Every school has a different way of approaching economics essays and that is probably the way you will learn to write them.
Always much more of an English person, I considered Economics my weakness and really struggled in the beginning to write perfect essays. However, with a lot of practice I developed a formula that served me well in Trials and the HSC. I ended up getting a 97 in Eco and I think learning to write successful essays played a big part in that.
I’ve seen lots of example essays given out by teachers as exemplars that are heavy on theory (which is also important) but light on current information. I think this is where the real marks lie. Economics essays should be logical, clear, succinct and simply written. Here then are some of my tips for developing a kickass essay style:
Your introduction should provide comprehensive but succinct definitions of all the terms in the question. Go to your textbook (especially the Riley one) for the best definitions and have lots of them up your sleeve in exams. Then briefly outline the answer to the question and list the points you will discuss, kind of like a table of contents. If it’s applicable, you can also give some brief information on the current situation in the economy i.e. statistics, currently policy stance etc.
Here’s a top-notch example of an introduction for the following essay question:
Analyse the causes of an appreciation in the value of the $A and the impact of a sustained appreciation of the currency on the Australian economy.
An exchange rate refers to the price of one currency expressed in terms of another in order to give a measure of its purchasing power. The two main ways of measuring the $A are through a bilateral measurement (the $A measured against one other currency, usually the $US) or through the Trade Weighted Index, which measures the $A against the currencies of Australia’s major trading partners, weighted according to their importance to Australia’s trade. Since financial deregulation in 1983, Australia has had a floating exchange rate – meaning that the $A is determined by the market forces of supply and demand. An appreciation of the $A – which refers to an increase in the purchasing power of the currency – will therefore occur as a result of either an increase in demand or a decrease in supply. The major impacts of an appreciation of the $A include its effect on the BOGS component of the Balance of Payments, inflation in Australia, issues associated with international competitiveness and appropriate policy responses, as well as the valuation effect on Net Foreign Debt.
So you’ve covered all the definitions, given a bit of background and outlined how you’re going to answer the two parts of the question. If this was still 2012 or 2013 you could briefly discuss the recent sustained appreciation and give some stats…but you get the gist.
Now for the body! Before even putting pen to paper, it’s important to consider the most logical structure for the essay. I used to spend about 5 minutes during the exam quickly coming up with a structure and it was never time wasted. For example, you might split the essay into different parts to address different sections of the question separately. Or you might structure the essay in terms of cause and effect, domestic vs. global influences etc. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s logical. You can’t have stuff all over the place.
In a great Economics essay, every paragraph will include simply-written but sophisticated theory. Unlike English, it’s best not to use big words and complicated senses. You just have to get to the point, and kind of treat the marker like an idiot…this means you have to explain every step in a process. Where applicable, include a clear diagram with an explanation. After the theory and the diagram comes the current information. SO IMPORTANT!! An Eco essay is nothing without some info from the real world, and a really good essay will be covered in numbers.
You can be original with your conclusion. Obviously, sum up your points but it’s a good idea to include a brief discussion about the future of the issue e.g. consequences for policy, for the economy etc. Let’s use an essay on China as an example. In your conclusion you might talk about how China will have to find other sources of growth, will have to address growing environmental challenges…
Here’s my own conclusion:
While globalisation and government policies have contributed to increased trade, investment and financial flows and a consequential improvement in living standards, China still faces various challenges to its future economic growth and development – particularly environmental issues, disparities between regions and rebalancing the economy’s sources of growth. If government policies prove successful in managing these issues, China may very well become the world economic superpower in future decades.
I hope these tips prove useful! And the one thing I can’t stress enough is practice, practice, practice. Sounds like the most obvious thing in the world but if you really commit to it, you’ll start seeing the results.
Don’t forget that you can submit practice essays or parts of essays to the HSC CoWorks online marking service and it will be marked with constructive feedback within 72 hours.