EconFather Blog

Tip-top Top Tips

March 13, 2021 - 5 min read

Did I leave a tip last time I went to a restaurant? Well, yes, the table was pretty messy by the time I left.  I tweeted the exam tips below a couple of years ago and have collected them in this blog post for ease of reference.  You’re certain to find some here that really help you.

Exam tip 1: If qu says AND as in “Evaluate the effect of monopoly on conduct AND performance of firms” address BOTH to access high marks. A very good section on conduct and a little on performance (eg alloc eff) could unlock high marks but a balance on both elements better.

Exam tip 2: Look for numbers planted in data extracts – these will often support evaluation – eg “BA already has 44% of landing slots at Heathrow” supports a judgement that there may be substantial monopoly power after merger with another airline.

Exam tip 3: Use the qu preamble do show application. Eg Preamble refers to “40,000 premature deaths” from diesel cars each year and asks about market failure, use this in discussing negative externalities from diesel cars.

Exam tip 4: Evaluation: If 2 examples given in qu – Eg “Evaluate whether govt should promote TUs in countries such as UK and China” – The case for TUs may be stronger in one than the other – reach a supported judgement about which, not just reach judgement about TUs in general.

Exam tip 5: Calculations – State the units for answer and if calculating a change, the direction of change, +ve or -ve. If % change, take change as a % of the original value not new. If qu says to 2DP be sure to do so. One dropped mark could cost a grade.

Exam tip 6: Avoid costly errors by highlighting qu: eg Using the data in EXTRACT A, calculate, to TWO DP, the overall % CHANGE in HOUSEHOLD BILLS from 2009 to 2013.

Exam tip 7: Highlight title and axes labels of graphs on the question paper to ensure you use the correct units and names of variables when quoting from the graph in your answer.

Exam tip 8: Give diagrams a title – eg Diagram to show economies of scale in the car industry. This can help to tie your diagram into your written answer and earn credit for applying your diagram to the example at hand.

Exam tip 9: When answering context qus, always highlight the source carefully before planning your answer. Points to use in your answer are often to be found in the extract as well as info to support evaluation

Exam Tip 10: This one’s a biggy! Does your 25 mark essay pass the conclusion test? Can the examiner tell what the question was just by reading your last paragraph? If not, you’ve probably not answered the question set! Hugely important.

Exam tip 11: Where’s the DWL? Label the social optimum where MSB = MSC as Q*. The DLW is the triangle that “points towards the stars”. Try it – it works! Thanks to my former student @Campbellminogue who originated this one I think.

Exam tip 12: AQA 4 markers – Two key features (numbers and dates) that help to support the proposition. Definition of key terms. Very brief analysis (eg higher incomes lead to greater life expectancy due to meeting of basic needs). Consider doing simple calculations on data.

Exam tip 13: EV not usually needed for “Explain” qu’s but watch out for ones such as “Explain the EXTENT to which the removal of a tariff might affect UK imports”. Here, you DO need to use elasticity to quantify the impact – this could be seen as EV but is also analysis.

Exam tip 14: Learn comp adv theory inside out! Important for MCQ and few students can work their way through an eg as part of an essay on trade. Make your work stand out! Learn a complete eg to drop into your work at the right point and score well for analysis.

Exam tip 15: Use interim judgements at the end of sections of evaluation in your 25 mark answers. These build up to help support your final judgement.

Exam tip 16: Evaluating policies? Best policy likely to tackle root cause of problem – eg low pay – more spending or reforms to educ & training may raise MRPs of low paid workers, leading to higher wages. Root cause of problem tackled giving long term solution.

Exam tip 17: Maximise your gain when you do a practice MCQ paper. Don’t settle for just getting the right answer. Can you explain it to someone else? Can you explain why the wrong answers are incorrect?

Exam tip 18: Chains of AN – more chains good, but fewer developed chains better & can get full mrks. Detail is key – put in extra steps. Eg D up -> excess D at current P –> up pressure on P –> R, S, I functions. Few put in excess D step but it adds value

Exam Tip 19: Dispense with your intro IF it only contains definitions. Instead, define key terms in brackets as you use them. A good final sentence of a 25 mrk intro is to state your eventual conclusion – signposts your work clearly. Requires careful planning!

Exam tip 20: Massive!…..Attempt as many past paper qu’s under timed conditions as you can. If you don’t, you simply won’t know if you are ready for the exam. In 24 years of teaching, every student who has done this has made huge strides in the last few weeks.

Exam tip 21: Should I analyse & evaluate point in same para? Second para for the evaluation is maybe better. You are more likely to evaluate in depth I think rather than use a simple “however” point. Remember to reach an interim judgement at the end of your para of evaluation.

If you’ve found these tips useful, you’ll find plenty more in the model answers available from Economics Factory.  Peter Cramp’s revision guides are also an invaluable support.