How to Approach the A Level H2 Economics Essay Section

May 31, 2024

As a subject that few have encountered prior to entering JC, A Level H2 Economics leaves many feeling daunted. Students often find that Economics is nowhere similar to O Level Social Studies or History or any other humanities subject previously taken. As a Social Science, A Level H2 Economics systematically approaches the study of human society through frameworks that could very well resemble Scientific methodology. Nevertheless, regardless of how you view the subject, studying for the A Level H2 Economics exams can be extremely fulfilling and interesting!

Zenith, Singapore’s top JC tuition center strives to simplify and delineate complex concepts for our students by introducing them to relevant, everyday applications of various Economic principles. Our team of dedicated tutors then equips students with the critical thinking skills essential for applying their knowledge to meet question demands during the A Level H2 Economics exam. In this article, Zenith breaks down the requirements for the A Level H2 Economics essay questions while equipping you with the skills to ace them. The A Level H2 Economics Paper 2 comprises only essay questions which accounts for a whopping 60% of your final grade. As such, it is imperative that you do well for this paper if you want to secure that ‘A’ grade for A Level H2 Economics!

What does the A Level H2 Economics essay paper (Paper 2) require of me?

As with every subject, understanding the demands of the A Level H2 Economics essay questions helps you to develop a clear framework for approaching them. Knowing what is required of you means that you will be able to devise a comprehensive study checklist when preparing for the A Level H2 Economics exam. While a strong grasp of content is important, the A Level H2 Economics essay expects that you will be able to contextualise your knowledge to the given question, while also evaluating the validity of various Economic concepts. You should also be able to introduce relevant examples to support your points.

Fig 1. An overview of the A Level H2 Economics Paper 2 Requirements from the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB)

As Fig 1 shows, you will be required to attempt at least one question on Microeconomics and one question on Macroeconomics. For the third essay, you will be able to choose if you would like to attempt another question on Microeconomics or Macroeconomics. In other words, you will choose one of the following permutations:

  1. 2 questions on Microeconomics + 1 question on Macroeconomics
  2. 1 question on Microeconomics + 2 questions on Macroeconomics

As shown in Fig 2 below, any of the subtopics under the three central themes in the A Level H2 Economics syllabus may be tested as an essay question. Only Theme 3, “The National and International Economy”, falls under Macroeconomics. Themes 1 and 2 are under Microeconomics.

Fig 2. The A Level H2 Economics Syllabus from SEAB

Aside from being very familiar with various Economics concepts, it is also evident from the earlier figure, Fig 1, that the A Level H2 Economics essay paper (Paper 2) requires candidates to think fast. Dividing the duration of the paper (2 hours and 15 minutes) between 3 essays, you only have 45 minutes to tackle each essay. To successfully complete the paper, you will need to write fast in a clear and concise manner to cover all the content points which are expected of you.

At Zenith, our team of dedicated educators embarks with students on a rigorous journey to ace their A Level H2 Economics Papers. Our curriculum is meticulously curated to emphasise important key concepts, and “cheat sheets” are provided for all our students to streamline their learning and revision process. Our educators also provide one-to-one consultations and reviews of assignments and assessments for all our students; during these sessions, students are free to bring up any concerns they have. Thereafter, our educators frequently also assist students in devising effective study schedules and techniques by pinpointing specific areas of improvement to focus on.

How do I finish my papers? I am writing as fast as I can, but it just seems impossible!

As Singapore’s top Economics tuition center, Zenith understands that the A Level H2 Economics Paper 2 is a mad race against time. While 45 minutes is an undeniably short amount of time for writing a complete essay, many have overcome the challenge with effective time management skills.

To complete all three essays, Zenith recommends that you do not dwell excessively on each individual point in your essay. Elaborating on your points excessively means that you might not be able to complete the paper. Since the A Level H2 Economics marking scheme awards marks to students not only based on the level of detail in their answers but also based on the number of relevant points they are able to introduce, having lesser or incomplete points puts you at a disadvantage. For instance, to ace an essay question on Market Structure, you will need to have the key content points raised in this article. Explaining only one out of all the required content points in a long-winded fashion will not get you the marks you are hoping for!

How do I know what the question is asking me? The syllabus has so many things that it’s very difficult for me to shortlist the concepts I should explain in my essay!

Another common problem that students face when writing the A Level H2 Economics essays is the sheer depth and breadth of content that they have to constantly grapple with. Having spent 2 years in JC trawling through countless concepts, examples, and specialised terminology, students often find themselves extremely confused when planning their essays. Am I supposed to include this concept…? It doesn’t seem relevant but what IF I need it…? Never mind, let’s just include everything…

The above thought process is not an uncommon one, but it is detrimental to your A Level H2 Economics grade for two reasons:

  1. Including irrelevant concepts means you’re likely wasting precious time! For a paper as short as the A Level H2 Economics Paper 2, time is of the essence.
  2. Including irrelevant concepts shows a poor grasp of the question demands, as well as the topics you have studied. Instead of boosting your marks, approaching your essay this way might actually cause your marks to be deducted.

To ensure that your essay is relevant, incisive, and informative, you should first analyse the essay question in depth. Like any other essay question, the A Level H2 Economics essay questions have keywords. Most of them also consist of a preamble which provides you with a scenario and some statistics. In any case, you should utilise the given information during the planning process and make reference to it in your essay.

There are also two types of question formats that can appear during the A Level H2 Economics Paper 2:

1. One question that is worth 25 marks on its own. For example, this essay question from the 2014 A Level H2 Economics Paper 2:

In 2012 the UK had very poor harvests for grain and potatoes, which are major ingredients of many of the foods of UK consumers and also provide feed for much of Britain’s livestock. At the same time there was a decline in the real incomes of many UK citizens, especially those on low incomes.

Using economic analysis, discuss the impact these events are likely to have had on UK consumers and farmers. [25]

To answer this question satisfactorily, you need to identify the key concerns in the question. The main economic agents in the question are consumers and farmers. Consumers here likely refers to UK citizens instead of international consumers as the preamble specifically mentions that there was a decline in the real incomes of many UK citizens. Since the question alludes to the Demand and Supply concept by mentioning that the poor harvests will need to cater to a wide variety of needs, you will be expected to bring in concepts of Price Elasticity.

For this question, being well read-up on the state of Economic affairs in the world will also benefit you. In 2012, the UK was going through a recession. Being able to provide this piece of contextual knowledge in your introduction will impress upon your markers that you have made the effort to go beyond the theoretical by understanding how Economic forces work in the real world.

2. Two questions, one that is worth 10 marks while the other is worth 15 marks. For example, this essay question from the 2012 A Level H2 Economics Paper 2:

During 2009 the Bank of England engaged in what is known as ‘quantitative easing’ by pumping more than £200 billion into the economy. Record low levels of interest rates have also been maintained within the UK economy. Quantitative easing and low interest rates were also adopted by the US.

(a) Explain why exchange rates rather than interest rates are the preferred choice as the instrument of monetary policy in Singapore. [10]

(b) Discuss the likely impact on the Singapore economy of quantitative easing and low interest rates in the US and the UK. [15]

For questions with two parts, it is important to figure out how Part a) is related to Part b). Knowing how Part a) leads to Part b) will help you to plan a more coherent two-part answer which considers the information provided in the preamble in a critical and logical manner. In Part a), you would have established that exchange rates are preferred over interest rates in Singapore for various reasons. Part b) furthers this line of enquiry by asking you to consider the effects of interest rates in other economies (like the UK or US) on Singapore.

Part a) is a relatively typical question on the theoretical mechanics of monetary policies in Singapore. You would not need to bring in the UK in Part a). Rather, you will need to explain how both exchange rates and interest rates work as instruments of monetary policy. Thereafter, you should apply contextual knowledge to explain why managing exchange rates is more beneficial in the Singaporean context. You can bring in a comparison with a country that utilises interest rates, for instance, the US. In the example, it is also worth noting that the questions focus on Singapore despite the preamble focusing on the UK. This indicates that one or both of the questions might expect you to analyse how external factors affect Singapore’s economy. We have established that bringing in the UK is not necessary for Part a), however, for Part b), the question demands that you consider how low interest rates in the UK and the US might affect Singapore’s economy. You should consider both negative and positive effects in your answer. In essence, the question expects you to examine the Singapore economy’s relationship with the US and UK’s economies.

Again, for this question, possessing external knowledge about the state of Economic affairs in the world might benefit your analysis and evaluation. In 2009, the entire world was going through the end of The Great Recession. Many economists described it as the most severe recession since the Great Depression as many economies, including that of the UK and Singapore, had shrunk so considerably that government intervention was at an all-time high. Having contextual knowledge enables you to base your discussion on more relevant examples that better support your application of Economic theories.

Now that you understand what the essay question is asking of you, the next step is to plan your essay. Planning an A Level H2 Economics essay is not quite the same as planning an argumentative essay. Instead of requiring you to take a stand, the A Level H2 Economics essay is discursive in nature. It demands that you objectively explain the Economic principles that you have been taught. As such, when planning the A Level H2 Economics essay, your focus should be on shortlisting the concepts relevant to the question.

Do you have any tips on how I should plan my essay? My plan often ends up cluttered and confusing, which means I don’t follow it when I’m writing!

The first thing Zenith recommends for you to do is to write things down. Many of us get easily disoriented by our own influx of thoughts which just seem unstoppable. This is especially so at the A Level H2 Economics exams where we are under extreme pressure to perform. Writing down the concepts which come to you spontaneously prevents them from slipping out of your mind again. Thereafter, you should shortlist the concepts you want to mention in your essay. It is likely that some of the concepts which came to you are more relevant than others. In any case, do not overload your essay with too many concepts! You should not be covering an entire theme in one essay! Decide which are important for mentioning, and in what order. Next, briefly jot down how you will elaborate on them, and also remember to note down any relevant examples you can think of. After that, you’re good to go! Start writing your essay and try to complete it within 45 minutes. Where relevant, also include clearly labeled diagrams in your essays!

Here is an example of how you can plan your essay by mapping out what you should include in each paragraph:

Fig 3. An example of an essay plan based on a question from the 2012 A Level Economics Paper 2

For questions with 2 parts, there is one extra crucial step that you must do when planning your essay. You have to make sure that none of your points in either of the parts overlap. Despite being split into two parts, markers typically read your answers as a cohesive whole. This means that any overlapping points are only credited once. If you do not have sufficient content points aside from the overlapped one, your marks will be jeopardised. Avoid this by planning for the entire question before writing. In other words, you should plan your answers for both Part a) and Part b) before commencing to write Part a). It is also advisable that you attempt the questions in the order in which they were set as Part a) typically sets the foundation for Part b), as explained earlier.

Combating the A Level H2 Economic essays can feel frustrating at times, but with Zenith’s comprehensive approach to the essay questions, we trust that you will be able to ace your exams! A Level H2 Economics might not be the easiest subject, but you can definitely get the hang of it with the right guidance and constant practice! Keen to join your peers in a conducive learning environment with round-the-clock support from a team of expert educators who truly want the best for you? Join our H2 Economics tuition programme in Singapore today! Otherwise, you can contact us for a free trial or hear more from our students here!