by Scott Cawfield
School of Business
How to Do Better
On Economics Tests
There are four topics
covered in this section: "Six Steps to Help You Prepare for a Test or
Exam," "Seven Strategies for Writing Economics Tests Effectively," "Tips
for Answering Different Types of Questions," and "Your Follow-up and Evaluation."
Six Steps to Help
You Prepare for a Test or Exam
1. Ask the instructor
about the format if she doesn't offer this to the class. Expect that
some instructors will be helpful, but others won't. Questions to ask
the instructor about are the types of questions, the approximate mark
allocations for various types of questions, and the basis of the test (whether
it is more on text, or more on notes).
2. Try to figure
out how closely the test will follow the learning objectives that have
been established for the course. Normally they are available in the
3. Ask others how
they are preparing. They may be willing to share some of their notes
with you, or you can trade material to make up for gaps in your notes.
You might also be able to get your classmates to share other materials
they found interesting or useful with you.
4. Set a study schedule
that fits your particular fatigue threshold. Some people get bored easily
when they are studying and need blocks of time separated by breaks during
which they watch TV, listen to music, exercise, or just "chill out."
5. Prepare your
own pre-test; try test material from the study guide provided with your
book, if the package is available. If it's not, ask the instructor to
make arrangements with the publisher's sales representative to get the study
guide. Try the self-study exercises on the website for your book. See if the
instructor has made
some arrangement with the computer lab for you to have access to a test
bank for the course.
6. Exercise more
than usual prior to a test; this will relax you, and make you more productive.
Eat nutritionally balanced meals before an exam
with lots of vegetables and fruit but little sugar.
for Effectively Writing Economics Tests
1. When you open
the test booklet, write down all the key information that you think
is going to be helpful.
2. Read the whole
test over before you start anything, noting the point allocations.
3. Read any directions
carefully. Read each question carefully, noting what is being asked
for. Some students start each question in an encyclopedic way, not really
showing that they understood the question being posed. Begin wherever
you are strongest; it is a confidence booster, which you might need.
4. Answer the questions
you know best first, then come back to the ones that you are weaker
on; your mind will be working on the weak spots as you proceed with
your stronger responses.
5. Be sure to follow
instructions on a machine-based test (e.g., use of pencil rather than
pen) to the letter. This may have an effect on your grade.
6. Try to compare new
questions to what you already know. After careful
analysis, a question that looks new to you may resemble a question you
did in class or studied.
7. Different kinds
of questions require different kinds of skills. Use these different
skills to excel no matter what type of questions you are required to
answer. (See the next section for some tips.)
Tips for Answering
Different Types of Questions
Questions: Make sure you read every word in objective-type questions.
Watch out for qualifiers such as "always," "never," "all," "none," or
"every." They may invalidate a potential answer that is otherwise correct.
More general multiple-choice answer options are often correct. Be careful
around extreme statements.
Here are examples
of economics multiple-choice questions:
1. Which of the
following is considered a capital resource in economics?
A. A short-term
B. A Microsoft
C. A computer
with software loaded on it
D. A Government
of Canada T-bill security
E. All of
The answer is "C,"
because the definition of a capital resource is "a thing (like equipment,
plant, inventory) already produced that we can use to produce other goods
and services." No other answer fits the definition.
2. Real GDP is
A. the value of
all goods and services produced in an economy.
B. the value of all goods and services produced only in homes.
C. the value of factory-produced goods and services.
D. the value of all goods and services produced in an economy measured
in the prices of a given year.
E. none of the above.
The answer is D. It
is the proper definition, and it is also the most general of the alternatives.
These test your knowledge of concepts and facts. If you don't know which
choice is correct, the risks of guessing are better than in a multiple-choice
question. Look again for qualifiers in questions, and read every word
Here are two examples
of economics true-or-false questions:
1. True or False?
Economics deals only with positive statements.
False. It also deals with normative, values, statements.
2. True or False?
The real wage rate is the quantity of goods and services that an hour's
work will buy in an economy.
True. That's the concept and the definition.
The marker looks for writing skill, grammatical precision, and organizational
ability. Watch for verbs such as "explain," "identify and explain," and
"explain using graphs and diagrams"they are the cue to what is really
Budget your time carefullythese
questions can be real time-wasters! Also, watch your handwritingyour
instructor has to be able to read your work.
Here's an example
of an economics essay question:
Identify and explain
the factors that cause a shift to the left, or a shift to the right,
in the supply curve. What happens to equilibrium price and quantity
in each situation? To answer this question, you will need to clearly
identify and clarify each of the key factors: Technology or state of
technology, the number of firms, costs of inputs, prices of related
products, and expected future prices.
You should be specific
with respect to certain terms such as technology. You could identify
fibre-optic wire, for example, as allowing supply to be increased in
the communications and Internet fields. In your discussion of related
products, you will need to explain the concepts of substitute (a good
which can be used in place of another, such as CDs for audio tapes),
and complement (goods used together, such as wine and cheese, or french
fries and salt).
by drawing a supply curve moving right in each situation, meaning that
if demand does not change, a new, lower equilibrium price will be established
and a new, higher equilibrium quantity of goods is reached. If the supply
curve moves left and demand does not change, then equilibrium price
will be higher; and a new, lower, equilibrium is reached for a good
These kinds of questions
are not easy; they require you to be able to organize your material well,
present material using words and diagrams, and integrate material nicely
for the reader. You can practise by trying to figure out what kinds of
questions would likely be covered by such questions, and writing your
suggested answers beforehand.
Tests are an opportunity
to see what you have learned, or have failed to learn, so far in the
course. If you have done well, give yourself a treat. If you haven't done
so well, put some effective study skills, such as those outlined in this
article, to work for you. If you are having difficulties, talk to the
instructor about how to improve your work.
A somewhat typical
human reaction to poor results is to get angry with the instructor or
to blame yourself. Use positive strategies for improvement. Positive strategies
include talking to the instructor with respect to his suggestions, trying
to find new ways to learn the material (e.g., computer-based assisted
learning), and changing your schedule to do more within your given time
restraints. Try to understand where you went wrong, and rewrite the questions
with the solutions that were required. These techniques will improve your
or continue to the
next section - Other Success