How to get full marks in Economics A-Level and IB essays

Lawrence's picture


CEO of Owl Tutors

October 30th, 2019

How to get full marks in Economics A-Level and IB essays

Want to ace the long answer questions in your A-level and IB economics paper? Follow these simple guidelines to ensure you make a compelling argument and achieve full marks.

If you would like to ensure that you get full marks in long answer economics essays in A-level exams there are a few guidelines that you should stick to and ensure that your answers contain. Although you cannot guarantee what a particular examiner will do when they are marking your exam, if you stick to a few key principles, it will be difficult for them not to give you the marks. Before I run through the main activities that you should undertake, it is worth drawing a distinction between different question types. The long answer questions in A-level papers will typically be either data response questions (questions where you are given an extract from which to draw information and to analyse) and questions that do not require data response. The main difference between these two types of questions is that data response questions will require you to incorporate information from the data that you have been given whereas questions that are not data response will typically require you to include some of your own knowledge with respect to a particular situation (know the UK base rate for instance).

Structure your answer in the opening paragraph

A very easy way to plan your essay is to state your opinion or answer to the question in the first sentence and then to list your reasons for your view directly afterwards. This will mean that you can refer to your opening paragraph to structure your essay.

Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

You may constantly hear your economics teacher talking about evaluation despite many of them not properly explaining why you have to do this and what it means. Put bluntly, there are very few “right” answers in economics. Economics is the study of “who gets what” and as a result it is not a science that allows the determination of the right answer but more a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of sharing resources in different ways. Evaluation simply refers to providing balance in your argument. You must acknowledge the alternative views of any particular argument that you are making. For instance, if you believe that in order to tackle inflation, a central bank should increase interest rates you should also address the negative consequences of this action, even if you believe it to be correct.

Use graphical representations of concepts to back up your points

Economists liberally uses relatively simple graphs to explain relationships that they believe to exist. Most of the basic concepts that you are expected to learn in A-level economics have simple graphs that can be used to demonstrate these concepts. Draw out all of these graphs into your notes and become familiar with when they should be drawn to illustrate a point that you are making.

Plan to finish your essay within 90% of the time allocated to the question

It is easy to write long, waffling essays in economics and it is even easier to not finish an essay due to running out of time. When you perform practice exams, you should set yourself time limits to write your essays and stick to them. If you can get into the habit of being able to complete your essays within the time allocated to you, you will not only be able to review your answer and add supplementary information if required but you will also avoid not completing your essay.

Complete every past paper that you can find for your exam board

A slightly depressing notion when it comes to revising is that going through past papers really does work. This can feel like a long-winded and boring way of revising. It does however get the job done! Find your exam board’s website and then download all of the available past papers and mark schemes for the exams that you are taking. It is worth going through all of the questions and if you really want that top grade, you can prepare stock perfect essays for the questions that get asked regularly giving you a distinct chance of having the perfect essay already ready to put down when you get into the exam. Good luck!

Lawrence's picture

More about Lawrence

Lawrence is CEO of Owl. Previously, he worked in the City and trained to teach through Teach First. When he isn't running Owl, he loves triathlons.