Essay Memorisation Technique

Inspired by Ali Abdaal.

Making the essay the easy part of the exam:

If exams are a long way away and you are about to read this, I can only envy at what you are about to hear. I do not say this to exalt my advice, but because this innovation to the way I revised for Economics was made just over a month before the first exam. Although it still served me very well, it was a fairly stressful crash landing (but please keep reading if you are in the same position, because I truly believe it will be well worth it).

I made the change when I came across a video by Ali Abdaal about his method to memorise perfect essays where by sticking to the two pillars of all effective learning (being spaced repetition and active recall) combined with his perfect essays, he was able to smash the final exams with ease and with great certainty. It is important to adopt this strategy in your own way, but I believe the barebones would be similar. The key is to mind map different topic areas within micro and macroeconomics and then create very well thought out, logical essay plans for specific questions based on past papers, or from other sources. Give your essays a bit of flare by including in the plan a case specific piece of information to wow the examiners. Keep doing this and whilst creating, once there is a sufficient pile of created plans, recall the past plans and keep a log of when each plan was last recalled (which is where active recall and spaced repetition come in so the plans come to your mind effortlessly by the time you get to the exam).

There are a variety of things you can use to make the plans and other than your own discussions with friends, through websites, Times/Financial Times articles (and your own brain), I found the Economics Today and the Economics Review magazines to be phenomenal at applying Economic analysis to today’s news items.

This is not the be all and end all of exam revision, because data response practice cannot simply rely on rehearsed answers, but nonetheless, this will make the essay less daunting and like it did for me, it could even work towards being able to duplicate a plan you have memorised for a question in the paper you will actually sit (I suppose there are only so many combinations of questions they can ask). But once again, remember that you can achieve all marks without introducing ‘outside knowledge’ – perhaps it is learning the planning process itself in the context of A-Level Economics that is most valuable here.

Now I have introduced the technique, I have rummaged through my Economics notes and found the essay plans I had made. I will steadily refurbish and upload them to give you some inspiration/ideas of how to create your own and feel free to copy- anything that will make your life easier is what I am aiming for. By the way, this is useful for people of all ability ranges. If you really struggle to make a methodical, well-structured plan that hits the mark scheme like a hammer on the head of a nail, or even if Economics is your thing, but sometimes you feel you don’t maximise your potential on the longer essays, this technique will serve you very well. Like a parent’s hand guiding the hand of a child when they form their first letters, ‘perfect’ essay plans will make your exam essays better.

See the uploaded pdfs for the various plans I have prepared.

As a side note, on some of the plans, I may branch off ideas about multiple things you can talk about, but the key is to pick two points. This was certainly true for the Edexcel A-Level specification in that you have to hit the Assessment Objective twice to get into the different bands. I don’t believe there is enough time for three points, especially considering Edexcel (and most other specifications) want depth over breadth. They want coherent chains of analysis. My teacher once said that understanding the idea of a chain of analysis (this happens, so that happens, which leads to this etc) is like the difference between someone teaching the alphabet and saying “it starts with a and ends in z” and another person actually teaching the whole alphabet “a,b,c…z”.

In preparing for the longer essay questions, practice making brief plans. These should consist of your two main points, each having a KAA (Knowledge, Application to the question i.e. not textbook answer and Analysis i.e. Economic theory and logic used to explain your point) and evaluation (which might offer a different perspective, point out assumptions you have made and weaknesses in your argument point). The plan should also have a judgement for the 25-mark question (specifically for Edexcel A-Level Economics) and ensure you have evidence from the question, extracts or your own knowledge to back up your points.

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