unable to finish the paper and end up re-attempting the paper in the next seating. So I strongly suggest students to look at questions first rather than the extracts. This is meant to get the ‘feel’ which question is easier and more appealing. How appealing or how easy depends on how much time candidates have spent revising and which part of Unit 2 they spend more time on. Provided that the student is well-armed for the paper, definitely there will be one question that is more appealing than the other entirely. Practice past year papers sufficiently. At least 7-8 sets will do. Look for exam questions that are familiar and perhaps have repeated themselves, for instance weaknesses of GDP to measure standards of living, definition of GDP, difference between claimant count and ILO measure of unemployment, issues MPC will look at before interest rate decision etc

(2) Are extracts trivial?
To be honest, yes. I realise that most of the questions can actually be answered without referring to the extract. It is provided for minor purposes, for instance allowing candidates to make statistical reference or strengthening explanation. Macroeconomics involves explanation of a process and extracts will not provide you with transmission mechanisms. For instance how does fall in income tax can affect current account, joblessness worsening government finances, high prices leading to wage-price spiral etc.

(3) Do not understand extract
Most candidates have this problem. The reason is because they are reading it too fast lacking the sense of appreciation and therefore not being analytical enough. Consider this sentence:

“Global output growth falls and jobs in UK will be adversely affected”
Full interpretation should be like this. Major economies around the world such as US, France, Germany and many other trading partners of UK are not performing well. Fall in output growth means fall in income. Demand for British goods will fall and manufacturing sector especially is expected to shed more jobs

Spain’s record economic growth of 2.8% in 2006 explains for its high inflation and worsening current account deficit
Candidate should be able to see this. Growth and inflation come together. If growth is high, the economy must be ready to tolerate high inflation. Or it could be high growth leads to higher income and therefore the economy must have experienced demand-pull inflation. Current account deficit worsen probably due to higher income. More imported goods are demanded. At the same time, when inflation is high, Spanish goods lose competitiveness. Demand for exports falls

(4) Doing essay first
I wouldn’t suggest candidate to do essay first. There is always a temptation to finish what we have started, more over an essay that carries 30m. I’m afraid that a candidate might have spent too much time with the essay, lacking the time for other questions. I have a student who took 1 hour for the essay leaving only 30 minutes for the rest of the paper. That is extremely dangerous. The thumb rule is 1m = 1 minute. The paper carries 80m and candidates have 90 minutes. So that means for a 30m essay, candidates should not spend anything more than 35-40 minutes.

(5) Wrong approach in practice
Normally we go paper by paper, year by year but in my class I go question by question. As mentioned earlier there are many questions that do not require any reference to the extract. It is more effective that way. Doing question by specialisation allows for better understanding of the trend of questions and also allowing the entire sets of papers to be completed faster

(6) Not knowing how to approach the question
Very simple. Remember the acronym of REDD. R-reference, E-valuation, D-define and D-diagram. A question always consists of one or more of these four elements. So, before writing the answer check out for these four things

(7) Not knowing when to evaluate
Here is another acronym. JE-DATE which stands for Justify, Examine, Discuss, Assess, To what extent and Evaluate. I realise that evaluation is always 4m for short questions. Candidates can provide one evaluation point if it is worth to be considered 4m or two evaluations which carry 2m each

(8) No systematic approach towards 30m essay
I have seen candidates evaluating at the beginning of the essay!!! Very ambitious I must say. Keep things simple. Write with simple English and yet providing powerful explanation. Lots of marks will be awarded to candidates that have good economics command words, being able to explain clearly and showing good working knowledge. I propose the 6-12-12 approach. 6m for definition/ explaining phrase (2m) and diagram of AD-AS (4m). Explanation carries 12m. My suggestion is 4+4+4 rather than 6+6 unless the candidate is very confident of the explanation. The same goes for evaluation of 12m

(9) Poor usage of link words
Poor candidates may use words like HOWEVER or HAVING SAID SO in their explanation. Bear in mind that these words are more suitable to be used as evaluation. Common link words I use in my explanation are furthermore, besides, this leads to, this is because, as such, therefore, first, secondly, last but not least etc.

(10) Lack of economics vocabulary
Sometimes we or even the examiners might get too tired using or seeing the word increase, increase, increase and increase all over the place. Some other words that can be considered are like sky-rocket, bullish, rise, raise, heading upward etc. For the opposite, candidates may consider nose-dive, bearish, fall, downturn, plummet other than decrease. Other than that, it is strongly advised that more economics terminologies are used in writing. This will exhibit the ability of candidates to relate theories to working knowledge and is something that often impress the examiners

(11) Superficial explanation
There are certain explanations that are logical but they are just “highly unlikely” to happen:

“Rise in unemployment will lead to higher suicidal rate....” (unless to the extent of Great Depression)
“Failure to meet the inflation target will cause Mervyn King to resign...” (unless the target is not met for ages and the Governor shows incompetency)
“Due to the ballooning budget deficit, UK government is likely to bankrupt...” (unless UK faces the same fate to the scale of Iceland)

Avoid the above at all cost!! More queries can email me at or drop a message at the query box.

No comments: