Course Title Advanced GCE in Economics
Examination Board AQA
Subject Code A Level Award 7136
Thank you for your interest in A Level Economics. It isn’t easy to tell you in such a limited space exactly what this subject is all about so if you think you might be interested then please ask Mr Dawson either at one of our events or by email for more information at any time. At this stage, syllabus documents and exam board information can look quite daunting so if you want to know what really interests us in the world of Economics, then please look at the BBC Business/Economy news homepage and you will get a good idea. These stories will change daily, and that is what is really exciting about our subject – it is very much about what is happening in the world today and what the future holds for us all. We feel that there has been no better time to study Economics in the last 20 years, as there is so much happening of deep interest to us all.
So what are these events that are so interesting to Economists? Well here are just a few to whet your appetite:
So Donald Trump wants to make America ‘great again’, and one way he wants to do this is by the US importing fewer goods made overseas and instead manufacturing more goods in their own country. A good idea? On paper, sounds great. But we as Economists would look at this idea from a few different angles, and one of these would lead us to conclude that this would not only be bad for the USA, but for the rest of the world as well.
We voted as a nation to leave the European Union; ‘Brexit’ as it has become known. We wonder how many voters truly understood the arguments on both sides? Who might actually have been able to tell us what the impacts of that decision might be on jobs, imports and exports, inflation, interest rates, government spending and so on? Not many? Possibly. Economics students, however, know the arguments. They might not agree, but they have the information.
And then there is Jeremy Corbyn. He has promised a very different approach to the UK’s recovery from the 2008-9 financial crisis to the one used by first the Coalition and then Conservative governments. He says let the Government spend more money to create jobs and to help businesses, and the public sector. The Conservative government has said no; we need to cut back on spending – what is known as ‘austerity’ – because we shouldn’t take the country further into debt and store up problems for the future. This is very interesting to an economist and actually gets right to the heart of what Economics is all about – choices about how we use our scarce resources.
How do you feel about inequality and poverty, both here in the UK and across the globe? We see migrants wishing to enter wealthier countries in search of a better life, we see great wealth alongside abject poverty in many nations, we hear about a ‘living wage’ for some and huge salaries for others, we hear talk of ‘globalisation’ and how it has impacted on these issues. Economics can help you to understand these very important matters.
And finally, from a host of other possibilities, we have the fact that we have an ageing population in the UK. We are living longer, which is great, but it means that we need looking after in our old age. We need a pension and we need caring for. That is very expensive. To be able to pay for this we need the economy to earn a lot more so that the Government can raise more tax revenues. The problem is that at the moment the economy is not growing enough and it looks to be a bit of a tough task to get the money to properly look after the NHS, schools and Universities, all the roads and rail networks, the emergency services, social services, the military, superfast broadband and so on. How do we, as a country, change that? Economics helps you to explore this question, and all the others, and provide you with the knowledge and skills to come to your own conclusions.
To find out more, some might say have a look at an Economics text book. Well maybe. But they can be a little ‘dry’ sometimes. Instead, try a book that is a little more of a story about our subject. One that tells you what it is and why it is unique, rather than try to teach you the finer details of the subject. You could try this one: ‘Economics: The User’s Guide’ by Ha-Joon Chang. It has some tricky sections but in general it is a great read and will give you a good idea as to what we are really about in Economics.
What makes our subject unique, and of great interest to Universities and employers, is the way we go about our studies. We don’t just describe what we see. We build economic theories, or models, to try to both explain and predict the behaviour of economic ‘actors’ – and by that we mean consumers, firms, governments, importers and exporters, stock market traders, commodity and currency traders and so on. So we learn the theories and then build arguments around those theories to try to propose solutions to all the great economic challenges facing us today, both here in the UK, in Europe and across the globe.
Economics is a valued qualification because this approach helps develop many transferrable skills. Not only will you handle data and do some calculations (don’t worry if you are not a great mathematician, you don’t have to be!) but you will also learn how to argue a point based on evidence and economic theories. This involves writing well structured, detailed, intelligently argued essays – 5 of them on the A Level exam papers in total.
Finally, some of you might have some misconceptions about Economics so let’s deal with some of those now:
1. You do not have to be super great at Maths to do A Level Economics. A GCSE 6 is fine. At University, Economics BSc(Hons) degrees do require Maths A Level, but most BA(Hons) qualifications don’t
2. It is not all about money, as you can see from our examples above. Financial markets are just one part of the course, and a very interesting one
3. It is not just about careers in banking, finance, accountancy, actuarial science or the civil service. It is very helpful for those careers, but the transferrable skills are such that Economics students can find themselves in a very wide range of careers.
So we hope we have managed to spark a little interest in our subject. Here are some of the more formal bits that we need to tell you:
Course Content (Summary)
Individuals, Firms, Markets and Market Failure (Microeconomics)
1 Economic methodology and the economic problem
2 Individual economic decision making
3 Price determination in a competitive market
4 Production, costs and revenue
5 Perfect competition, imperfectly competitive markets and monopoly
6 The labour market
7 The distribution of income and wealth: poverty and inequality
8 The market mechanism, market failure and government intervention in markets
The National and International Economy (Macroeconomics)
9 The measurement of macroeconomic performance
10 How the Macroeconomy works: the circular flow of income, AD/AS analysis, and related concepts
11 Economic performance
12 Financial markets and monetary policy
13 Fiscal policy and supply-side policies
14 The international economy
Economics is offered at all the leading universities. They will require a minimum of AAA or AAB for access to most degrees. Each university will have their own entry requirements and it is worth checking these before choices are made. Access to BSc(Hons.) and BEconSc courses will require A Level Mathematics, with a high grade in most cases. BA (Hons.) degree courses rarely require Mathematics at A Level.
Employment prospects for Economics graduates are very good and actually amongst the best in the UK. Government data is shown below, and relates to average earnings five years after graduation:
‘Economics graduates are fortunate to be one of the most employable and well paid groups of graduates. A survey of 18,000 students examined the level of salary that students earned ten years after graduation from their first degree. It found that graduates in economics had the second highest level of salary, exceeded only by clinical dentists, putting them above law, accountancy, and business management and significantly ahead of other social sciences’.
To succeed in Economics
- Have a genuine interest in current economic affairs
- Be willing to read extensively around the subject from a variety of sources
- Have a genuine desire to understand our global economy and how events shape our own lives
- Be comfortable with all aspects of the assessment. They require data analysis, numeracy, extended writing and the willingness to work hard to master complex economic language and concepts.