Sarah Phillips, Business and Economics Subject Advisor
We often get asked what the ‘formula’ for the extended response questions is. There is no set requirement in terms of length and we would never want students to feel that they can only write in one specific way. All answers will be marked positively, and examiners will look for credit-worthy discussions that demonstrate the knowledge and skills required.
With this in mind, the aim of this article is to provide some practical guidance on what those skills are in the context of the longer answer questions and suggest a potential approach to ensure that students understand what they need to demonstrate in order to achieve marks in the highest levels.
All 8 mark and above questions are marked according to levels of response. This means that the quality of discussions expressed through written responses will be assessed according to skills demonstrated throughout the response, in order to award a level, and ultimately a mark.
The focus is therefore not on individual marks: it is more about skills than knowledge, and the quality rather than quantity. A ‘best fit’ approach will be applied when deciding on levels and marks. That said, accurate knowledge is still a requirement for these questions, but fewer marks are awarded for knowledge in the ER questions.
Here are a few pointers to help understand the skills required.
There are a number of essential elements to consider in the response.
A good starting point would be to demonstrate understanding of the economic issue and any relevant factors/points to consider. There may not be individual marks for definitions as such, but it is helpful to have a focussed start with clear understanding of relevant factors.
The best paragraphs should contain:
For questions which require the use of stimulus material and/or diagrams:
After each paragraph, students should make sure they can relate their point back to the question to ensure their answer remains focussed.
Evaluation means considering other points of view and/or discussing various different potential outcomes – not just summarising. An evaluation should consider the points discussed, and then consider the different perspectives or ways in which any assumptions may not hold, using logical and coherent chains of reasoning here too.
Some find it helpful to consider evaluation as ‘However…’ points. A few examples are listed below and in the evaluation table at the end of the article.
Evaluation can be at the end of the questions or can be considered throughout, after each paragraph, depending on the students’ preference. If students evaluate throughout, they should be careful that they do not do this at the expense of their analysis. The examiner’s report refers to some answers ‘flip-flopping’ between analysis and evaluation, and not doing either in much detail.
If left until the end of the response, students should make sure that they leave enough time for it, and develop and explain their point adequately, rather than just stating a simple conclusion. Counter arguments are valid for evaluation and developed counter points can be awarded as ‘good evaluation’.
Students should make sure they answer the question by making a decision. Having analysed and evaluated a range of points, what is the conclusion overall? Which of the points is the most significant/relevant/important/the biggest and why, considering the context. A conclusion about the most important macroeconomic objective for the UK economy will not necessarily be the same for the Chinese economy.
Students should link responses back to the question and decide what the answer is, considering the points they have made, the evidence considered, and their evaluation considering different viewpoints/scenarios. They should decide which is the most important. Which of the points considered is the most significant/the biggest/the most important factor?
To be awarded ‘strong’ evaluation, questions of 8 marks and above require a supported judgement. Developed evaluation without a supported judgement can still be awarded ‘good’ but not ‘strong’.
The table below can be used as a handy summary to support with evaluation:
Magnitude. How large or small are the changes referred to in the question? For example, consider calculating a percentage to show whether it is a large change or not.
Significance. This is where you consider how large an impact the changes described will have. For example, if a product is price elastic, then a change in price will be more significant to the quantity demanded than if it was more inelastic.
Time-lags. Usually, your analysis will relate to the immediate short-run impact while your evaluation will consider how things may be different in the long-run. For example, a rise in price of raw materials would not have an effect in the short run while businesses still have stocks but in the long run, when these dwindle, supply will fall.
Relaxing ceteris paribus. This refers to the reality that other things are rarely equal. Namely, there may be changes in other variables that partially or totally offset the changes referred to in the question. For example, if raw material prices rose, supply would shift left but what if wages fell more?
Likelihood. Consider whether your analysis, while plausible in principle, may be unlikely to materialise in practice. For example, an interest rate change may be quite likely but it is unlikely that it will change by 10%.
Considering sub categories. This involves breaking down a large concept in order to give a more refined and targeted analysis. For example, food may be inelastic, but frazzles might be more elastic.
Different context. Would the decision be different if there was a different context? For example, cars may be relatively price inelastic in rural communities but more price elastic in cities.
Prioritisation. This is usually reserved for concluding paragraphs and involves putting your analysis points into an order of significance. For example, the reduction in interest rates has a more significant impact on economic growth than balance of payments because…
Finally. Essentially, the conclusion requires you to go one step further than mere analysis and to:
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_BusEcon. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Sarah joined the Business and Economics team in September 2022. She has over 20 years’ experience as a teacher of Business, Economics and Finance and in leadership roles including Head of Department, Head of Sixth Form and Assistant Principal. She has been an assessor for A Level Economics and holds a degree in Business Economics and the RSA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA).