Are you ready for your 2017 HSC Economics Trial Exam? What about your actual HSC Economics Exam?

One of the best ways to prepare is to practice, but what example questions can you use?

Below we break down our track record, followed by our predicted short answer and extended response topics. We provide our rationale behind our predictions, followed by a how-to guide for your trial exams. A complete list of practice questions sorted by topic is then provided at the end.

What’s our track record like in predicting the HSC Economics exam questions?

Pretty good!

  • In 2016 HSC we successfully predicted 2/4 essay questions & 2/4 short answer topics.
  • In 2015 HSC we successfully predicted 2/4 essay questions and 1/4 short answer topics (1 of the 4 we picked as a short answer ended up as an essay question )
  • In 2014 HSC we successfully predicted 2/4 essay questions and 2/4 short answer topics
  • In 2013 HSC we successfully predicted 2/4 essay questions and 3/4 short answer topics
  • In 2012 HSC we successfully predicted 2/4 essay questions and 3/4 short answer topics
  • In 2011 HSC we successfully predicted 3/4 essay questions
  • Since 2004 to 2016 our average is higher than 2/4 essay questions predicted successfully!

2017 HSC Economics Exam Question Predictions

Short Answers
2017 Predictions
1 Globalisation/Economic Integration
2 Microeconomic Reform / Unemployment
3 Inflation
4 Monetary Policy
Possible: Environment
2017 Predictions
1 Macroeconomic Policy
2 Economic Growth (Exchange Rates / Case Study)
3 Current Account Deficit (CAD) / Balance of Payments
4 Globalisation and Free Trade
Possible: Unemployment

What’s our rationale for these HSC Economics exam predictions?


1. Macroeconomic Policy

  • Fiscal and monetary policy are both massive parts of the HSC Economics course, thus it’s always likely that there will be a “Discuss [Type of Policy] impact on [Economic Objective] style of question.
  • We believe that since Monetary Policy has hardly moved in the last 18 months, it makes sense for a focus to be placed on fiscal policies this year. We think there will be a focus on economic growth and unemployment.
  • Often Fiscal and Monetary policy are broken up for specific questions, but with the recent ineffectiveness of Monetary policy, it’s likely they may combine them into a Macroeconomic question, and ask you to explore the impact of the ‘mix’ of these two policies.
  • In the 2016 HSC, Macroeconomic objectives were tested in addition to monetary policy. So this topic was in 2 out of the 4 essay questions!

2. Economic Growth with a focus on Exchange Rates / Case Study

  • Over the last 24 months Australia has experienced a sustained depreciation of the $AUD which is likely to continue as our mining sector shrinks due to falling global demand. The AUD is currently worth 75 US Cents. It’s a very likely topic. We believe it is a component of the course that isn’t tested enough.
  • For example: “Assess the economic effects of Australia’s exchange rate movements on the Australian economy.”
  • The Case Study hasn’t been asked since 2014 – it was skipped over in 2015 and 2016. It was also in the 2012 exam as an essay question. So we think a case study question is long overdue.
  • Prior to 2012, the trend was that from 2007 to 2012 it appeared in every exam either as a short answer or essay question.
  • With BREXIT negotiations ongoing this year I think it’s highly likely there will be a question definitely looking at the impact of globalisation or economic growth.
  • For example: “For an economy other than Australia, discuss the effects of globalisation on economic growth and the quality of life.”

3. CAD/BOP – Causes & Consequences

4. Globalisation & Free Trade – Impact on Australian Economy

  • Free trade/protection has been asked every single year since 2007, usually alternating between short answer and essays each year.
  • There’s also been lots of activity recently in this area with the Liberal government pursuing a Chinese free trade agreement, and recently signing a trans-pacific free trade agreement. Yet globalisation continues to make the news as the TTP has now been overturned by U.S. President Donald Trump and he continues to advocate for protectionist measures.
  • As a result I think it’s highly likely the 2017 paper is more likely to focus on free trade as opposed to protection.
  • E.g. “Discuss the advantages/disadvantages of free trade for the Australian economy.”

5. Possible – Unemployment

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Predicted Short Answer Questions

1. Globalisation/Economic Integration

  • This has appeared in 7 of the last 8 papers. It’s a very common essay and short answer question. It is highly likely that there will be some version of globalisation in the short answer questions.
  • Globalisation is a key topic that can appear as both a short answer question and an essay question in the same exam (as it did in the 2012 examination).
  • The role of free trade or the benefits/disadvantages of globalisation may be asked.
  • As mentioned above, globalisation continues to make the news as the TTP has now been overturned by U.S. President Donald Trump as he continues to advocate for protectionist measures.

2. Microeconomic Reform / Unemployment

  • This topic has appeared in 8 of the 10 past HSC exams. It is common to see this topic as either a labour market or deregulation question.
  • The NSW Government focused on it’s proposed sell-off of its Poles and Wires (electricity network) and the ongoing struggles of Australia Post make this question likely too.
  • Example: “Outline ONE Microeconomic policy likely to cause an increase in the aggregate supply curve to the right.”
  • There is a growing trend to see this question in a short answer format. We predicted it would be in the 2016 exam, and since the exam focused on other topics, we think a microeconomic reform question is long overdue.
  • In 2015 it was tested as an essay question, in 2016 it wasn’t tested at all, making it a strong contender to appear in this year’s paper as a short answer question.
  • It is unlikely to be tested on it’s own, but is likely to be combined with other topics e.g. unemployment.
  • It’s potentially possible it will have a deregulation focus given NSW government deregulation last year of the electricity network and the federal decision to block the sale on the basis of ‘national security concerns’, and the ongoing deregulation of the Australian taxi industry as a result of Uber’s entry into the market. 
  • Deregulation (a subtopic of microeconomic reform) hasn’t been tested since the 2013 HSC Economics paper, so this could be tested this year.
  • Given Australia’s ageing population, and casualisation of the work force, microeconomic reforms that target the changing structure of the Australian economy will be pivotal moving forward.

3. Inflation

4. Monetary Policy

  • Although monetary policies are generally tested as an essay question, short answer questions are likely too.
  • Example: “How can monetary policy be used to promote economic development in a country other than Australia?”
  • Since 2007, monetary policy on it’s own has never been examined as a short answer – it generally has always appeared as an essay
  • Since 2007, Monetary on it’s own has never been examined as a SA.
  • Why are we making this prediction for 2017? Because fiscal was tested as a short answer in 2015 and in 2009, however monetary policy has never been tested as a short answer question.
  • With many major big banks refusing to pass the cuts on to consumers this has also created challenges for RBA to effect change in the economy bringing into question the effectiveness of monetary policy.
  • Furthermore, there are many competing forces in the Australian economy affecting the transmission mechanism in paradoxical ways.
  • There is a fall from the post-mining boom impacting WA and QLD economies, a housing boom and upward pressure on house prices in the East Coast, yet low nation-wide inflation, and soft future economic growth projections.
  • This all contributes to the ongoing interest around the RBA cash rate.
  • This context, and the historical lows have also called into question the future of a 2-3% low inflation target.
  • Finally, the process of how cash rate is set and passed onto to the economy hasn’t been examined in a LONG TIME which means given this context, it’s likely it may be examined in 2017! KNOW WHAT THE EXCHANGE SETTLEMENT ACCOUNT IS AND HOW THE RBA SETS THE CASH RATE.

5. Possible – Environment

  • Environmental sustainability was examined in last year’s paper (2016) as a short answer question which lowers the likelihood of this question being asked again. However there are still many other aspects of the environment that the examiners may ask.
  • Environmental issues continue to plague the world abroad and at home. A recent report suggested that it would cost $1000 Trillion (U.S.) to purify all of the toxic soil in China. $1,000 trillion is more than all the wealth in the world.
  • I think it’s possible that a short answer question on how to fix an environmental issue may be asked. E.g. “How can a tax shift the marginal private cost to equal society’s marginal social cost?”
  • Environmental questions encourage critical thinking which is one of the purposes of the HSC economics exam.
  • The environment is one of the largest issues and is multifaceted, linking to many other components of topic three. This was tested in the last three exams. We won’t be surprised if it crops up again this year.


  • The point of putting these predictions together is to help you prioritise and focus for your study for the HSC Economics exam.
  • Obviously, there is no guarantee (or any warranties implied or otherwise) that any of the predictions (despite our best efforts) will be correct and if you rely upon these predictions, you do so at your own risk.
  • As such – while it is our recommendation that it would be wise to focus on the predicted topics and write practice essays, if you really want to give yourself the best shot of a Band 6 for the HSC exam – cover everything, in crazy detail (I know this is obvious but I felt it important to reiterate!)

How does your Trial HSC Economics Exam Work?

Trial exams are based on your final HSC Economics exams that you will complete at the end of the year, so these exams are meant to give you a trial-run for your final exam. However, trials DO count towards your final ATAR and so it is important that you do well.

Your trial exam is exceedingly likely to mirror the actual HSC Economics exam. This means that you will have a 3 hour exam with 5 minutes of reading time. The exam will be worth 100 marks and be divided up as follows:

  • Section I: Multiple Choice (20 Questions – 20 Marks)
  • Section II: Short Answer (Generally 4 or 5 Questions – 40 Marks)
  • Section III: Stimulus Based Response (Choice of 1 of 2 Essays – 20 Marks)
  • Section IV: Essay (Choice of 1 of 2 Topics – 20 Marks)

Note that depending on your school, your trial exams may be a slightly shorter exam or may not present you with a choice for section III. So read your own exam notification carefully.

When it comes to trial exams, Catholic Schools use the trial exam prepared by CSSA (Catholic Secondary Schools Association of NSW). Students at independent schools generally sit the same independent trial exam, and students at government selective schools will generally sit exams that have been tailored individually at each school.

The CSSA trial exams are regarded by economics teachers as the hardest trial papers. So they are the best ones to practice with if they are available to you.


Here are some HSC Economic Essay Questions to help you practice with:

HSC Topic One – The Global Economy

This topic focuses on the workings of the global economy from a very macroeconomic viewpoint and looks at the impact of globalisation on individual economies.

Question 1

Discuss the impact of globalisation and trade liberalisation (removal of trade barriers) on the global economy.

Question 2

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of free trade and analyse how technology has increased the quantity of world trade.

 Question 3

Discuss the advantages of free trade and the role of international organisations (WTO, IMF, World Bank, United Nations, OECD ) and free trade agreements in promoting trade in the global economy.

 Question 4

Evaluate the policies used to promote economic growth and economic development of a country other than Australia.

 Question 5

Explain how globalisation has led to variations in the standard of living and differences in the level of development between nations.

HSC Topic Two – Australia’s Place in the Global Economy

This topic is more specific (and often more difficult) than the previous topic and asks the student to have an understanding of Australia’s place in the global economy, what our largest trading partners are, and what changes to the global economy can effect Australia.

Question 1

Using diagrams, explain how movements in the Australian dollar can affect the performance of the Australian economy.

Question 2

Analyse the impact of the changes in the global economy on Australia’s Balance of Payments.

 Question 3

Explain the causes of Australia’s sustained Current Account Deficit (CAD) and explain the impacts of a high CAD on the Australian economy.

 Question 4

Discuss the impact of changes in the domestic and global economy on Australia’s exchange rates and analyse the causes of recent trends in Australia’s exchange rate with the global economy.

 Question 5

Explain the factors that influence Australia’s Balance of Payments.

HSC Topic Three – Economic Issues

This is perhaps my favourite of all the HSC Economics topics as it asks us to examine the nature, causes and consequences of the economic issues that are facing contemporary economies including; unemployment, inflation, distribution of income and wealth as well as sustainable development.

Question 1

Analyse the causes of unemployment and their effects on the Australian economy.

Question 2

Explain the causes of inflation and the impacts of high inflation on the Australian economy.

 Question 3

Discuss the consequences of an unequal distribution of income and wealth and the impact of fiscal policy on the distribution of income in Australia.

 Question 4

Analyse the changing sources of economic growth and their effects on the Australian economy and business cycle.

 Question 5

Examine the economic issues associated with the goal of ecologically sustainable development.

HSC Topic Four – Economic Policies and Management

This topic looks at the aims and implementation of economic policies in the Australian economy and asks us to respond to hypothetical situations.

Question 1

Analyse how macroeconomic policy (i.e. Fiscal and Monetary Policy) can be used to achieve external stability.

Question 2

Explain the method behind how a Government can finance a budget deficit.

 Question 3

Evaluate the rationale behind the Reserve Bank of Australia’s target inflation rate and explain why monetary policy suffers from a time lag limitation.

 Question 4

Discuss the benefits and disadvantages of having a minimum wage and explain the national system for determining the minimum wage.

 Question 5

Using diagrams, explain how market-based policies can assign a price to a negative externality (e.g. pollution) and improve the quality of life through a paradoxical reduction in consumption.

Good Luck!

All the best for your HSC!

Economics has some complicated aspects but with a little bit of time and persistence I know you can do it.

Most of all, remember that you can do this.

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Thomas Woolley loves Economics and Business Studies. Thomas has been working as an expert Art of Smart Economics and Business Studies coach for over 4 years whilst studying B Commerce/B Education at UNSW. Thomas will become an actual, real life, Economics and Business Studies teacher in 2018! Since high school, Thomas has also learned to scuba dive, salsa dance and fly a quadcopter like a pro. Unfortunately he still cannot skateboard.

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