Exam Review – Economics

Higher Level Economics paper review, by Shauna Mujic.

Overall, the new economics paper was challenging, but engaging and topical. The extra choice granted for this year was welcomed by all students. There was a definite move away from the need for “rote learning” and an emphasis on students to apply the textbook theory and having their own opinion on some real-life economic issues.

Section A (short response questions):

The short questions were possibly the more challenging element of this exam, with new concepts, such as the Human Development Index (HDI) and the presentation of the Equi-marginal principal in a different way to usual. This section also contained a lot of engaging questions, with very illustrative charts and visual tools, such as one illustrating Netflix Subscription prices per month in different countries, requiring students to relate this to Price discrimination. There was also a topical and macro theme to this section, including the KBC Bank Ireland being fined by the Central Bank, ECB interest rates and the balance of trade. Overall, the choice requiring students to answer 5 out of 10 questions here, made this difficult section still manageable for most students.

Section B (long/extended response questions):

Students welcomed the variety of long questions in this paper, where all questions contained a mixture of different topics from the various strands. The new presentation of questions will have been a challenge and even the well-prepared student was required to think on their feet, use their initiative and apply their textbook knowledge to some abstract questions throughout this section.

The section opened with a very manageable question on Oligopoly and market concentration, which also contained some theory from Costs of production (economies of scale). There was also a very approachable and topical question on Globalisation, Ireland’s corporation tax, the infamous “Brexit” and the European Union. One part of a question required students to illustrate and explain “excess demand” (a shortage) in the market for PlayStation 5 gaming consoles, which the strong student will have welcomed. Other questions contained a huge mix of topics and tasks, such as requiring students to analyse the trend of Ireland’s inflation rate, improving Ireland’s international competitiveness, the multiplier and the minimum wage rate. There was a very interesting question on the massive decline in the number if passengers handled by Irish airports in 2020 and students were required to come up with reasons for the increase in homelessness in Ireland, and suggest ways in which the government could address this issue. This is a real-life social issue, that will not have been studied in a textbook, but all students at this point in their economics education will have been very capable of offering some very valid points for. There was also a tricky part of one question, on how government investment in the National Broadband Plan is important for Ireland’s international competitiveness (keeping costs down for businesses, attracting FDI, etc).

Some students may have been disappointed that there was not more content on demand and supply in this paper. Surprisingly, there was also a lack of strand 1, which surprised us all, as being the new and “unifying” strand, we expected to see a great presence of it.

Overall, students who knew the important concepts and material and who gave themselves the time to adapt this to the real-life nature of the questions in this exam will have been rewarded with the opportunity to shine.