Top 5 Essentials for Studying Economics

IB Economics can sound a lot more daunting and confusing than it really is. By breaking the subject down, and understanding exactly what the course wants you to know, the highest grades can be achieved by anyone. Here are my top five essentials for studying economics:

1. A Good Textbook (Ellie)

IB Economics is a subject with lots of moving parts and students can easily feel overwhelmed if they do not have clear answers to their questions and queries. Asking a teacher isn’t always possible, and even if it is, their explanations won’t always make perfect sense. Having a reliable textbook can readily clear up any confusion you may have at a moment’s notice.

My personal recommendation is Economics for the IB Diploma by Ellie Tragakes. It is the best textbook I’ve ever used in any subject ever. When I was doing the IB, students would simply refer to it as “Ellie”, and the teachers would openly admit that the textbook made their job redundant.

Be warned however: I’m not saying that your route to a seven should be to buy this book and go and study it under a rock for two years. It is just one piece of a larger strategy. But nevertheless you need to help yourself as much as possible in IB Economics, and this is a great start!

2. Structured notes

The IB Economics syllabus can seem sprawling and interconnected, but really each syllabus point is its own piece of information which can be learned separately from the next. This means the entire course can be broken down into bullet point notes. These are much easier to digest than essays.

Take, for example, my economics essay notes. As you can see I was able to break down each syllabus point. Do this for the whole syllabus and, in the words of Marco Pierre White, “it’s easy, and it’s peasy”.

3. Pre-planned essays

The exam is time-pressured, and you will spend the entire time writing. Most students are scared of this, but there’s no reason to be! If you have already planned the essay topics which can come up (and there aren’t that many) then the exam is a great opportunity for you to show your knowledge.

Pre-planning essays on common topics allows students to break free from the nerves in an exam as they can be confident that what they are writing will cover all the necessary topics at the right time. 

A current Economics student of mine has a fantastic grasp of economic principles (which is the hard part), but struggles with structuring her answers and expressing that knowledge in a cohesive way. We worked together to come up with the following example essay plan on sugar tax:

  • Define demerit good and negative externality
  • Explain why sugar consumption carries a negative externality Diagram to show negative externality
  • Explain diagram
  • Introduce proposed tax increase with article facts
  • Explain why it works to remove the externality in theory Show with diagram
  • Explain how policy affects consumers and consumer welfare Explain how policy affects producers and producer welfare Explain how policy affects government budget
  • Pros of policy
  • Cons of policy
  • Name possible solutions to cons of policy

Try doing the same for your own studies! (See my notes above.) 

4. Practise Diagrams

“There are lots of lines, the axes are the wrong way around, and I can’t remember which shape the supply curve is.”. These are common problems which students have in IB Economics. By focusing too much on the content of their essay, they forget to practise diagrams.

Diagrams carry a disproportionate amount of marks and they are so important in explaining economic theory. Don’t go into an essay without knowing what your diagram will be. Practise drawing them over and over until you have a really firm understanding of what goes where, and what it explains. They’re quite fun to draw as well (in my opinion at least)!

5. Examples

Finally, examples. You won’t need to use them to get a six, and getting a seven is very possible without them. But why wouldn’t you? Students think that they are expected to wax lyrical about niche stories they have read in the Financial Times, but it is so much simpler than that.

Simply mentioning an applicable example in an essay demonstrates to the marker that you know what you’re talking about. So next time you plan an essay, just chuck in a simple time in which the economic theory you are taking about actually was tried in practise. Off the top of my head, if I were writing an essay about raising interest rates to slow inflation, I may mention that the Bank of England tried that in 2006. It’s as easy as that! 

I hope that these tips help you along your IB Economics journey! If you’re looking for more content-specific explanations check out our YouTube channel. If you’re looking for one-to-one support check out our tuition services here.

Written by Miles McCollum

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