- Remember that questions were set last year, so your focus should be on hot topics from 2021, such as Hong Kong’s zero-Covid policy
- Time management is extremely important on the exam, as well as studying high-frequency theories that appear every year
The DSE economics examination is as much an assessment of a student’s grasp of concepts as it is a test of their ability to apply them. Young Post spoke to Daniel Yu, a seasoned tutor at King’s Glory Education Centre, for tips on breezing through this year’s exams.
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Focus on key topics in 2021
To start, Yu reminds candidates that the examination questions were set last year, and focus should be placed on hot topics of conversation in 2021. He suggests students pay attention to Hong Kong’s “zero Covid” policy and lockdown measures versus vaccination.
“Last year’s examinations only covered CuMasks, and there are so many other dimensions of the pandemic to delve into. Among these are the impact of lockdowns and strict restrictions versus mass vaccination and the effects of vaccination on economic activity,” he says, while pointing out that this could be a probable data response question in which candidates may be asked to compare the effect of these two strategies to different stakeholders.
Other topics worth paying attention to include the hike in the US inflation rate; power shortages in mainland China and related case studies on economic theory; Hong Kong’s digital consumption voucher schemes; the upcoming Northern Metropolis and its effect on AD-AS model; as well as the basic ideas of cryptocurrency and how it affects the demand for money.
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Master concepts and theories
While having a good understanding of these hot topics can give you an edge on the examinations, Yu stresses that candidates should not neglect “high frequency” theories that never fail to come up every year.
These “high frequency” concepts and theories include price elasticity of demand, disequilibrium analysis, externalities, deposit creations and trade theory. He explains that these questions usually take up six to seven marks and are relatively easy to score as long as candidates have a solid understanding of the concepts and their applications.
Yu also provides some insight as to how to go about tackling these concepts and the various scenarios they could be presented in. For instance, disequilibrium analysis could be pegged to questions related to how Covid-19 affects Hong Kong’s airlines and hotel accommodation. “This is a common weak spot for many students because while they are familiar with the theories, they often don’t know how to apply it to scenarios,” he says.
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As for externalities, he recommends having a firm grasp on positive versus negative externalities, and again applying them to possible scenarios in the pandemic, such as weighing the positive impacts of vaccination against the possible consequences of not doing so.
In terms of deposit creations, Yu suggests focusing on application and calculation. “These are usually the make-it or break-it questions – you’ll either get full marks or zero,” he says, while emphasising that more attention ought to be paid to the inflationary gap of the AD-AS model this year.
Another regular topic that will almost always come up on the last question of Paper 2 section A is about absolute advantage, comparative advantage terms of trade, and gain of trade.
“If students can spend time revising these topics instead of wasting time on tips and tricks, they are almost guaranteed a good score,” he says.
Acing data response questions
According to Yu, many candidates lose marks on data response questions because they fail to use the data provided to explain their answers. Citing the 2020 exam, Paper 2, Section A, Question 11 as an example, he says that students had to compare the different impacts of each strategy to tackle traffic congestion and evaluate from the perspective of the various stakeholders for both strategies.
He adds: “Similarly, if we have a question on Covid-19 lockdowns and zero-Covid policy versus vaccination [to live with the virus], candidates need to analyse the impact of each strategy on the different stakeholders.”
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Candidates should aim to spend 45 minutes on Paper 1, i.e. one minute per question, and set aside at least 15 minutes to check their answers. As for Paper 2, Yu recommends a “45 minutes rule”, i.e. 45 minutes for Section 2A; 45 minutes for data response questions and 45 minutes for the remaining Section B questions. This should leave candidates with a 15-minute buffer to go over their answers thoroughly.
He also provides a brief guideline as to how much to include for each question. For one-mark questions, candidates can simply write down concepts without elaboration. Two-mark questions call for both concept and elaboration; an example is needed for a three-mark question.