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How to choose an essay question for your economics exam.

It's time. You have revised your brains off for a year and you are in the exam room, in front of your economics paper. You are given the option to choose one essay question out of three. Which one do you choose?

Let's say that you have to choose one question out of these three questions:

Option 1

Discuss whether a government should provide subsidies to families to spend on housing. [8]

Option 2

Discuss whether inflation harms a country’s industries. [8]

Option 3

Discuss whether or not it is an advantage to keep a firm small. [8]

We do not neglect the fact that the time available to you in your exam is limited, so making a plan for each question may not be the best option.

1# Should you choose a question on a topic you have revised?

  • If you have revised a topic more than the others, it doesn't always mean that choosing an essay question related to that topic is the best option.

For example, let's say you choose option 2.

Discuss whether inflation harms a country’s industries. [8]

You may have 100% textbook knowledge about what inflation is, its causes and its impact on the economy. However, you may not know specifically how it harms a country's industry.

So before choosing a question, make sure you'll be able to answer the exact requirements of the question.

2# Should you choose a question because you have practised a similar one before?

  • It's a mistake that many students make: writing a pre-prepared answer for their exam.

Let's say you choose option 1

Discuss whether a government should provide subsidies to families to spend on housing. [8]

Maybe you prepared for a similar essay question such as

Explain the advantages of a subsidy [8]

Even though the questions look similar, the answers will be completely different. For instance, you are asked in the exam question to discuss subsidies with reference to the housing market and not merely state its advantages.

So do not fall victim to your biases and identify the keywords in the question before choosing it.

Don't get me wrong, practising essay questions IS important. It helps you to identify your weaknesses, question trends and a writing strategy. However, you must appreciate the fact that no two answers will be the same when it comes to economics essay questions.

3# Should you choose one 20 mark question or two 10 mark questions?

  • The saying goes, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Many students may prefer to choose two shorter questions than 1 long question. However, others are confident enough to tackle a 20 marker question or a 25 marker question. Which option you should take depends on the time available to you and your level of knowledge of the topics being examined.

Conclusion Some students choose their questions based on gut feeling, while others try to make an educated decision. The bottom line is: don't rush into writing before being certain that you have chosen the best option.


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