Monday, October 13, 2014

Examination Strategies for CIE Economics AS (Section B)

How much time for Section B?
Ideally, I would recommend candidates to allocate about 50 minutes for this section. Essay (a) should not be anything longer than 20 minutes while essay (b) not exceeding 30 minutes. The proposed time includes all the necessary reading, consideration and planning

How to decide which pair of essay to answer?
Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to this. Sometimes, most students cannot make an informed decision due to the presence of information failure e.g. not knowing exactly what the questions expect. However, I can recommend some useful guidelines which may help to bridge the information gap

Read through ALL the questions thoughtfully and carefully. Consider aspects like familiarity with the topic/ chapter, whether your class had done past year questions with similar nature to this, whether diagram can be applied and ability to present arguments/ evaluations. Students who are very well-prepared will be able to decide in almost no time

Upon deciding, read the question once again to get the sense of assurance. Your critical decision on the day can make or break the overall result. It is also important that you think that you will be able to answer both parts well. As you read, highlight the key words. Clearly indicate which question you are answering by putting the number and part at the start. Do not waste precious time writing out the question

What will be the essay style?
It is crucial for an essay to have a logical structure. You should start with an introduction, followed by analysis, then evaluations/ arguments (for a 12 marks essay) and finally a conclusion (for a 12 marks essay). The introduction should be relatively brief and direct. Sometimes you may have to define or explain more than one key words

The main body of the essay should study the issue in depth. Make sure every sentence or idea is connected to the previous one. In other words, your explanation should have a logical flow where all the thoughts, theories and applications are systematically presented. Provide, ideally 2 or 3 arguments in case if the question is DISCUSS in nature. Evaluations can be rather challenging to some students. They are usually contradictive in nature. For an instance, if the analysis is ‘benefits of the policy’ then the arguments should be ‘costs of such policy’. The conclusion usually involves an overall judgement. With reference to our earlier example, you may want to take a side, say ‘more benefits than costs’ and provide a valid reason for such claim. In some rare cases, you may also want to consider providing a summary of all the main points. However, I usually discourage this as it does not really seem to answer the question especially those which require students to CONSIDER BETWEEN ECONOMIC POLICIES/ CONDITIONS. It is clear that the instruction wants you to pick a side

Try to ensure that your writing is coherent and there are minimal spelling and grammatical errors. Do not use abbreviation for ordinary words. It is acceptable for some economic terms like PPC, PED, XED, YED, PES, AD and AS. In case if there are some terms which may be used repetitively such as Prebisch-Singer hypotheses, you ought to write out in full for the first time but indicate it in a bracket as PSH. It can be written as PSH thereafter

It is also important to explain what you write. Never assert points. For an instance, it is not sufficient if you write ‘a devaluation in currency will help to reduce the size of current account deficit’. An examiner is interested to know how and whether this would always work

In my next posting, I will specifically show you how to improve the quality of your writing by leaps and bounds. On top of that, I will also provide essay 'hacks'

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