A level Economics
What is the A level about?
The A level in Economics provides a coherent combination of microeconomic and macroeconomic content. Pupils will develop an understanding of economic concepts and theories through critical consideration of current economic issues, problems and institutions that affect everyday life, drawing on local, national and global contexts. Macroeconomics looks at the big issues affecting the economy as a whole such as unemployment, inflation, growth and globalisation. Microeconomics looks at a smaller scale such as the pricing of individual products like housing or gold and the salaries paid to different people. Taken together, they give a complete understanding of the economy as a whole (as well as global economic issues) that will be valuable in career terms as well as bringing an increased understanding of current affairs and how the world works. Economic theory is taught and applied to real-world current affairs and issues.
What questions are economists asking?
- Is national happiness going to be a better way to measure economies than GDP?
- What is the future of work in a world of artificial intelligence?
- Should ‘Corona cycleways’ become the new post-confinement commute?
- How and why do economies benefit from reducing inequality?
- Is the sugar tax an effective way to tackle the social costs of obesity?
- How can we make housing more affordable?
- Should China offer debt forgiveness to developing countries?
- Should the government introduce tougher rules on gambling?
- Could a universal basic income help to reduce the risk of future economic shocks?
- Is there a ‘right’ price for oil?
- Will coronavirus reverse globalisation?
- What is the economic impact of the shutdown of the English football season?
- Who benefits most from online retailing, consumers or businesses?
- What future for cinemas in a world dominated by Netflix and Amazon?
- Which policies are effective in curbing the plastic pollution crisis?
A level Economics requires logical thinking and social awareness which develops the ability to debate, both in class and on paper. There's often no right or wrong answer when it comes to economics, so you need to be able to present arguments clearly, supported by relevant examples.
You can't rely entirely on your textbook. Economics is the life-blood of political debate, and you need to keep up to date, following news online and in print to pick up on economic, political, business and social issues. All students receive a subscription to The Economist over the 2 year course to aid this.
A level Economics is a two-year course covering both microeconomics and macroeconomics throughout. Students begin by building microeconomic foundations and looking at market failure. They then switch to macroeconomics to look at the UK and global economies and the policies used to influence their success before returning again to microeconomics to study theory of the firm.
The key areas of study for Microeconomics are:
- Scarcity and choice
- Demand and supply in product markets
- Demand and supply in labour markets
- Resource allocation
- Costs, revenues and profits
- Market structures
- Market failure
The key areas of study for Macroeconomics are:
- Macroeconomic theory
- Macroeconomic objectives
- Policy instruments
- International trade
- Non-UK economies
- Economic development
All assessment is through three exams at the end of the course. Each paper contributes to one third of the candidate’s final marks.
Paper 1 - Markets and business behaviour
Paper 2 - National and global economy
Paper 3 - Micro and macro economics
Whom does the subject suit?
Anyone with an interest in knowing more about the way the world works. Students take Economics in combination with a very wide array of other subjects – everything ranging from Art and English at one end to Further Maths and Physics at the other. Economics complements Politics, Geography and Maths A levels very well.
A common misconception is that a strong mathematical background is important for the A level – this is not true. It can be a requirement at university level if students choose to pursue certain courses (such as BSc Economics). For the A level the mathematical content is nothing more than being confident with handling data, reading charts and graphs, calculating percentage changes and averages.
An ability to deal with abstract theory and then compare that theory with reality is an important skill whilst also having an interest in current affairs and following the news. Many students have taken up Economics as a third or fourth subject ‘mystery choice’ only to find that they enjoy it so much they decide to study it at university.
Where could it lead?
Economics is an academic subject that is highly thought of both by universities and employers. Economics degrees have been found to be the second most lucrative degree five and ten years after graduating (after Medicine). Studying economics will help with all career paths – whether in the private sector, public sector or in the charity sector. Students go on to work in many areas including academia, journalism, banking, finance, and the civil service.
Most economics graduates don’t work as economists. Instead, they use their skills in a diverse range of careers: analysis (financial, market, data), public policy, consulting, accountancy, research, charity/ development, market regulation.
Studying economics gives you a wide set of skills that you can take into a wide range of different careers.
Analytical skills – you will be good at distilling and analysing complex problems Market insights – from designing and regulating tech industries to understanding consumers, you will have an excellent understanding of markets and incentives Working with data – you will likely be comfortable with handling data and using it to generate real-world insights.
What books can I read?
- 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (Ha-Joon Chang)
- Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built (Duncan Clark)
- Behavioural economics – a very short introduction (Baddeley)
- Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy (Haskel and Westlake)
- Capitalism: 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know (Jonathan Portes)
- Divided (Tim Marshall)
- Doughnut Economics (Kate Raworth)
- Drunkard’s Walk (Leonard Mlodinow)
- Economics for the Common Good (Jean Tirole)
- Economics: A User’s Guide (Ha-Joon Chang)
- Game Theory – a very short introduction (Ken Binmore)
- Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today (Linda Yueh)
- Growth Delusion: The Wealth and Well-Being of Nations (David Pilling)
- Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them—And They Shape Us (Sharman and Fishman)
- Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics (Richard Thaler)
- Poor Economics: Rethinking Ways to Fight Global Poverty (Banerjee & Duflo)
- Prisoners of Geography (Tim Marshall) superb on international relations
- Risk Savvy - How to make good decisions (Gerd Gigerenzer)
- The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (Mariana Mazzucato)
- The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Brad Stone)
- The Great Divide (Professor Joseph Stiglitz)
- The Next Fifty Things that made the Modern Economy (Tim Harford)
- What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Michael Sandel)
- Who Gets What - And Why: Understand the Choices You Have; Improve the Choices You Make (Al Roth)
- Winner Take All (Dambisa Moyo)
Which websites can I look at?
The UK’s outstanding economics website has a whole array of economics based resources, and an excellent blog which will give a great feel for the subject.
The CORE Project is an open-access platform for anyone who wants to understand the economics of innovation, inequality, environmental sustainability and more.
Discover Economics is a new three-year campaign, launched in October 2019, in partnership with leading economics organisations. The campaign aims to broaden the appeal of economics to potential students, change their perceptions of economics and economists, and increase diversity among economics students.
Pearson Edexcel - ‘Economics A’
There is no requirement to have studied Economics at GCSE. Students require a grade 6 in English and a grade 5 in Maths at GCSE or equivalent.
Economics is an academic subject that is highly thought of both by universities and employers. Studying Economics will help with all career paths – whether in the private sector, public sector or in the charity sector. Students go on to work in many areas including academia, journalism, banking, finance, and the civil service.