Choosing your A levels can be a challenging time. In the UK, we specialise at a relatively young age, meaning that choices you make at 16 will have a not-insignificant influence on your future employment prospects. But choosing your A levels shouldn’t be this daunting, so, in this article, I’ll cover some common questions many have surrounding A level Economics. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll feel more confident in your decision making, whether that’s to take Economics at A level or to achieve an A* if you’re already studying it.
I have never studied Economics before; will I be at a disadvantage?
In 2022, almost 36,000 students sat their A level in Economics. In the same year, fewer than 7,000 students sat their GCSE in Economics. Therefore, very few students who study A level Economics have studied it prior. There is thus no reason that because you haven’t studied Economics at GCSE, you couldn’t do the A level. What is crucial is that you want to study it! Similarly, there’s no prerequisite for other subjects to have been studied at GCSE, and it is assumed everyone will have GCSE Maths, so they’ll teach you everything you need to know. It’s the same at university – you won’t need to have studied Economics at A level to study it at degree, but you will need to have studied Maths to A level.
Which A Levels go well with Economics?
This question is subjective. First and foremost, I would say take other subjects which you would enjoy studying! You don’t want to be in a position where you’re stuck for 2 years attempting to study something you quickly realise is not your thing. If you don’t like a subject, it can also make it drastically more difficult to engage with, and thus get a good grade. Once you’ve decided which subjects you like (and hopefully there are a few!) it would be useful to take a forward-view to post-A levels. Do you want to go to university, do an apprenticeship or other vocational course, go straight into work, or something else? If you want to go to university (namely, specific Russell Group universities) they will ask for specific A levels. The Russell Group website has a great tool that shows you which subjects support your application to different university courses, even if you’re not sure on what to study in higher education. For apprenticeships and other vocational courses, you’d be looking for a Level 4 (Higher) apprenticeship, which is the equivalent of a foundation degree or above. These usually require 2 A levels, and you can find a list of apprenticeship courses here. It’s completely up to you!
What is the A Level Economics course syllabus?
The course is broadly similar across exam boards. Exam boards are the companies which put together the syllabus (what students will learn) and create the exams. Exams are slightly different in structure across boards, but all boards registered with the qualification regulator Ofqual test for similar skills at the same level. For example, all boards make sure students write longer-answer responses which may comprise over half the marks per paper. There are 2 main examination boards for A level Economics – AQA and Edexcel. Over 18,500 students sat their A level Economics with Edexcel in 2022, whilst over 13,500 students entered with AQA. Just under 3,000 sat their A level in Economics with OCR in the same period, another exam board.
All syllabi cover the fundamentals of supply and demand. They all cover micro- and macro-economics, including a typical capitalist firm and different types of market structure. This is alongside sections on the global economy and globalisation. They discuss different economic systems, often focussing on free-market economics versus economic systems with more state intervention. They aren’t notably different, and your school won’t give you a choice on which specification you’d like to do.
How do you get an A* in A Level Economics?
Below are some key tips to help you achieve the top grade in your A level Economics exams. Whilst not exhaustive nor guaranteeing you the highest grade, they will definitely help!
1. Read the Specification closely
This might seem obvious, but don’t solely rely on your teacher to provide you with all the content or resources! Take the learning process into your own hands. The specification provides a clear overview of the A level course and is widely accessible on exam board websites like AQA and Edexcel. There are break-downs of each topic which you can link to what you’ve done in school and add more too if you save the specification as a pdf or word document to edit yourself. Use it to traffic-light on which points you’re clear, and on which you need to focus.
2. Go through all available past papers, mark schemes, and examiners’ reports
Again, these are all available on the exam board websites.
I would say these are the most useful resources when attempting the highest grade at A level. Exam technique is key, as it doesn’t matter if you know the syllabus inside out but can’t apply it as you need in the exam. Longer answer questions hold the most marks and are the hardest to obtain, so these are vital. The questions, mark schemes, and (for Edexcel) exemplar answers are all available online, so look through these and understand how best to improve. They’re also a great catch-all revision activity combining exam technique (writing answers in line with what the exam board wants) with content revision (you need to know what you need to write!).
The Examiners’ Reports are very useful for seeing what mistakes have been made in previous years. They detail advice to students for future exams and the errors made in that series. Some universal advice across papers and exam boards includes using diagrams even when not prompted to use one. It is also a good way to demonstrate clearly to the examiner that you know what you’re talking about, and really helps you to explain your answer because you need to contextualise it. Alongside this, practise the different sections on the exam paper under timed conditions, as sometimes students can run out of time in the exam. Finally, studying current developments in economics that are relevant to your specification is crucial to being able to reach the top marks. If you’re able to give specific real-world examples of labour, product, or service markets and show what is unique about these markets. Go beyond the specification and enrich your answers. Have a look at resources like the Financial Times which can keep you updated on current economic events.
3. Focus on areas you are less confident with
After you’ve outlined which areas you need to focus on in the specification, address these until you’re completely confident with them. Start with content revision and read additional articles on the topic with a simple google search. Creating mindmaps and flashcards can be useful, and then move on to exam papers. Start with the mark scheme so you’ve a clearer idea of what they’re looking for, then write some sample paragraphs and essays. Ask your teacher if they wouldn’t mind marking it – they’re usually happy to!
If you need any more revision guidance for A levels, read our Guide to A Level Revision.
When attempting to revise, space it out! Don’t cram, as this can often worse than no revision. Ensure that content is in your long-term memory by coming back to it around 4-6 weeks after you’ve initially covered it, seeing how much you can recall. Maybe use a longer-answer question to prompt you, as you’ll never be asked ‘tell me everything you know about a monopsony’. Go back through your notes and try to answer questions open-book, then closed-book to test yourself. Activities where you’re forced to recall from memory even when you’re not certain are great to improve your confidence, as this is exactly the sort of thing you’ll need to do in the real exam. A great tool for Economics revision is tutor2u. It has all the topic videos you’ll ever need for your A level in Economics, summarising key content in short videos. Hopefully, by following all the advice here, you’ll be able to maximise your chances of getting an A.
A Level Economics Tutors
Keystone has a range of specialist tutors who can assist students approaching A Level Economics. The tutors we work with can ensure students think broadly about the subject they are focusing on, considering all angles and approaches carefully.
Read more about our A Level Economics tutors.