How to study smart for your GCE 'A' Level Economics?

(This post by Mr Anthony Fok first appeared here on Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 2 December 2014.)

As most well-informed students are aware, there is now less emphasis placed on testing of lower order thinking skills in knowledge and comprehension. In order to stand out amongst the rest, students need to exhibit higher order thinking skills such as the ability to apply, analyse, synthesize and evaluate. Regurgitation of lecture notes is a thing of the past. This will now hinder their ability to achieve a distinction grade.

To excel, students need to explain current economic events in terms of the relevant economic principles learnt and integrate the different topics to construct a coherent line of argument as well as reconcile conflicting ideas. Students must also be able to evaluate the effectiveness and limitations of the various economic policies.

Lastly, the answers given must be logical, clear and concise as examiners award marks based on “quality” rather than “quantity”.

In view of the above, the following examination tips might come in useful:

1. Learn from mistakes

✓ Get your friends/ Economics tutors to check and critique your essays.

✓ Read your friends’ scripts to find out what mistakes they have made and avoid making the same mistakes.

✓ Make a list of the commonly made mistakes and use that as a checklist for your future essays.

2. Make your own notes

✓ Make brief notes on important concepts and key points. For example, key definitions and diagrams should be written down on a piece of paper for easy last minute memorizing.

✓ Draw a mindmap to link up the chapters. Concept maps help you to understand the relationships between ideas by creating a visual map of the connections. For example, the chapter on recession can be linked to several other economics topics such as unemployment, economic policies, balance of payments and standard of living.

3. Practice writing

✓ Practice writing under the pressure of time constraints.

✓ Take note of your presentation and expression. Keep your style clear and simple with technical precision.

4. Be exam smart

✓ Always keep track of time.

✓ Dissect the question to understand what is required.

✓ Identify the relevant economic issues, concepts and diagrams required.

✓ Organise your thoughts to ensure that the essay will be coherent before penning them down.

What skills are needed?

The fundamental rule is that students need to have good knowledge of all the concepts and theories covered under the GCE ‘A’ level Economics syllabus. This includes the basic principles and key concepts including definitions and diagrams. Therefore, it is important to clarify and seek proper guidance when in doubt from the beginning.

In order to display their deep understanding of the underlying economic principles, students need to be able to apply them in the right context. Therefore, it is important that students keep themselves updated on current affairs. In particular, they need to pay attention to global economic events and the Singapore economy. They should also be well acquainted with major institutions such as World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Federal Reserve and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS); and events such as the Asian Financial Crisis, European Debt Crisis, USA Subprime Crisis. Students need to keep abreast of current news as the economy is dynamic and constantly changing. Students will stand out if they are able to quote up-to-date information and statistics in their examination scripts. Extra marks will also be awarded to concrete and relevant examples, comparisons and analogies.

Lastly, it is important to also give evaluative comments such as weighing the available evidence to reach a reasoned conclusion, or to make an independent judgment of the quality or validity of the information available.


This article is contributed by Mr Anthony Fok, the Founder / Principal Economics tutor at Anthony holds a Master’s Degree in Education and is the author of several Economics guidebooks and the GCE ‘A’ level Economics Ten-Year-Series in Singapore. More information on .


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