Revision for an Economics Exam

Perhaps unfortunately, revision correlates strongly with exam success. It’s reasonably simple: without any revision, you will not do your best.

A General Revision Guide

  • Make a revision timetable but ensure two things a) it’s not too strict and b) you have time off. By having a little bit of flexibility you allow for any illness or an unexpected, unavoidable trip out. The law of diminishing returns can be applied to revision: beyond a point, each additional unit of input yields less output. For example, eight hours of straight revision, with no breaks is not going to be as beneficial as four two-hour periods, so allow for breaks.
  • Timing: if you aim to achieve, say, five hours of revision in one day, start early. If you begin at 9.00am you will be finished by 3.00pm (allowing for one hour’s worth of breaks) giving you the rest of the day free. If you only started at 3.00pm, the idea of going on until 9.00pm will be daunting.
  • Work in a nice, relaxing place. Personally, I found revision during Neighbours disappointingly unsuccessful (albeit a little more exciting). Some people can settle into a library and remain focused: others like to work in a room or at their desk. Find what works for you. Just ensure you have space, light and you’re comfortable.
  • Everyone learns in different ways. You may find it useful to re-word notes, or make “flash-cards” for important points, or read aloud, or reconstruct diagrams, etc. It’s likely that you already know what works and what doesn’t work for you. Also, if you don’t feel it’s a useful exercise it’s unlikely that you will do it well. Nottingham University has a good revision guidebook.

Revising the Subject

  • Evidently, there are bits of your course that you enjoy more than others. If you have a personal dislike for micro but a love for econometrics, revise your micro first. If you begin with your favourite topic, by the time you get round to the one you dislike it’s unlikely you will do it in as much detail.
  • Work on your weaknesses. Don’t just revise the topics you already know, there will be areas which you understand less than others. Focus on these as well.
  • When using a model, ensure you understand it, the output, its assumptions, expected outcomes etc.
  • Use past papers when you revise. These will give you a great idea of what to expect and, if you have past papers from a few years, you may be able to spot some recurring question topics. Don’t rely on these 100%. Always have a backup!
  • Practice. Allow yourself the same amount of time you expect to have during the exam with a similar sort of question. This will give you a good idea of what to expect, what you are good at and what you need to focus on.
  • Sometimes it is best to learn from topics from different sources. This can give you a greater, more rounded idea of the subject. Finding other ways to learn can be a little tricky. Here is a link to some useful online resources.
  • Economics builds on knowledge. You will study micro and macro in every year of your degree. This means some subjects will require greater detail. It also means, as is so often the case in economics, subjects overlap. What you may have learnt in one module is equally applicable in another. Use this knowledge.

Photo by MyNameIsHarry on Flickr

During your exam

  • Diagrams are essential in economics. It’s unlikely they will have to be more than a sketch but make sure they are big enough: a third of an A4 sheet is good. However, this may differ depending on your institution. Check with your tutor first.
  • Make sure you explain your diagrams and graphs. Explain their relevance within the answer.
  • Structure your answer. Give yourself time to read the question. Write down a quick plan of what you want to write about and stick to it. If it is a short essay-style answer have an introduction, main body and conclusion.
  • If you can’t answer a question, move on. You can come back to it later and staring at a question you don’t understand will make you panic.

A few extra bits…

  • Know where and when your exam is. Make sure you have plenty of time to get there. You don’t want bus delay stresses on an exam day.
  • Make sure you have a good sleep the night before. Caffeine tablets are not the same as sleep.
  • Take a drink into the exam with you.
  • Make sure you know what the exam structure is like. 50 short questions, 3 out of a choice of 10 short essay answers or 5 compulsory questions…?
  • Make sure you know how long your exam is. This will let you plan your time before you go into the exam, making you feel organised and ready.
  • Cramming? Some people say it works; others don’t. Do whatever is right for you. Panic cramming should be avoided.
  • Relax, you have done all of the revision, you are prepared and trust what your head knows!

More tips

Justin Craig’s revision tips are aimed at GCSE but are applicable to university level as well.

Economics Specific Revision

For a range of different online resources, lecture notes, worksheets, quizzes see the economics network site. Each resource type is divided into different areas, eg macro and econometrics as well as being at three different levels (introductory, intermediate and advanced). Make sure you are revising the right things.