1) Your department
Each department should provide some material about the possible content of each course. This is useful but has a number of shortcomings. For instance, departments aren’t able to rank one lecturer as better than another, and as discussed above, the quality of teaching can make a real difference.
Of course, the information on the content of each course will be as accurate as you will get. But you might want to cross-reference it with other sources of information to get another perspective.
2) Former students
While it is not practical to canvas anything but a small sample of students in the years above, their advice can be helpful. For example, they often have the clearest ideas on who are the most inspiring teachers (although make sure that the course lecturers aren’t changing before you start).
But be careful that the people that you ask aren’t simply relating their personal experiences and assuming that the same will apply to you. Just because a former student didn’t enjoy econometrics, for example, doesn’t mean you won’t – it’s a matter of preference. Try to bear this in mind, and ask why a particular student had a good/bad experience – and whether it is likely that you will have the same experience.
3) Careers advisers/lecturers
Good for the ‘next step’ element – with regard to jobs and further study respectively. See ‘After Your Degree’.
4) Other sources
Another alternative is our short discussion of common modules below. These should help explain what a subject is all about, and why it might be worth a look (we hope!).
Magazines and newspapers can be a source of information – although journalists sometimes get things wrong, and even when they don’t, they tend to focus on the more ‘sexy’ or eye-catching news stories. Too often these bear little relation to what you might find on an undergraduate degree course.
Online information can be a little better. Economics ‘blogs’ such as voxeu.org are typically written by people who are more informed than most journalists (although this varies from blog to blog).
If you’re feeling especially enterprising, you might consider browsing the recommended textbook of a particular module to get a feel for it. You might even go to a lecture to assess both the material and the teaching quality (as option choices are typically made a term in advance).