Economics Data Response Advice

Something that forms a large part of the exam and is a very important skill to acquire as an Economist, is the data response. This is at the heart of Economics, where you have a context specific case study in the form of various extracts and must apply Economic analysis to these real-world problems. But beyond reading broadsheets, to get good at this and prepare in the best way possible for the exam, one needs to practice many data responses and yet there have not been enough past papers, for example for the current Edexcel specification to practice in this way. That is where legacy papers come in. In the time nearer to the exams, I was using data responses from Edexcel IAL papers, from the previous specification Edexcel papers and even from other specifications at times. In fact, the old Edexcel papers used to have two data responses per paper and there were four papers, which were split at paper 1 and 2 being the equivalent of AS micro and micro, then paper 3 and 4 being equivalent as A-Level micro and macro. Obviously, it is a bit more problematic that we have a synoptic paper 3, but if you master the data response skill with many micro and macro practices, the paper 3 will be a comfortable adjustment that you will find you can easily make.

Also, another issue you might complain about is that marking them is difficult, firstly because the old specifications were marked against slightly different assessment objectives and secondly because it is preferable for a teacher to mark essay-based work. But I assure three is no need to worry, because so long as you have drilled in your head the current specification’s learning objectives, you will easily be able to apply the mark scheme points to the current assessment objectives. Keep the KAA and Evaluation level descriptions close at hand and you will be able to effectively leverage a large stock of data responses. The key things I kept in mind for Edexcel was that we need two points and that it either going to be an 5,8,10, 12- or 15-mark question, so round up or down the number of marks where appropriate.

The data response part of the exam is, without a shadow of a doubt, a major chunk and messing this up will massively impact your final grade. Therefore, getting this right is paramount for exam success. In becoming a good Economist, being able to read a news item or report and applying Economic theory for analysis is important. But in terms of A-Level exam technique, it is also important not to over complicate this.

The most important advice I can give you is that everything you need in applying Economic theory is in the extract. Edexcel (or other exam boards for that matter) do not want you to have to rely on extra information you’ve read about. Personally, I believe I put too much emphasis on relying on things I had read from newspapers or case studies. Keep this simple, because if you rely on information you’ve read from outside the exam, you are probably not answering the question as specifically as you can.

It is easy to over prepare for the data response, but the key is to keep is straight forward and simple. Think knowledge, application and analysis (where application is coming 90% of the time from the extract and where there is at least one diagram for 15 and 25 mark questions), then evaluate and do this for two times. So practising for this is essentially making sure you can do each thing flawlessly.

Having said that, in practising this skill, one of the best ways is to use past papers. The key is drilling in the method of implementing KAA (knowledge, application, analysis) for each of the two points, followed by evaluation for each point and adding a diagram in analysis for the longer questions. Do not over complicate it. This is not a postgraduate essay and so if you try to write one, you will run out of time and you grades will suffer! Don’t be fooled.

Places you can get these resources from include:

  •  Edexcel legacy papers
  • International Edexcel legacy papers (IAL)

Also, you don’t need to worry about different mark questions- just replicate the mark pattern for the latest Edexcel specification. As a side note, if you manage to go through all of them data responses, you have overworked. Here’s a tip: do not overwork, because this is going to have a large opportunity cost in terms of your well being and on what you can do for other subjects.

Something I wish I had known is that for data responses, you must never overwork the skill. Because if you overwork it, you will most likely deviate from the simple strategy of two points, KAA, evaluation and include a diagram for longer questions (plus of course a judgement for the 25 mark question). The most useful thing that practise can help in this drill is the application part. Being able to extract things from the extract and apply it to the question is the make it or break it, so don’t mess it up. If you can’t do this with diligence on the exam day, your grade will suffer.

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