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Economics HL definitions struggle

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Hi everyone. 

I am currently taking Economics HL and I am struggling with the concepts. I get all the calculations right, but I always seem to mess up the writing parts no matter how much I study the definitions. Are there any recommendations on what I could to to learn the definitions better and with a broader understanding of them? or maybe a site that could help me with them? 

Thank you!

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Well, first up, you need to figure out where does the issue lie. Are you struggling with concepts because there is an issue with the very basic concepts or the later ones.

Once that is identified, if I were you, I would write up model part (a) answers and have your teacher look over them. This should help you start to create a level of understanding of what's going on. 

Alternatively, if you really "get" the math, try to break down the formula. What is it trying to say? Largely (from what I remember), IB econ math is very close to the theory; and therefore you can certainly reverse engineer your understanding.

Hope this helps.

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First, if this is your 1st year in the IB, it means that you've just started it and you're at the beginning of the course. As a teacher and examiner, I have to emphasize that it's absolutely natural that you're struggling with the writing parts, because this is something to be practised a lot over the course until you get confident about what and how to write. I'm not sure what you meant by the 'writing parts' - Paper 1 style essay questions or Paper 3 style short answers (explanations), but have a look at my summary below about how to get essays right in IB econ to maximise your score.

What to include in your essay answers:

  1. Always start with defining all the economic terms in the questions.
  2. Explanation + diagrams: your explanation of the economic concept in question should be so clear that someone without prior economics knowledge should understand most of it. In 99% of the cases there is a relevant diagram that you can draw. If you’re not sure what diagram to show, you’d better not waste time on something that might turn out irrelevant. However, if you know how to draw a relevant diagram, make sure to do the following:
    • Apply correct labelling on all curves AND the axes
    • Make sure you explain what is going on in your diagram(s)
  3. Real-life examples: the reason why this is important is that you should be able to show that you understand why all the above mentioned economic theory is useful for us, who live in a real world (and not in simplified economic models). If you are not giving examples, (i.e. if you don’t connect the theory to real-life), then your knowledge of economic concepts is not very useful. That is why it’s essential to give real-life examples. Also, real-life examples should be real → so please avoid making up examples yourself.
  4. For part b) questions only: for the 15 mark questions, you should evaluate a topic in question on top of all the above. This means that you need to speak about at least one (and perhaps more) of the following:
    • short-run vs. long-run
    • pros and cons
    • efficiency (welfare loss)
    • effects on different stakeholders

Also, I need to point out that it is absolutely essential to understand the concepts as most of what you learn at the beginning is going to be the basis of your future econ studies. If it's not clear in the book, ask your teacher or classmates who get it. I'm currently working on revision notes that answer the official IB econ syllabus questions one by one, let me know if you're interested.

Hope this helps, get back to me if you have any questions.

EconDaddy - IB Economics teacher, examiner and tutor


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