I always liked to think of the two essays that form the last 40 marks of your HSC paper as perhaps the most important part of the economics exam. Essays are also one of the most misunderstood parts of economics with many students complaining that they still don’t know how to write a ‘good essay’.
Unlike many other HSC subjects, economics essays are a bit more open ended in terms of how you structure each paragraph. However, there is a simple scaffold for the overall essay and some other simple things that may help you increase your mkarks come exam day.
A good plan is the first crucial step. Planning makes clear to you what you are specifically addressing and gives you a good structure to refer to for the rest of the essay. It also helps you to keep track of the original question you are answering, making sure you don’t stray too much in your body paragraphs (a very easy thing to do).
A good plan should use a full page of your booklet. Make it clear, big, and easy to refer to when writing. Set out the structure of each of your paragraphs as well as a flow chart of your overall argument so make sure you don’t wander off halfway through.
Introductions, make them pop!
Introductions can make or break a good essay. Starting your essay with an engaging and on topic introduction that directly answers the questions will immediately set you apart from most other papers.
A good introduction has 3 main parts:
1. Definition of the key syllabus principle of the essay
E.g., Definition of Fiscal policy if it is a fiscal policy-based essay
2. Overview of the basic theory behind the key principle
3. Overview of recent trends in the past few years
How do I structure each paragraph?
While there are several different ways to structure a paragraph in an economics essay, I personally have always preferred the method below. It introduces your point, explains the theoretical base behind it and then walks the marker through its causes and effects before finally providing evidence from real life examples. By doing this, you are essentially taking the marker step-by-step through the thought process for your argument. This indicates a deep understanding of what you are writing about. It also structures your essay in a way that first demonstrates your grasp of the syllabus theory and then shows your ability to integrate it into current trends within the economy.
3. Causes & Effects
a. Policies / recent occurrences related to this topic
5. Extension (“In recent weeks”)
a. This should be very recent trends in the economy
When writing your body paragraphs also make sure that while you do write using economic language, you are walking the reader through all economic theory and the logic behind your argument. Many students fall into the trap of not fully explaining economic principles or theory because they just assume it is common knowledge. Markers want to clearly see your understanding of the syllabus and they are marking accordingly.
We like TRENDS and stats
Trends and statistics are a very important part of your essay. They are the icing on the cake and will be help.
For essays, yes you want to incorporate as many stats as possible when writing but it is better to use overall trends. Being able to say that “over the past 10 years the economy has grown on average …” is better than saying “economic growth this year was ….”. Trends usually illustrate your large point a lot better and indicate a better understanding on the economic situation.
In total, you should try to aim for around 10ish trends/stats in your later paragraphs on causes & effects and policies. If you can also incorporate some into you introduction and theory, do it, the more the better.
Diagrams are fun!
Another fundamental part of economic essay writing that is sometimes overlook is diagrams. Putting a diagram into your essay to demonstrate some theory (e.g., nonaccelerating inflation rate of unemployment) is quick, easy and makes your essay look much more professional. Diagrams should take half a page of one of the HSC booklets (don’t worry about taking up too much space). They also must be ruled, titled labelled and directly referred to and explained in the essay.
Ending your essay
The conclusion of essay should just be a quick summary of your argument and then include a little bit of a ‘what’s next’ section. In two to three paragraphs, use your analysis and examples to make a hypothesis on future developments in the next couple of months/years. This is another good way to make your essay stand out even at the end by continuing to demonstrate a deeper understanding of what you are writing about. Don’t make it too long however, the conclusion should be at a maximum, half a page.