Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FAQs in Unit 1: Competitive Markets-How they work and why they fail

After conducting a survey and gathering some feedbacks from my students, I found that these are the most common FAQs

(1) I heard that papers are generally easier in January than June. Is that true?

I have heard about the same rumours too quite some time ago, even before the implementation of new syllabus examination in January 2009. Feeling curious, I dug out all those questions and made a general comparison. To be honest, there is no clear-cut evidence that January papers are easier. Sometimes, June papers could be easier. Probably is due to examination psychology. It is easy because people want to believe that it is easy and choose to go towards that direction. The same principle applies for stock market/ commodities. The price goes up, because a herd of people choose to believe that it will be that case in future. So everyone jumps into the market driving its price to all time high. There you go, self-fulfilling prophecy. The second reason is probably some candidates have too many papers to resit in June, thereby having insufficient time to revise. The paper is thus artificially more difficult

(2) Must I always include definition in my MCQ?

According to the marking scheme, 1 mark is awarded for the correct option and remaining 3 marks for explaining why such option is chosen. The 3 marks can be any explanations which may not necessarily include definition. Somehow, it is strongly advised to put in definition as it is a guaranteed 1 mark (provided if you define accurately). Furthermore candidates are often ‘clumsy’ in providing long-winded explanations which sometimes can be totally out of scope. That is a risk that must not be assumed

(3) How many definitions I should give?

Good question. As long as you see keywords like production possibility frontier and opportunity cost, define both. If you are lucky, you can easily escape with 2 marks and if not probably 1 mark. The reason is because of the irregularities in the marking scheme. In certain years, 2 keywords mean 2 marks and in some years 2 keywords but only 1 mark. We wouldn’t be able to figure out such odd. So to our best interest, just define both

(4) How many MCQ questions from How they work and how many from Why they fail?

From experience, it is either 5/3 or 6/2 respectively. In my opinion, 5/3 will be more likely

(5) What is the minimal marks I should get?

This paper carries the total of 80 marks, where 32 marks from Section A MCQ and 48 marks from Section B data response. It will be adjusted as 100 marks. As long as you do not obtain at least 85 marks, reseat. It is for a simple reason. Economics 4: Global economy is extremely hard and it has very high tendency to pull your overall grade down. As such, candidates will need quite a strong grade/ marks for Unit 1, 2 and 3 to cushion the devastating effect from Unit 4

(6) How many minutes for each MCQ question?

Approximately 4 minutes 30 seconds inclusive of thinking process and inking down the answer. That is on average. You can always steal some time from easier questions and allocate it for harder MCQ questions. If you are good and well prepared, there are even questions that you can easily get full 4 marks in just 1 minute. Don’t believe? See for yourself MCQ Question 1, May 2010 paper and that is just one out of many

(7) Should I start with Section B since they carry larger weightage?

In fact, I discourage one from beginning with Section B. As I mentioned before, there is always a tendency to finish what we have started. There is a very high tendency that one many take ages just to complete Section B, leaving out ‘cherries’ in Section A which are easier to be ‘picked’

(8) What should I do if I do not know how to define?

You can always explain in your own word and they must be reflective of the actual definition

(9) If I draw a diagram, should I explain it as well?

Yes. Please do not leave a diagram unattended

(10) Which chapter is your ‘5 core’ techniques applicable to?

They are production possibility frontier and opportunity cost, consumer and producer surplus, price mechanism, all the elasticities (PED, XED, YED and PES), taxation and subsidy as well as cost-benefit analysis

(11) Breakdown marks for questions with evaluations?

6 marks = 4 + 2, 8 marks = 6 + 2, 10 marks = 6 + 4 (evaluations can be 2+2/ 3+1), 12 marks = 6+6 (evaluations can be 3+3/ 2+2+2) and 14 marks = 8+6 (evaluations can be 3+3/ 2+2+2). This is my common practice. First I will breakdown all the marks as explained earlier. After segregating the evaluation marks, I will zoom in the marks for explanations by referring to RDD. R means reference, D means definition and another D for diagram. I will make sure that all these three components are addressed, provided if they appear in the questions

(12) How to know when I should evaluate?

There are three easy steps to this. First, remember my acronym JEDATE (Justify, Examine, Discuss, Assess, To what extent and Evaluate). If not, remember that anything other than analyse, outline and explain, you evaluate. Another easier one will be telling yourself that anything that is worth at least 6 marks, you evaluate (6, 8, 10, 12 and 14). However, in some rare circumstance I may be wrong. There is one recent paper where the evaluative question was actually just 5 marks

(13) How to know which question to choose?

As I mentioned in earlier posting, don’t read the extract but rather go through all the questions first. Assuming that you are well prepared, I’m sure that there will be one that is definitely more appealing. Appealing to me means, by one look, more or less you know how to answer or at least what to write or what to evaluate

(14) What should I do if I picked the wrong question?

It actually depends on how long you have spent on that question. If you have just finished Question (a) and about to move into Question (b) realising that you may have picked the wrong one, you may have some chance, unless you spent like 20 minutes just to do (a). This is quite common among those who picked questions in Section B based on ‘love at first sight’ rather than going through all the questions first before arriving at a decision

(15) When the question say ‘With reference to Extract 1...’, does that imply that I can only refer to that particular Extract?

No, definitely not. You just have to provide at least one reference while the rest of the explanations can be anywhere within the information provided

(16) Is it definite that one topic will be on commodities and another on market failure?

If based on the trend of papers since January 2009, yes to your question

(17) Is it necessarily true that questions from commodities are easier?

I agree on this. One reason is because How they work requires lesser memorising compared to Why they fail where one has to remember so many solutions to market failure and must also know how to evaluate them. Due to this, there are tendencies that students spend lesser time on the second half of the syllabus. Somehow, the Examination Board is no silly people. They have tried to secure extracts where elements from both areas can be equally tested. So may advice, go study both

Hope this could be of great help in this critical hour!! If there are further queries do post them in the query box. Cheers!

No comments: