Tips for writing economics essays

Some important tips for writing economics essays – primarily designed for A Level students

1. Understand the question

Make sure you understand the essential point behind the question. If appropriate, you could try and rephrase the question into a simpler version.

For example:

Q. Examine the macro economic implications of a significant fall in UK House prices, combined with a simultaneous loosening of Monetary Policy.

In plain English.

  • Discuss the effect of falling house prices on the economy
  • Discuss the effect of falling interest rates (loose monetary policy) on economy

In effect there are two distinct parts to this question. It is a valid response, to deal with each separately, before considering both together.

It is help to keep reminding yourself of the question as you answer. Sometimes candidates start off well, but towards the end forget what the question was. Bear in mind, failure to answer the question can lead to a very low mark.

2. Write in simple sentences

For clarity of thought, it is usually best for students to write short sentences. The main thing is to avoid combining too many ideas into one sentence. If you write in short sentences, it may sound a little stilted; but it is worth remembering that there are no extra marks for a Shakespearian grasp of English. (at least in Economics Exams)

Look at this response to a question:

Q. What is the impact of higher interest rates?

Higher interest rates increase the cost of borrowing. As a result, those with mortgages will have lower disposable income. Also, consumers have less incentive to borrow and spend on credit cards. Therefore consumption will be lower. This fall in consumption will cause a fall in Aggregate Demand, and therefore lead to lower economic growth. A fall in AD will also reduce inflation. (draw diagram)

I could have combined 1 or 2 sentences together, but here I wanted to show that short sentences can aid clarity of thought. Nothing is wasted in the above example.

Simple sentences help you to focus on one thing at once, which is another important tip.

Answer the question

Quite frequently, when marking economic essays, you see a candidate who has a reasonable knowledge of economics, but unfortunately does not answer the question. Therefore, as a result, they can get zero for a question. It may seem harsh, but if you don’t answer the question, the examiner can’t give any marks.

At the end of each paragraph you can ask yourself; how does this paragraph answer the question? If necessary, you can write a one-sentence summary, which directly answers the question. Don’t wait to the end of the essay to realise you have answered a different question.

Example.

Discuss the impact of Euro membership on UK fiscal and monetary policy?

Most students will have revised for a question on: The benefits and costs of the Euro. Therefore, as soon as they see the Euro in the title, they put down all their notes on the benefits and costs of the Euro. However, this question is quite specific; it only wishes to know the impact on fiscal and monetary policy.

Evaluation

The “joke” goes, put 10 economists in a room and you will get 11 different answers. Why? you may ask. The nature of economics is that quite often there is no “right” answer. It is important that we always consider other points of view, and discuss various different, potential outcomes. This is what we mean by evaluation.

For example:

The effect of raising interest rates will reduce consumer spending.

  • However, if confidence is high, higher interest rates may not actually discourage consumer spending.

If the economy is close to full capacity a rise in interest rates may reduce inflation but not reduce growth.

  • However, if there is already a slowdown in the economy, rising interest rates may cause a recession.

In UK A – Levels evaluation counts for 40% of the final Mark.

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