How to Do Well in Economics: Get an A in 7 Steps

Economics, as you may know, can be a pretty weird subject.

After all, there aren’t many high school subjects that juggle mathematics with essays, hand-drawn graphs and a decent amount of educated guessing to produce crazy conclusions like why milk costs the Government millions of dollars every year.

If you’re struggling to figure out how you’re meant to get an ‘A’ in a subject which comes across as pretty darn strange, then you’ve come to the right place!

True, Economics might not seem like your other subjects – but just like you get guidelines in English and formulae in Mathematics, there is indeed a set of strategies and measures you can undertake in order to improve your grade.  It’s worth noting, too, that these are the very same steps which I still use as an Economics Major at Bond University – no short-term tricks here, just proper strategies!

So, let’s begin!

1. Translate the Task Sheet into a Plan

It often seems like Economics task sheets are written in a different language; if we are able to translate all of this business jargon into plain old English, we stand a much greater chance of answering the task succinctly and effectively.

It’s easy to freak out when the task sheet outlines the topics that are required in your assessment piece.  But hidden in all of these confusing words is something super useful; an assignment plan!

By categorising the types of topics that you are required to address in the essay, the task sheet has inadvertently given you a ready-to-go outline for your essay structure.  Less work for you!  Choose which topics are similar, pop your now-grouped-together topics into separate paragraphs, add a cute introduction and conclusion and boom – plan complete!

For example, consider an instance where the terms GDP, inflation, demographics, target-market, and supply-demand graphs were all mentioned in a task sheet which asked you to explain how the rapidly increasing output of goods and services within Australia will affect overall prices in a certain market.

You would first group together your like terms.  Inflation rises because of GDP.  Target-markets are a part of a demographic.  And supply-demand graphs work with the law of supply and demand to demonstrate how prices will change in a certain market.

Then, you would use these groups of terms to create a body paragraph for each one which contributes towards your argument.  An example of an Economics essay plan is shown below:

Introduction – Address task and what the essay is striving to achieve

Body Paragraph 1 – Introduce ‘inflation’ and ‘GDP’ and the impact that these factors have historically had on overall prices.

Body Paragraph 2 – Talk about what part of the demographic your target-market fits into, and thus explain how they are impacted by the previously mentioned inflation and GDP.

Body Paragraph 3 – Outline the law of supply and demand, including graphs, and visually demonstrate how the price of the product or service changed due to the rising GDP/inflation figures.

Conclusion – Summarise your findings (and provide a recommendation!)

See what I did there?  I didn’t actually create any new ideas.  I didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel and produce the most mind-blowing piece of Economic theory ever seen.  I simply reorganised a whole heap of topics that were handed to me on the task sheet to form the outline of an essay structure.  Easy!

So, instead of putting on your I-look-okay-but-am-actually-freaking-out face when your teacher puts the task on your desk, relax!  With a little bit of reorganising, you’ll have a finished assignment plan in no time.

2. Work with the Teacher

lee at tm

Economics is similar to humanities subjects in that the marking guide is often subjective.  The result of this is that you need to work closely with your teacher to ensure that you are writing essays and answering exam questions in a style which is both factually correct and to the teacher’s liking.

What does ‘working with the teacher’ look like, though?  It looks like several different things: paying attention to the way they describe and define economics; listening carefully to how they want you to structure answers and essays; and it always involves submitting a draft where possible.

Because a lot of Economic theory is in ‘the grey’ – i.e. the answer is not absolutely clear – the manner in which you present your findings becomes critically important.

Why is it that some of the greatest economists throughout history of directly opposing opinions on certain matters?  Because plenty of Economics is not set in stone.  Plenty of Economics is, in fact, based on assumptions which can be interpreted quite varyingly, thus requiring justification and explanation.  Therefore, it is essential that you tailor your justifications and explanations to suit your teacher.

By ensuring you work cooperatively with your teacher’s preferences, you immediately stand a far greater chance of working towards that ‘A’.

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3. Nail your Terms and Definitions

You’ve been studying all term.  You’re itching to get into the end-of-term exam and smash out the extended essay.  The teacher ushers the class in, you take a seat, the exam bell rings and you’re off!  You make a flying start to your extended essay – but wait!  You realise you’ve forgotten something terribly important…


Economics is built upon a language of confusing terms and business jargon; the importance of providing articulate and concise definitions to topics cannot be understated.  Want to talk about how employment is affecting Gross Domestic Product? Explain Gross Domestic Product to me first.  Want to discuss why inflation is good at a certain rate but not at a higher rate?  Explain inflation to me first.  Do you want to draw an elaborate set of supply-demand graphs to demonstrate the impact of negative publicity on a certain market?  Explain the law of supply and demand to me first.

Getting the picture?  Awesome.  If you can cohesively bring in succinct definitions to each of your economic terms as you write an essay or extended exam answer, your knowledge and understanding criterion is going to go through the roof!

And when criteria go through the roof, so too do our chances of getting an ‘A’.

4. Think in Real Terms


Thinking exclusively in Economic terms can get a bit stressful.

When we talk in Economic terms, it is highly conceptual and very abstract.  In other words, none of it actually seems to relate to anything real.

Consider this question: How will a change in consumer preference shift the demand curve?  Will this shift subsequently put upward pressure on price and generate more economic profit for the firm in the market?

Don’t worry if you’ve already zoned out.  After all, that question doesn’t actually mean anything real, does it?  It’s just a whole heap of different concepts mashed together to prove something which only someone studying Economics would be able to understand.

Instead, consider this question:  A Current Affair runs a one-hour program on the benefits of sourdough bread; they claim it will make you live longer, feel fitter, slim down and half your chance of heart-attack.  Will the sales of sourdough bread go up or down because of this? Will the profits of sourdough bread vendors go up or down because of this?

Better?  I thought so.  It is fairly logical that good publicity for sourdough bread will lead to more sales and thus more profit.  Thinking in real terms helps us give context and application to otherwise obscure concepts, thus making them far more palatable.

So, there you go; whenever faced with a dizzyingly conceptual question in that pesky Economics mid-term, try to think of it in terms which make sense to you, as opposed to relying exclusively on your understanding of Economic terms. In doing so, you’ve taken yet another step towards that ‘A’.

5. Connect the Dots – Linking Sources


Economics, like a crime scene, is filled with clues.  Some of these clues are obvious, whilst others are almost invisible.  It’s time to put on your detective hats and pull out the magnifying glass; in this section of How to Get an ‘A’ we are going to be looking into how to link sources (i.e. the clues) to produce a comprehensive and complex conclusion.

When posed with a broad question in Economics – perhaps something along the lines of “How does inflation affect employment?” – you as the Economist will be required to investigate a variety of sources, each with their own opinion or facts.

Consider these opinions and facts to be a pile of scrambled jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Identifying what these opinions and facts are will get you a ‘C’.  Grouping together the pieces which look similar and show the same thing will reach a very respectable ‘B’.  But what do we do if we want to reach that coveted ‘A’?  We must strive to not only solve the puzzle in its entirety but to explain how each part of the puzzle interacts with the others.

If you’re having trouble imagining how this applies to Economics, let’s use Step 4 and think in Real Terms.

Consider the question posed before: “How does inflation affect employment?”  Now, let’s think of pocket money.

Let’s assume you receive $10 per week in pocket money.  You always spend the whole $10 on ten individual lollies, each costing $1.  It’s a lovely routine and you enjoy it very much.  Good for you. 

Unfortunately, however, the rate of inflation is rising in Australia.  The Reserve Bank of Australia, in turn, increases interest rates; in other words, how much money families and businesses have to pay back on their loans. 

What does this mean for your lollies?  It means the corner-store you buy them from has to suddenly increase the amount of interest it repays to the bank it received a loan from.  More money being spent on the loan repayments means that they need to raise prices of everything in the store in order to compensate.  To your dismay, you see the price of your $1 lollies has increased to a whopping $2. 

Shocked, you decide to never shop there again.  Your train of thought is mirrored by half of the customers who also shopped there.  And so, the number of customers that shop in that corner-store is halved. 

As a result of this, the manager of the corner-store dismisses half of his/her employees due to there being too many employees for the number of customers coming in.

Identifying that inflation will lower employment is akin to identifying what the facts of the situation are; a ‘C’, in other words.  Pointing out the how and the why – i.e. explaining that the rate of repayment affected the cost of lollies which in turn detracted from customer-numbers and thus employees – is an excellent way of reaching a ‘B’.  If we put this example in the context of an entire nation, however, we can explain that the reduced consumer spending is exactly what the Reserve Bank of Australia wanted when it raised interest rates and that this reduced spending will reduce the rate of inflation via increased unemployment and loan repayments.  Now we are well positioned to achieve an ‘A’.

Just like detectives follow clues, figuring out and explaining the complex web of Economics is akin to solving a crime.  The more clues we can prove to be correlated, the greater our chance of getting an ‘A’.

6. Don’t just Conclude – Provide Recommendations

This step is actually pretty easy.  By this stage you’ve done all the hard work.  You’ve already translated the task sheet, consulted your teacher, nailed your definitions, rethought the topic in real terms and connected the dots.

All that remains is for you to demonstrate your knowledge of Economics in one final way; by providing recommendations.

Consider this step the final few metres in a marathon.  Sure, it’s only a fraction of the total distance, but without taking this final leap the entire race has been for nothing!  Use all of the background information you have gathered, as well as the analysis provided in your essay, to craft a reasonable and insightful recommendation as to what path the relevant parties should pursue in order to maximise Economic efficiency.

So long as your recommendation is supported by evidence and Economic theory, the possibilities are limitless.  Every morsel of data and every varied opinion collated during your research process has led to you being able to provide an astute recommendation.  Back yourself!  With logical justification, you can’t go wrong

7. Find Your Passion in Economics!

harley and waide

With all of the nitty-gritties out of the way, all that remains is for you to find your passion in Economics. Don’t worry, either; Economics doesn’t have to be as boring as it sometimes comes across.  With the help of A Team’s Academic Personal Trainers, discovering a topic which is inspiring and stirs a sense of passion within you is entirely achievable.  By collaborating and brain-storming with energetic and enthusiastic tutors, you will be able to best showcase your comprehensive understanding of Economics within a topic that will motivate you to produce your finest work.

You may even be surprised where you find a passion.  After all, many things you already hold strong opinions about are, in fact, outcomes of Economic decisions.

People flood the street and holds riots when outrageous tax increases are enforced. 

Families are forced into homelessness when Social Security allowances are decreased. 

Legalising certain drugs may negatively impact our daily lives, however the Government revenue generated by regulating the sale of said drugs would create fabulous facilities for all of society to enjoy.

Cigarette sales produce millions of revenues in the form of tax but cost just as much in the form of health care.  If health care costs outweigh tax revenues, we are losing twice; with both our health and our finances.  If the revenues outweigh the costs, however, we’re essentially compromising our collective health for a bigger pay cheque. 

The complexity of Economic issues is endless.  The range of topics to address, too, is effectively limitless.

So, try not to roll your eyes when you find out what next term’s topic is.  Because hidden inside that topic is a puzzle.  A puzzle of complex, multi-dimensional Economic concepts all waiting to be discovered.  Try to dig deeper than the surface of any Economic topic and you will find a vast and fascinating network of interrelated facts, figures, graphs and opinions.  The contradictions, the corroborations, the agreements, the furious denials, the nuanced political background to Government Economics; they all weave together to create the fabric of perhaps the most stimulating and thought-provoking subject around.

What now?  It’s time to follow these 7 Steps and start working towards your ‘A’ in Economics.

There are many things in Economics that remain uncertain – one thing you can be certain of is that you won’t regret following these Steps for one minute.  Good luck!

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