Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Study and Practice Effectively for Unit 4: Global Economy (Edexcel)

Hi there fellow readers/ candidates. Feel very bad for the long delay of this posting. Sorry if I kept you all waiting. As usual, I’m always bogged down by tonnes of paperwork and long working hours. This post will more or less give you the bright side and perhaps a new approach on how the Economics subject is taught and learned

A. Essential Revision/ Reading Materials

1. What are the textbooks that you highly recommend?

You may be caught by surprise. I’m not going to recommend any A-Levels Economics textbooks at all but instead, go for the IB Diploma written by Ian Dorton. The sample is as below. Well, it is not that other textbooks are not good enough. They are excellent and written by dedicated teachers. So, I have nothing to complain. I just feel that this IB Diploma is slightly better in communicating the notes/ messages/ explanations/ ideas to young minds like you all. The topics are short, precise and extremely easy to understand, something which I think crucial for express revision. Of course you don’t have to worry about the content. It is 95% similar to Edexcel and in fact in my personal opinion, Edexcel Economics is leaning towards IB style. However, if you want a reference book, rich with interesting illustration/ case studies, then Alain Anderton Economics 5th edition would be good (see below)

Next you will definitely need, Edexcel Economics Student Unit Guide. The author is Quintin Brewer, one of the official examiners for the paper. It is extremely good too. It teaches you how to organise and allocate your time, provides you with express revision notes, common errors and also sample questions with students answers and examiner’s comments. This is a must have for those looking towards better grade

2. How about online reference materials?

Of course textbook alone is insufficient. You need to complement it with other reading materials. For simple reason, a textbook like IB Diploma (Ian Dorton) may provide you with some simple examples and if you yearn for more and totally different, you have to source from other areas. Sometimes, you may not understand the explanation of one book and may need to make cross reference with another book. In this case go for:

This blog is well maintained by Tevgan Pettinger. He blogs about almost everything but in the recent he focuses more on the economic woes in US, UK and eurozone. Popular issues are like macroeconomic indicators, budget deficit and unsustainable national debt, currencies and others. Watch out for his evaluations. I love all his work and in fact I myself as an educator also benefit from his writings. He has a brilliant mind for evaluations, which I think candidates should pay extra attention to

These two are pretty similar. All AS and A2 are separated according to topics. If you wish to read up about reasons for protectionism, then there will be a specific topic/ page for it. If you are considering for more recent updates, then I guess tutor2u would be better. If you want crystal clear explanations for a theory, I say economicsonline would be preffered

3. Do I have to read up news?

Of course and as per specification, you need to have general knowledge for about past 10 years. It doesn’t have to be UK-centred. It encompasses issues in continental Europe, emerging Asia and the falling back sub Saharan African economies. For such purpose, go for

This is by far, the best news portal for me. Communication is highly effective. There is no dwindling English here. Everything is kept simple and most unique is, the information sometimes can come in the form of class notes. There will be lots of How/ Why/ What/ Who as the heading. Check this out:

It can also be a good substitute for the Economist. Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Please don’t read the Economist. Perhaps I’m the only teacher that gives such recommendation. From my humble opinion, it is damaging your interest, too many economic jargons used in which I think 70% of the young readers will not understand and there is where communication breakdown happens. One more. I hate their fonts


Now, I will explain the myth or shall I say reasons why many candidates do not perform well for A Levels Economics. For some, they say it is extremely subjective, some others say that there are just too many things to study, few will admit that they are lazy to practice writing since it is tedious and tiring and another bulk will say it is boring or do not even know how to study. If you fall into any one of them, then let me tell you that I can offer you some solutions. It may not be easily done and it may not necessarily escalate your grades overnight, BUT for sure it will ease your burden mentally and emotionally. I shall start with the first one which is....

B. Understanding yourself before you understand the subject

1. What is an auditory learner?

Do you actually realise that some people love to occupy the first row of lecture hall? Do you even realise that it will always be that few same people? And if it happens that you are one of them then call yourself the auditory learner. As a matter of fact, many and I would say majority students tend to have certain learning habits/ traits. Sitting close to the lecturer is just one of them and it is common that most people don’t even know why they are doing it. Welcome to the dark science of learning!

Generally auditory learners will:

(a) Sit close to the source of voice. It can be the lecturer or microphone

(b) Pay attention to the tone of voice and pitch within the voice

(c) Read out aloud and slowly when studying on their own

(d) Recording the information and replay them

(e) Love music. Blind musicians like Stevie Wonder, Andrea Boccelli, Ray Charles etc are superb and talented auditory learners

(f) Notice sound effects in movies

(g) Great ability in learning foreign languages

Best revision techniques to you:

(a) Join group studies. Be more proactive. Speak your ideas out and encourage one another to brainstorm for more points or even evaluations.

(b) In case if you’re studying on your own, recite the facts over and over again. Use words association techniques, mnemonics, songs or even economics events to strengthen your learning process

2. What is a visual learner?

Do you happen to love curves, colourful charts,diagrams and feel excited watching your teacher use all those power point slides? Do you actually realise why some of your friends use highlighters in their study notes? Welcome to the second type of learner, the visual one. This type of students will generally:

(a) Like textbooks with colourful illustrations e.g. Economics 5th Edition by Alain Anderton, Edexcel AS/A2 Economics by Peter Smith and others

(b) Sit close to the white board where you can have a clear view of your lecturer, white board and power point slides

(c) Create mind maps

(d) Usually have very tidy and clean notes

(e)Good imagination

(f) Find something to watch or play games if boring

(g) Experts of body language

Best revision technique to you:

(a) Make your own notes. Don’t rely so much on your lecture notes or typical textbooks. But of course before that, you need to have some substantial reading before you can summarise the whole chapter on your own

(b) Some people can study perfectly in a busy environment but in this case it will not work for you. Why? Because you are a visual person and that means you can be easily attracted by motions. Best place to study is your own room or libraries with cubicles

Stay tune for kinaesthetic learner. I will post it up tomorrow. The best part of revision techniques is yet to come. I always save the best for the last. At the end of the day, I will teach you how to score even by doing fewer questions than your friends


3. What is a kinaesthetic learner?

Tactile students are rather unique. They learn best by experiencing or by becoming part of an event such as attending conference, field trip study to the United Nations, central bank or even to a factory. They would love to see real people like George Soros talking about currencies, David Cameron debating in the House of Common, Warrent Buffett advising on stocks picking and Mervyn King chairing the meeting on interest rate cut etc. Kinaesthetic people must learn by obtaining the feel and sense, and the only way to achieve this is by touching or doing it

Perhaps, this is one of the many reasons why some of your friends continuously skip lectures. I caught your attention now didn’t I? The logic is simple. Learning process in the classroom is dull, dry and boring to them since the only thing that they can get is audio and visual. However, this may not be applicable to subjects like physics, chemistry, biology, literature and law since there are experiments, role-play and moot court

You are classified as kinaesthetic if you:

(a) Enjoy reading economics case studies more than theories

(b) Choose to sit right towards the end or at the corner where your teacher is unlikely to notice what you do

(c) Cannot sit still for long

(d) Cannot concentrate for long and would want to have frequent breaks within a lecture

(e) Study for about 15 minutes and your mind begins to wander

(f) Love sports, singing, musical instruments and dancing

(g) Adventurous and usually hyper-active

Best revision methods for you:

(a) Suggesting field-trip studies to your lecturer e.g. central bank, United Nations, headquarter of any commercial banks or even a factory. If not, you and your friends may want to bring up the issue of inviting someone to talk about economics crisis, how the central bank really works etc

(b) Watch more interactive videos such as

(c) Improve your understanding by doing more past year questions. Spend lesser time on theories

(d) Read more case studies. Get the feel/ sense/ knowledge of how things around you work and immediately associate them with the theories taught in class

As a matter of fact, no one can be either one from the three. To some extent all of us are audio, visual and tactile learners but definitely we do incline towards one or two. As for me, I'm 50% audio, 25% visual and 25% kinaesthetic. What about you?

Find out from here:


C. Studying vs. learning

1. Is there any difference?

Of course there is AND a very large one. Studies have shown that people with the LEARNING mindset tend to outperform those who have STUDYING mentality. If you feel like being dragged into the lecture hall and each of your steps is so heavy, then you have the so-called STUDYING mindset. If you feel like need ‘to be paid a million pound’ just to open the textbook, then again you have the STUDY mentality. If you do your assignment, past year questions or revise for the exam just for the sake of getting good grades you are the STUDYING type

On the other hand, candidates with LEARNING mindset are rather different. They have certain traits such as:

(a) Certain excitement about the subject e.g. gaining something useful out of learning Economics

(b) Usually pro-active in the class with heavy participations during lecture. They ask tonnes of questions and the things they want to know are rather on the ‘intellectual’ side. For instance, I had few students who asked me about NMW (National Minimum Wage) and why it must be set above the equilibrium wage rather than below it and does Malaysia have it yet, is Malaysia part of WTO (World Trade Organisation) and OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) etc

(c) Among the first few to reach the class rather than after 15 minutes of commencement

(d) Taking up Economics to boost up their general knowledge

(e) Attending lectures, doing assignments and revision for major January or June exam with two outcomes in mind. Getting a good grade AND hoping that the case studies/ general knowledge will help them in their future studies, interns or career. I have a student who is extremely passionate about Macroeconomics and hear it from me, she dislikes studying and I guess she spends more time partying than anyone else. Guess what? After her major June 2011 examination, I still teach her Unit 4: Global Economy but more towards the application side. See the difference now? She finds it useful and so, she wants to retain what she had gained earlier

2. Is that going to be easy?

No, I did not say that. Habits in many ways are like politics. To make a change, every small effort counts. You need to have the right mindset from NOW. Avoid thinking about good grades at the moment, or at least try to have a dual-aim. I’m not sure about other subjects but as for Economics, you need to be inquisitive and have strong curiosity as you read. Your mind must be bombarded with questions like HOW, WHY and WHAT (I will blog about efficient revision techniques later). Since the exam lingers around in May/ June, I guess you need to salvage whatever you can to make such transformation. Remember what I have said earlier, every small detail counts

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?