5 tips to improve your grades for Economics
1. Improve your Time Management
Many don’t quite realise this – but a major killer at the examinations is time management.
I always tell my students this – it doesn’t matter how much you know, and it doesn’t matter how much you write.
It matters, within the 45 minutes timeframe given – are you able to provide an in-depth, on-point essay of sufficient length?
For CSQ, have you trained yourself to answer the CSQ in an extremely disciplined manner – exact amount of time to read the extracts, read the questions, and for each question, allocating the right amount of time to answer each question depends on the number of marks.
It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are. If you can’t deliver within the time limit, you can’t score.
You want to score 15 to 18 marks on average for the 3 essays you have to write, not score 20 marks for 2 essays and leave 1 blank. Take note!
PS: Also, DO NOT compromise handwriting for speed.
How do we get time management right?
Practice makes perfect. Time yourself, doing each essay. Only rest when you are finally able to get it done within 45 min timeframe. Likewise for CSQ. Keep to 1 hour for each CSQ if possible while not stretching beyond 1 hr 5 mins.
2. FOCUS on the Question Requirements
1 common mistake by students – they don’t plan.
They don’t read deeply into the question enough.
They don’t tear the question apart and make sure that they have accounted for every single requirement of the question.
They just love to get the rough idea of ‘which topic’ the question belongs to and then just vomit everything they know about the topic and expect to score.
That’s tough luck.
You have to make sure that every point that you write – is helpful towards answering the question!
Many students ask – how do I even know what are the requirements of the question?
define key words, explain key concepts required by the question,
make use of your rulers, highlighters, to break down the phrasing of the question and understand how each word plays a part in your understanding of the requirements
ask yourself – what exactly does the examiner want to test me with this question.
(read the question once more)
plan your answers around the question requirements – and make sure each paragraph you write directly goes back towards answering the question.
One good way to start –
Go grab past year prelim questions with answers from the school bookshop
Attempt outlines for essay questions
Check your outlines against the suggested answers provided by the schools
Read the answers, see what you are missing out in your own outline
After reading the answers, go back to look at the question again, and see specifically what does the answer attempt to address – how can we reverse engineer the question requirements from the answers.
3. Structure your essays
Do a quick-check on the following
Do you bother to write a proper introduction, with the key definitions defined, key concepts explained, provide a summary of the key points that you will be writing in the body and provide a stand/answer to the question?
Do you write ridiculously long paragraphs?
Do you consciously take the effort to do paragraphing – whereby each paragraph has ONE key point, well explained and elaborated and serves to link back to the essay question and is satisfying an essay requirement?
For each point that you are writing, did you incorporate the 4Es
–Explain (provide an in depth explanation about the point you are trying to bring across)
Elaborate (provide an Economics framework / link the point to Economics theory and try to address the question)
Examples (self explanatory, provide examples relating to context of the question)
Evaluate (an opinion, but substantiated with theory & data)
4. Learn the different skills required for different types of case study questions
For CSQs, there are not that many quick-fixes to improving your score. You have to actually do them, to improve.
If you are failing your CSQs, I’d recommend that you plough through at least 20-30 CSQs from now till the A Level exams.
Generally, there are 3 types of CSQ questions
Trends (1m – 4m)Linking data to economic theory (2m – 8m)‘Policies’ and ‘solutions’ (6m – 10m)
If you are failing your CSQs – don’t start doing CSQs first, read through past year / this year prelim papers with school answers provided.
Look at the way the question is phrased, and look at how the school answers the question, and try to understand why the answer is phrased in a particular way to answer the question. In other words, try to understand how to formulate answers for CSQs first.
Go through at least 10 – 20 CSQs, reading the CSQ, the questions, and understand the answers and why they are answered in that certain way.
And of course, after that, start practising! To see a significant improvement in your CSQ grades, you need to try no less than 20-30 CSQs.
5. Exposure to different types of essay questions
This is a no-brainer. The more exposure and practice you have before the A Levels, the more confident you will feel about attempting the paper.
This is my recommendation:
Get an A4 sized exercise book
Pick 50 Essay Questions (you can use my guidebooks available at Popular or just get past-year prelim papers) of a wide variety – make sure your 50 questions spans across a wide range of topics and concepts
Make sure you have good answer outlines for these 50 Essays
Attempt to plan an outline for each question
After the planning is done, refer to the answers outline
Are you anywhere close? If yes, then just add in the points that you’ve missed out
If not, then proceed to copy the entire essay out, while consciously trying to commit the key points to memory, understand what you’ve missed out and make sure you are able to reproduce this essay should it be tested at the A levels.
If you complete this exercise, you should be at least achieving a “B” grade for your essays. (An A grade takes more work than this!)