Apart from understanding the structure and the essential components of an essay, the writing style is important for A Level Economics essays as well. Mr Koh follows a PAF framework which stands for Precision, Accuracy and Focus.
Precision – this means writing in short, simple sentences, i.e. make generous use of full stops! Some students try to string together many point thinking this saves on time. Not only do they spend more time trying to make the overall sentence coherent, this practice also compromises on the use of ‘connectors’ which critically indicate the change in tone in a statement.
Consider the following excerpt from a student’s essay:
Singapore adopts an exchange-rate policy given limitations of an interest-rate policy, as Singapore is a small and open economy and we need to manage import-push inflation.
It becomes less clear whether the underlined statement explains why Singapore adopts an exchange-rate policy; or explains the limitations of interest-rate policy. Breaking it up into two sentences below, with the use of ‘furthermore’ as a connector avoids ambiguity.
Singapore adopts an exchange-rate policy given limitations of an interest-rate policy. Furthermore, Singapore is a small and open economy and we need to maintain a strong dollar to manage import-push inflation.
Accuracy – we mentioned earlier that definitions and diagrams are like low hanging fruits. In short, spend some time memorising your definitions and practising your diagrams. Secure the low hanging fruits and avoid losing unnecessary marks here.
Sometimes, Economics students who are unfamiliar with the actual definitions tend to write a huge chunk of words, hoping examiners can pick out valid points from their answer. This strategy is a waste of precious time and is unlikely to succeed, since examiners value precision as well. In short, get your definitions right.
Focus – there are two main methods to pick out the focus of an essay question.
- Keywords: underline the key words and try to break down the meaning of the word into a more granular form (i.e. what I call the ‘1-down’ approach). Very often, this helps to outline the various aspects that you need to consider in the essay. By combining the 1-downs from various key words in the question and examining how they interact with one another, it will be easier to derive your arguments.
- Sanity Check: this is a very useful, but often neglected trick. It is common for Economics students who are writing under time constraints to “spam content” to feel more assured about their exam effort, which inadvertently causes them to write off-topic and end up with a L1 or low L2 banding.
Essentially, the sanity check means to look at your topic sentences and ask whether you are answering the question in the most direct way possible. Some paragraphs are meant to provide background information and may not answer the question directly. However, as a rule of thumb, in our economics tuition classes, at least 75% of your topic sentences should pass the sanity check (i.e. too much background information does not contribute towards answering the question!).