How To Write A Good Economics Essay

In the Singapore-Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level Economics (H2), the essay paper accounts for 60 per cent of the total marks. Therefore, good essay writing skills are essential for obtaining a good grade in the examination. Although there is no one best way to tackle an essay question, students can use “The 8-Step Approach” to construct a good answer.

The 8-Step Approach

Step 1:    Read the question carefully.

Step 2:    For a two-part question, look at the mark that each part carries as it indicates the length of the answer expected. Further, consider part (b) before attempting part (a) to prevent any overlap between the answers.

Step 3:    Pay particular attention to key words as they indicate the content areas on which you are required to focus.

Step 4:    Pay particular attention to command words as they indicate what you are asked to do. A list of command words commonly used in the GCE ‘A’ Level Economics paper together with their explanations can be found on Economics Tuition Methodology.

Step 5:    Make a note of the relevant economic theories and concepts that come to your mind without paying attention to their degree of relevance.

Step 6:    Prioritise the relevant economic theories and concepts in accordance with their degree of relevance.

Step 7:    If the list of relevant economic theories  and concepts is too long, consider ways to merge them. Otherwise, what you did in Step 6 should help you decide which of them to apply and which of them to ignore.

Step 8:    Organise the relevant economic theories and concepts that you have decided to apply in such a way that there is a structure to the answer. The answer should comprise an introduction, body and conclusion. It should be about four pages in length, excluding the diagrams which you are required to draw to substantiate your points.

Consider the following question:
Discuss whether the growth of the Chinese economy would be detrimental to the Singapore economy.

Introduction

The introduction should define the economic terms in the question. It  should also give an overview of the approach in a clear and concise manner. For  structured questions, however, an overview of the approach may not be necessary. You should not form a judgment in the introduction. In other words, you should not use the conclusion as the introduction.

Example
Economic growth is an increase in real national income or real national output. The effects of the growth of the Chinese economy on the Singapore economy can be discussed in terms of the effects on the balance of payments, the national income, the unemployment, the general price level and the income equity.

Body

The body should contain the thrust of the answer, usually comprising a few paragraphs, with each paragraph containing only one main idea. The main idea in each paragraph should be succinctly conveyed in the topic sentence, with the rest of the paragraph elaborating the topic sentence by giving details, examples, facts and statistics. The topic sentence is usually, but not always, the first sentence in the paragraph. Sometimes, the topic sentence can be the only sentence in the paragraph if it is self-explanatory.

Example (A Paragraph of the Body)
The growth of the Chinese economy may lead to a deterioration in the balance of payments of Singapore. The balance of payments is a record of all the transactions between the residents of the economy and the rest of the world over a period of time and is made up of the current account and the capital and financial account. The production of low value-added goods such as disk drives requires low-skilled labour. Due to its larger amount of low-skilled labour, China has a comparative advantage over Singapore in producing low value-added goods. When the Chinese economy grows, it will produce a larger amount of low value-added goods which will meet a larger proportion of the world demand and this will decrease the demand for low value-added goods produced in Singapore. Therefore, the growth of the Chinese economy will lead to a fall in Singapore’s exports of low value-added goods. For example, Singapore’s exports of hard disks have decreased partly due the growth of the Chinese economy. Furthermore, due to the same reason, Singapore’s imports of low value-added goods from China will increase. When these happen, the current account and hence the balance of payments of Singapore will deteriorate. When the Chinese economy grows, households will become affluent which will lead to a larger consumer market. Therefore, the growth of the Chinese economy will attract foreign direct investments away from Singapore. For example, the growth of foreign direct investment in Singapore has generally decreased over the last two decades partly due the growth of the Chinese economy. Furthermore, due to the same reason, firms in Singapore will increase investments in China. When these happen, the capital and financial account and hence the balance of payments of Singapore will deteriorate.

Conclusion

For part (a) questions, the conclusion can be a summary or a recommendation, which is more for aesthetic purpose. For full-length and part (b) questions, the conclusion should be an evaluation, which carries 4 out of the total 25 marks.

Example
In the final analysis, the benefits of the growth of the Chinese economy to the Singapore economy are likely to outweigh the costs. Singapore’s exports consist of more high value-added goods due to the large amount of high-skilled labour and hence comparative advantage in producing these goods, with low value-added goods accounting for a smaller proportion of total exports. Therefore, economic growth in China is likely to lead to a larger increase in exports of high value-added goods than the decrease in exports of low value-added goods in Singapore which will lead to an increase in aggregate demand resulting in an increase in national income. Furthermore, Singapore is a small economy that is highly dependent on external demand with the domestic exports accounting for a large proportion of the national income. Therefore, the increase in exports is likely to lead to a substantial increase in aggregate demand resulting in a substantial increase in national income. In addition, as Singapore imports a large amount of intermediate goods due to lack of factor endowments, the increase in imports of cheaper intermediate goods from China is also likely to be very beneficial to the Singapore economy as the cost of production in the economy is likely to fall substantially.

In the Singapore-Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level Economics examination, you are given only 45 minutes to plan and write the answer to an essay question. As you need about 35 to 40 minutes to write the answer, you have only about 5 to 10 minutes to plan the answer.

When you are planning the answer to an essay question, you should not be too concerned with producing the ‘standard answer’ because it does not exist. What is required of you is to show evidence that you have understood the question and that you have the ability to apply relevant economic theories and concepts to answer the question in a coherent manner that demonstrates the five core thinking skills: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis and synthesis, and evaluation. Knowledge and comprehension are often considered the lower-order thinking skills. Application, analysis and synthesis, and evaluation are often considered the higher-order thinking skills.

When you are writing the answer to an essay question, you are encouraged to use diagrams that are correctly labelled to illustrate understanding of the relevant economic concepts. However, you need to take note that diagrams that are incorrectly explained or incorrectly labelled may do more harm than good. In contrast, diagrams which are correctly explained and correctly labelled illustrate understanding of the relevant economic concepts and substantiate your explanations and therefore will be awarded accordingly.

You should not write everything that you know about a given content area. In other words, you should answer the essay question directly, with the help of the key words and the command words, taking into consideration the marks allocated. Indirect answers and irrelevant answers will gain no marks.

You should refer back to the essay question occasionally to stay focussed on what is required of you to do. This is to avoid writing off the point.

Legible handwriting is crucial to obtaining a good grade in the subject. Although you will not get bonus marks for legible handwriting, you will not get any marks with illegible handwriting.

Good grammar will enhance the quality of the answer.

 

economics tuition, back to homepage

Economics Tuition @ Economics Cafe
Principal Economics Tutor: Mr. Edmund Quek