Why you have been struggling with Economics

I have the habit of getting my students do an introduction of themselves in class when they join us for the very first time. A common remark a student would make in their introduction would be “I hate economics” or “I suck at econs”.

“I’ve never scored L3 in my life”

“I’ve never gotten more than a single digit score for my essays or case studies”

Well, it is hard to like something you persistently don’t do well in, right?

Many students choose to do Economics at the A Levels, because presumably

1. It is part of the most common subject combination - Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics (PCME)

2. Supposedly, Economics is a subject that helps open up your options for university courses

The problem with Economics is that, for most people, there is a steep learning curve because for most, Economics is first taken at the A Levels and there is no prior academic exposure to the subject, unlike other subjects like the Math, Sciences or the Humanities.

If you haven’t been doing well in Economics, chances are, you have been learning Economics the wrong way.

If you are a JC1 student just starting out your journey in Economics, try to pick things up the right way!

Understand concepts, not memorise them

My students know that there are really only 2 things I make them memorise throughout their entire course of study - “The multiplier process” & “The theory of comparative advantage”.

Economics is not a subject where you can do well via just pure memorisation. It is a subject which requires the understand of concepts and the application of such concepts.

There are some topics which are considered to be more ‘dry’, ‘technical’ and ‘boring’ like “Balance of Payments” or “Production & Costs” where students may struggle to understand the theoretical points taught.

The approach that I take with my students - is this

1. Find a simple way to explain the super complex concept to them

2. If students don’t understand - find many different analogies to explain the same concept to them

3. If they still don’t understand - find other sources / visual aids to help them understand the concept

A common approach that students take in their revision, is to memorise ‘model essays’ from ten year series and assume that will help them excel.

This is a wrong approach because

1. You don’t know whether the quality of answers is consistent throughout the entire book

2. It is unlikely that a question that has been tested before will re-appear in the same exact form.

The advantage of learning and understanding a concept, means that when a question comes out in a different format, you will still be able to answer it, as opposed to ‘memorising essays’ in a rigid manner.

Learn how to write better

The essay component of the H2 A Level Economics exam takes up 60% of the total score. This means that each of the 3 essays that students have to write is worth 20% of the total score.

Logically, that means that students who have poor essay-writing skills are at a significant disadvantage for the A Levels and will struggle to do well!

The H1 curriculum was recently revised and the “Essay-Writing” component was removed from the exam. This may give H1 students a wrong impression that “essay-writing” skills are no longer important but this is an erroneous view!

While the H2 exam comprise of 2 case studies worth 30 marks each, the H1 exam now comprise of 2 case studies worth 45marks per case studies. There are now more higher order questions worth 8 marks to 10 marks. Such higher order questions are effectively ‘mini-essay’ questions requiring the same skill set.

How can we write better?

1. Practice more

2. Plan & structure your essays

3. Apply the 4 “E”s

Read my other blogpost here on “Essay-writing”

Use, question & apply data

If you’ve consistently performed poorly at case studies, you probably have not acquired the required skills associated with answering case study questions.

There are a few general types of questions we can typically find in case study questions

1. Definition questions - worth 1-2 marks

2. Trend questions - worth 1-4 marks

3. Theory + application questions - worth 4-8 marks

4. Higher order questions - worth 6 - 10 marks

The different types of questions require different types of skills in answering.

In general, most typically, most case study questions require students to do this

Firstly, identify the “theoretical concept” that is being tested

Next, find the “data” that supports / doesn’t support the “theory”

Then, provide “application” - the reasoning, limitations & issues

Finally, provide an ‘evaluation”

More than often, there are ‘tricks’ associated with the data given to you. There might be some flaws or ‘limitations’ of the data and you might be expected to criticise the data given.

As you can see, there are specific skills associated with answering case study questions.

Practice itself is not sufficient, to do well for case study questions. You need “deliberate practice”.


Understand, don’t memorise. Learn to write structured & coherent essays if you want to do well for the A Levels. For case studies, do deliberate practice!