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BUILD UP EXAM-FOCUSED

CASE STUDY ANSWERING TECHNIQUES

Build up exam-focused case study answering techniques

JC students taking the A Level Economics are strongly encouraged to hone their case study answering techniques to achieve excellent grades. The case study questions (CSQs) contain unseen data that may comprise of a series of statistics that must be interpreted with the aid of economic tools. Also, several featured extracts are included in the CSQ to provide multiple perspectives relating to an overall theme set in the question. For instance, a CSQ may be based on the theme of ‘stagflation in the US’. As such, some students are confounded by the abstract terms that will undermine their confidence in handling the exam questions. Hence, it is imperative for students to develop case study skills to tackle a wide variety of CSQs, even if the topics covered seem foreign to them.

Read and understand the passage

The first step to doing well in the CSQ is to learn effective reading skills. Some students commit the error of browsing through the extracts and economic data without the intention to extract out the underlying implications. Instead, it is strongly encouraged for students to annotate the key phrases and sentences found in the extracts.

Students can use a pencil and explain briefly what certain key phrases mean in their own words. For example, for a demand and supply CSQ extract that describes that there is ‘high demand for tour packages in the year-end season’, students can identify the possible demand factors to explain the increase in demand for tour packages in point form. The annotation of points in the extract will serve as useful aids in their answering of questions that test the ability of students to extract and interpret information.

Carry out trend analysis

Another CSQ skills that students can develop is trend analysis. Trend analysis involves the study of the unseen economic data, in which students will examine the changes in economic conditions. In some occasions, students will be asked to identify the possible reasons for the economic trends. Generally, trend analysis questions are arranged at the earlier parts of the CSQ and carry fewer marks.

To maximise the grades attained in the trend analysis questions, students must recognize the different possible economic data formats, such as graphs and tables. Then, students are advised to identify the direction and rate of change. For example, typical questions may require students to identify the change in price trends for certain good or service. In more complex questions, at the macroeconomic level, students are required to compare the economic indicators of different countries and explain the reasons for the differences.

Apply economic principles

CSQ skills development also involve the application of economic principles. The depth of elaboration depends on the weightage of the marks and the chapters tested in that question. This application requires adequate experience and familiarity of questions to achieve the desired outcome of attaining higher grades. For example, students are required to substantiate their answers with the use of Aggregate Demand (AD) components to explain the reasons for the changes in economic conditions for a country.

Furthermore, the application of economic principles includes the use of economic diagrams to support the points. Usually, questions will specify the necessity of diagrammatical illustration. Like the essay writing component, the use of a diagram will require a short write-up on the interpretation of diagram.

Provide evaluative statements

Students who attain higher marks than others in CSQs attribute their results to the use of evaluative statements to support their answers. It is highly encouraged for students to develop the habit to elaborate their points. Examiners have commented that students lose marks because they did not go beyond the identification of factors. Another possible reason is the inability to elaborate and evaluate the issues of discussion as students are unable to relate the discussion based on the context of the questions like the nature of industry or countries involved. Therefore, students should practise doing point elaboration and process explanation to expand their scope of answers.

Set organized and broad perspectives for 8- to 10-mark questions

The last few questions hold the larger weightage of the overall marks for CSQ. These 8- to 10-mark questions are usually phrased with the ‘discuss’ word to emphasize on the provision of multiple perspectives for the answers. As such, students must prepare a basic outline to determine the direction of answers. Then, students should broaden the areas of discussion to ensure that their answers satisfy the requirements of the questions and thus maximise the marks that can be attained. Through a systematic approach, examiners will comprehend the flow of argument.

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