If you got an A or B for your prelims, you shouldn’t be too far off from an A at the A Levels. Your only likely problem is that you might possibly become complacent and choose to sideline this subject completely to focus on other subjects – that may end up causing you to do worse off at the A Levels.
C or D – you have a problem in 1 of the 4 areas listed below
E – Probably 2 areas
S or U – probably 3 areas or all of it
- Time Management
- Essay Writing Skills
- CSQ Application
- Content Mastery
I’ll try to provide some quick, simple tips for each of the 4 areas to help you with your revision.
Many don’t quite realise this – but the number 1 killer at the examinations is time management.
I always tell my students this – it doesn’t matter how much you know, and it doesn’t matter how much you write.
It matters, within the 45 minutes timeframe given – are you able to provide an in-depth, on-point essay of sufficient length?
For CSQ, have you trained yourself to answer the CSQ in an extremely disciplined manner – exact amount of time to read the extracts, read the questions, and for each question, allocating the right amount of time to answer each question depends on the number of marks.
It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are. If you can’t deliver within the time limit, you can’t score.
You want to score 15 to 18 marks on average for the 3 essays you have to write, not score 20 marks for 2 essays and leave 1 blank. Take note!
PS: Also, DO NOT compromise handwriting for speed.
How do we get time management right?
Practice makes perfect. Time yourself, doing each essay. Only rest when you are finally able to get it done within 45 min timeframe. Likewise for CSQ. Keep to 1 hour for each CSQ if possible while not stretching beyond 1 hr 5 mins.
Essay Writing Skills
Skill No.1: Understanding the Question Requirements
1 common mistake by students – they don’t plan. They don’t read deeply into the question enough. They don’t tear the question apart and make sure that they have accounted for every single requirement of the question. They just love to get the rough idea of ‘which topic’ the question belongs to and then just vomit everything they know about the topic and expect to score. That’s tough luck. You have to make sure that every point that you write – is helpful towards answering the question!
Many students ask – how do I even know what are the requirements of the question?
- define key words, explain key concepts required by the question
- make use of your rulers, highlighters, to break down the phrasing of the question and understand how each word plays a part in your understanding of the requirements
- ask yourself – what exactly does the examiner want to test me with this question. (read the question once more)
- plan your answers around the question requirements – and make sure each paragraph you write directly goes back towards answering the question.
One good way to start –
- Go grab past year prelim questions with answers from the school bookshop
- Attempt outlines for essay questions
- Check your outlines against the suggested answers provided by the schools
- Read the answers, see what you are missing out in your own outline
- After reading the answers, go back to look at the question again, and see specifically what does the answer attempt to address – how can we reverse engineer the question requirements from the answers.
Skill No.2: Basic Elements of an Essay
Do a quick-check on the following questions
- Do you bother to write a proper introduction, with the key definitions defined, key concepts explained, provide a summary of the key points that you will be writing in the body and provide a stand/answer to the question?
- Do you write ridiculously long paragraphs? Do you consciously take the effort to do paragraphing – whereby each paragraph has ONE key point, well explained and elaborated and serves to link back to the essay question and is satisfying an essay requirement?
- For each point that you are writing, did you incorporate the 4Es –
- Explain (provide an in depth explanation about the point you are trying to bring across)
- Elaborate (provide an Economics framework / link the point to Economics theory and try to address the question)
- Examples (self explanatory, provide examples relating to context of the question)
- Evaluate (an opinion, but substantiated with theory & data)
*Important Note for H1 Students: The worst idea you can have is to ignore your essay segment. You think that essay segment occupies less marks as compared to the CSQ segment, so you can kind of ignore it – You are thinking very dangerously. Understand this, you have only ONE essay to do, if you don’t do well in this essay, there is no 2nd or 3rd essay unlike the H2 students to help you average out the marks. So essay is equally important!
For CSQs, there are not that many quick-fixes to improving your score. You have to actually do them, to improve.
If you are failing your CSQs, I’d recommend that you plough through at least 20-30 CSQs from now till the A Level exams.
Generally, there are 3 types of CSQ questions
- Trends (1m – 4m)
- Linking data to economic theory (2m – 8m)
- ‘Policies’ and ‘solutions’ (6m – 10m)
If you are failing your CSQs – don’t start doing CSQs first, read through past year / this year prelim papers with school answers provided.
Look at the way the question is phrased, and look at how the school answers the question, and try to understand why the answer is phrased in a particular way to answer the question. In other words, try to understand how to formulate answers for CSQs first.
Go through at least 10 – 20 CSQs, reading the CSQ, the questions, and understand the answers and why they are answered in that certain way.
And of course, after that, start practising! To see a significant improvement in your CSQ grades, you need to try no less than 20-30 CSQs.
with less than 5 weeks to your A Levels, there is no time to be reading your lecture notes. You should try to tackle the above 3 areas. While you are studying or practising for your essays and CSQs, you should have your lecture notes immediately by your side for reference.
When you practice your essays, and CSQs, you are already actually doing content mastery at the same time.
Also, don’t be afraid to Google for data to substantiate your answers during your revision. Extra figures and evidence helps!
Remember, don’t be demoralised or affected by your prelim results. Your prelim results provide you a platform for you to figure out your weaknesses and gives you the tools to work on them. So, go work on them!
Meanwhile, come book consultation appointments with me. I’ll be releasing information about consultation sessions available with me soon.
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