The Top Five Challenges Facing Economics A-Level Students - by a Student

By Maxwell, Fenella | Teaching Business & Economics, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The Top Five Challenges Facing Economics A-Level Students - by a Student


Maxwell, Fenella, Teaching Business & Economics


As a current AS student I have naturally found some challenges during this academic year. I chose Economics AS-Level because I was fascinated by how the economy worked and had little knowledge of what could affect me in the future, such as recessions and taxation. In January 2012, I took the Unit 1 exam after studying Economics for five months. Throughout this course I have recognised a few weaknesses with my understanding and application of current examples. My fellow students also shared this as a concern. After further consultation with my peers, I established a list of the 'top five challenges facing Economics students'.

Challenge 1

For many students Economics is a completely new subject, as many secondary schools do not offer it at GCSE. So understanding correct terminology, definitions and sounding like an economist is understandably demanding. In every lesson we must have up-to-date knowledge of economic events worldwide, which in my class are debated and examined regularly. For many who were oblivious to current affairs, knowing and understanding these articles and how the government operates is a further challenge.

To enhance this background knowledge, each student had a list given to them on what they needed to do each week. This included reading relevant chapters in our textbook, revisiting notes, additional reading from our school Internet database. Twitter feeds from my Economics teacher of relevant articles, watching the news regularly, searching for related articles and having Tutor2u 'Economics blogs' sent directly into our mailboxes. This 'reading around the subject' takes a huge proportion of our time in comparison to other subjects. Many students find this troublesome to balance, which emphasises the huge transition from GCSE to ?-Level. However, this ability is indispensable to a new student of Economics, as this knowledge is utilised when evaluating in the essay question of the exam and aids the application of the theory.

Challenge 2

The second challenge facing students at ?-Level is evaluation. The greater emphasis on this skill is different to that in GCSE. It is relatively difficult to grasp without endless amounts of practice. However, it is a fundamental skill that is necessary for other ALevel subjects. Further Education, University and many careers. Depicting concisely advantages and disadvantages of economic theory, using both the case study and your own knowledge in a limited time.

frame is a complicated task. Additionally, the essay question is at the end of the exam, so many students are under pressure to be concise and relevant, and to justify their points. Evaluation skills are required within different paragraphs for a good response mark, in addition to good analysis and definitions, and the drawing of a suitable diagram (if appropriate). A wide range of points might need to be considered, including the opportunity cost, the scale, the benefits to society, the effectiveness of the policy, references to the budget deficit, success if introduced, empirical evidence, alternative policies, possibility of government failure and the short-term and long-term effects. To include some or all of these in roughly fifteen minutes is rather daunting. However, much depends on how many ideas for evaluation are in the case study and how open the question is for the inclusion of different ideas.

Challenge 3

Time management within the exam is crucial. A 75minute exam expects the following to be achieved:

1. twenty-five multiple choice questions;

2. a definition with an example;

3. data response;

4. an analysis question;

5. a large 25-mark essay.

This proves to be terrifying to nearly all students. To explain myself properly, without unnecessary sentences, within the time limit is gruelling, as extra time at the end to look over my answers is unlikely. Within the supported multiple-choice section, one minute per question is recommended.

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