A Guide to writing Essays in Economics Exams

The following guide outlines the major steps that should be followed in writing Economics essays under examination conditions. It should be noted that the style of essay writing is different to other subjects. They need to be more technical, factual, precise, combining theory and analysis of contemporary issues.

1. Carefully read the question. Unpack the question to ensure that it is fully understood. Take great care with the verbs: the precise meaning of these can be found on The Board of Studies website. In particular, make sure that you distinguish between: outline, explain, analyse and evaluate.

2. Underline the key words in the question. Take care to analyse and refer to the stimulus material provided in section 3 essays.

3. In most cases, divide the essay into 2 or 3 component parts. Allocate your time [35-45 minutes] between the components. Ensure that adequate time is allocated to the final section/avoid spending too long on the first sections.

4.Spend at least 5 minutes planning your essay. This should outline both the content and the essay structure. You will need to consider which information is relevant and which information can be excluded. Keep asking yourself ‘am I answering the question?’

5. The essay should answer the question in the order in which it is asked. It should follow a logical sequence. Sentences should be short and there should be frequent use of paragraphs. Economic terminology should be accurate and precise.

6. Themes and concepts should be explained in detail and supported by evidence [economic theory or economic data].

7. Diagrams should be accurate, fully labeled and referred to in the body of the essay [e.g. Fig. 1].

8. Most essays should have a balance of: economic theory, relevant examples, precise definitions, current policy and relevant statistics.

9. Care is needed with expression. In particular, explanation of causes needs to be precise, and impact of events/policies must be explained [this will usually be a chain of events].

10. Finally, there are no short cuts to improving essay writing – it does require practice.

In brief, your essay should include:

  • A plan

  • A brief introduction

  • A main body in a logical sequence that follows the direction of the question

  • Economic terminology

  • Economic theory

  • Economic statistics

  • Diagrams

  • A brief conclusion