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Answering Short Answer Questions

Answering SA questions effectively is one of the most important parts of the HSC economic exam. Some of the main questions that students ask are.

How much should I write?

What do I write?

How long should I take?

Making sure you address each of these issues well is essential in your preparation and exam planning. Spending the right amount of time on each question, knowing what will get you marks in an answer and understanding how long your answer must be for questions will make the difference between band 5 and band 6 students.

This section of the exam is worth 40 marks (out of a total of 100) and you should aim to spend about 1 hour on the section at most. The SA section is the backbone of your exam and answering each question quickly and succinctly is essential.


When structuring your short answer questions, you want to make it as easy as possible for the marker to see all the marks from the question. This can be achieved by using short, to the point sentences, underlining key words and leaving spaces on a longer question. Doing this, makes it easy to skim your answer and see each of the marks in the question within your answer.

For SA you always want to write to the number of marks. If it is a 2 mark question the marker will be looking for two things, normally a definition and short explanation which should only be 2 sentences. You should be actively thinking about what you have written, how many marks that will have ticked off and how many more you need. If you are ever unsure if you have got all the marks, use a trend or stat on the topic with your answer.

You should also aim to incorporate at least 1 or 2 trends/stats in any 4 mark or above questions. This demonstrates a greater understanding on the topic and will make markers more inclined to award marks that are 50/50.

Structure Practice

Here is just a little demonstration of how to structure a longer answer SA question. This was a question from the 2019 HSC

Explain the limitations of using monetary policy for economic management of the Australian Economy. (5 Marks)

1. Definition of Monetary policy (1 mark)

2. Limitation 1 (Time lag) (1.5 marks)

a. Explain the limitation

3. Limitation 2 (Can address objectives simultaneously – trade off) (1.5 marks)

a. Explain the limitation

4. Current Australian economic stat / current stance of monetary policy and issues with it (1 mark)

When writing this question, it should only take you a maximum of 5-7 minutes. Don’t over-answer. It can feel good that you are going into a lot of depth and showing everything you know, but you can’t get extra marks! You do however lose time on other questions. So be concise and be disciplined.

Answering the question!!!

This is one of the most basic, most talked about and most poorly done parts of short answer questions. Many students will talk about the theory relating to the question and maybe some examples but don’t use the theory to address the question directly. Be careful of the directive words in particularly (e.g. Discuss: is to present arguments for and against). This is one of the easiest ways that you can lose marks in your exam and vice versa one of the easiest ways to pick up marks.

Time Management

Time management is also a big issue for this section of the exam, a lot of students will get to a short answer question, not quite know how to answer it and resort to simply regurgitating everything they know in the hope that somewhere in the mess of information there is a kernel of an answer. This takes a lot of time and usually doesn’t result in full marks for the question. If you are unsure on a particular question the best way to approach it is to tick off as many marks as you can, leave it and come back to it later (i.e., definition, basic theory). It is more than likely while leaving it to percolate in your mind while you answer other questions, you will find the answer you are looking for. It is always better to leave yourself more time for the essays which will be a lot more demanding and require more writing. Keeping the short answer question section to an hour at max is the most efficient use of the time you have in your exam and allows you much more freedom to finish your essays well and then read over everything at the end.

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