H1/H2 Economics: How the Common Last Topic Change Will Likely Affect You

And so it is confirmed. Trade & Globalization is removed for students taking H2 Economics, and Exchange Rate/Monetary Policies are removed for the H1 kids. We are certain that the first reaction is that of relief, as it should; having less chapters to study is definitely going to make A levels this year that much easier to ease the load on everyone in a very very difficult year. However, students should be thinking about how to better utilize their newfound free time to better maximize their performance in their exams.





1. Less questions to attempt means every mark is worth more


From a percentage standpoint, having 15 marks less to do in a H2 CSQ means every remaining mark is worth more than 2% of the entire CSQ as compared to 1.66% previously. To put this seemingly minute difference in perspective, whereas it would take 3 marks to make a grade jump previously, now 2 marks could be the difference between a B and a C. This should not necessarily be a bad thing, but this does mean that more attention should be paid to mastering the rest of the topics. This should be possible since you have more time to revise and analyze question types for the other chapters. For the H1 kids, the impact is more minimal, since a removal of 10-15 marks will not increase the weightage of the remaining questions substantially. Nonetheless, it does mean that you should expect a higher frequency of questions focusing on the remaining two macroeconomic policies (fiscal & supply-side), which indirectly increases the weight of these topics.


2. [H2] Fewer choices for essays mean that you need a more robust essay strategy


Truth be told, our view (even last year) has been that removing trade & globalization isn't really the best thing for H2 kids. Trade & globalization represents a highly predictable topic in terms of essay style, and the knowledge requirement is not excessive onerous since there is a lot of overlap with macroeconomics. If you loved trade & globalization, then unfortunately it is back to the drawing board for you in terms of essay strategy. What we generally recommend is to pick market failure (generally the most predictable essay style), while making sure that you are competent in macroeconomics, since there will at least be two questions and you have to do at least one of them. Macroeconomics is also tricky, since the demarcation across topic lines isn't really clear (for example it is hard to define a question as AD/AS or macroeconomic goals, since you need one for the other) and you are generally faced with a question that potentially has an insanely large scope. The key here is to practice as wide a range of macroeconomic questions as you possibly can to give yourself a good sense of the common essay styles such that nothing can really surprise you. If you can do two macroeconomic questions, then together with market failure you are well covered. If you can only do one of the two macro, then it really is a throw up between demand & supply and market structures. In terms of question predictability, demand & supply offers a more well-defined essay style, but could be extremely trying in terms of the market and the contextual requirements of the question. On the other hand, market structure is a huge topic with a highly unpredictable scope, but less onerous in terms of contextual requirements. A good strategy would be to master the basic structure and theoretical scope of demand & supply essays and be prepared to jump at attempting a question that offers a market that you are familiar with. On the contrary, prepare for "easy" market structure questions (yes there are easy questions, 2013's question on recession comes to mind) that you are able to deliver a high quality answer, and avoid questions that are convoluted and simply impossible to decipher.


3. A narrower syllabus means fewer possibility of cross-topical questions


This tends to be a greater problem/benefit for H1 kids, since the removal of 2 of the 4 macroeconomic policies mean that you enjoy greater predictability about what policies to include in your answers. The flip side is that if you struggle with fiscal policy and find monetary policy easier then you are out of luck, so be sure to spend more time understanding the nuances of how fiscal and supply-side policies work together to solve your macroeconomic problems. For the H2 kids, the removal of trade means that there is you would not need to use macroeconomic concepts in trade/globalization questions, which should reduce the burden of revision. This should also help you zoom in on the potential topic areas tested in the CSQ. It could be hard to distinguish between a question that merely requires you to discuss the impacts of changes in (X-M), vs a question that is really about free/trade protectionism. This problem will now go away, and you should be in better shape because of it.


Conclusion


It is fair to say the removal of common last topics is some sort of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it likely means that you have to attempt fewer questions, which is a clearer advantage on the CSQ than the essay paper, since it is possible to avoid a trade question altogether. On the other hand, it does demand that you are better at the rest of the syllabus since there is no opportunity to pick up cheap marks on easy questions from the removed topics (especially trade and globalization). That said, the removal of the common last topics should not be a source of additional stress. It was after all instituted to reduce your revision burden and the scope of the exams. By properly re-priorizing your revision time rather than seeing it as an opportunity to goof off, you should be able to make the most of this change.



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