Writing a Band 6 HSC Economics essay can be difficult because the essay questions can vary from addressing a specific section of the syllabus to having a broad focus and therefore requiring synthesis of entire topics.
Furthermore, there are two HSC Economics essays in the HSC exam, which make up 40 marks of the whole exam!
Section III – is a stimulus based economic essay response where you MUST make reference to the stimulus provided and integrate it into your response.
Section IV – a free response economic essay.
This article aims to therefore streamline the writing process and provide a sustained, logical and cohesive approach that is backed by findings from experienced HSC Economics markers: the ones who mark hundreds of essays year in year out.
Ready to learn how to ace your HSC Economics Essay?
Let’s jump in!
Here is the example question we’re going to use throughout this article to demonstrate what to do to get that Band 6 in your HSC Economics Essay (Question 27 of the 2016 HSC).
Editor’s Note: Although this post was made in 2018, any sample responses will be written as if they were written in 2016, reflecting the current state of the economy at the time.
Step 1: Plan your Response
Use the first page of your writing booklet to sketch a plan of your response.
In fact, this was often what I would do first upon beginning an Economics exam. I’d develop a plan for my essays and then go back to the Multiple Choice section.
This achieved two things:
- It warmed up my mind so that I was ready to engage with Section I and Section II
- More importantly, this ensured I would not forget my essay plans throughout the exam and I could readily return to my plan to jog my thought process.
This is critical because the Economics essay emphasises a logical progression of ideas.
Therefore, in many ways, an essay plan allows you to visualise your thought process and reduce the chance of you forgetting your train of thought or worse, going on a tangent and including irrelevant details.
This helps keep your response sustained, which is a key component of the A range marking criteria. Your essay must continually drive towards developing your thesis – the actual answer to the essay question itself.
In saying so, before we plan, we must understand the NESA directive verbs. This will determine the level of depth and the approach the markers are looking for.
If you’re unsure about your directive verbs, check out NESA’s glossary of key directive verbs here!
How to Plan for an HSC Economics Essay:
The most important thing about any essay is the answer to the question itself with your thesis. All points, arguments and statistics are simply used to support it.
As a result, begin the plan by writing a direct answer to the question. In your thesis you want to:
- Provide context for the question – include definitions of key terms such as monetary policy or economic objectives.
- Then use qualifiers or intensifiers (to some extent, significantly, is ineffective) to answer the essay question.
For our example, the thesis would look like:
Expansionary monetary policy conducted by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) involves deliberate actions to theoretically increase the supply of funds and reduce the cash rate, the cost of borrowing, in an effort to achieve economic objectives. However in practice, the RBA’s aggressively expansionary monetary policy, exemplified by its low 1.50% cash rate, has only had a limited impact on the economy.
Next, organise your ideas into dot points which you can will write your paragraphs on.
Also note down any sub points or arguments you think of underneath. This can include theory, links to the stimulus if this is a Section III essay, relevant statistics or graphs.
As this is the planning stage, it isn’t essential to get it all down perfectly, even just a word or key term to retain your train of thought is fine.
Below is an IDEAL plan using our example question. I have used more words than I normally would to help you read along (in reality, one word dot points are fine, as long as you can understand what you’ve written).
If there are natural links and connections between paragraphs this can also be useful in transitioning in between different paragraphs to maintain the cohesiveness of the essay, i.e. making it flow better.
Step 2: Finish Your Introduction Strong
Now you have already written a strong thesis and have provided context for the essay.
All that is left is to connect your paragraph points to answering the thesis. This is in lieu of simply stating which objectives you will be looking at, which is not as effective and thesis-driven. Compare the pair:
Rather than saying:
Economic growth, inflation, unemployment and external stability are economic objectives which monetary policy have failed to address.
The transmission mechanism’s failure to boost consumption and business investment has lead to poor economic growth, and combined with below target inflation, unemployment that exceeds the NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), and an increasing current account deficit (CAD) driven by a widening trade deficit, monetary policy has failed to achieve a positive impact on the Australian economy and its objectives.
It is much more impressive to the marker if you are able to show a direct link between your points and the thesis you are addressing, as it shows a logical approach.
Step 3: The Writing Process
The other general criteria in HSC Economics essays is the related to the way you write and use language, including economic terms, concepts, relationships and theories.
This of course means you must know your content well and be able to connect different parts of the syllabus together and understand their relationships.
Once you have mastered your content, the criteria then asks for a ‘sustained, logical and cohesive’ response. In order to achieve this, it is best to use a clear structure (which we have planned for in Step 1) as it forces you to retain a logical and cohesive structure.
Here’s how to do it:
Use DPEEL (writing structure)
To provide a basic structure, follow DPEEL which will ensure you are using economic terms, concepts, relationships and theories consistently in your essay.
Definition – assume the marker is a layperson (has limited knowledge of the course) and ensure you are defining the economic term or concept to reflect your understanding. Can be integrated into the response and does not need its own sentence.
Point – Attack the question and pinpoint what your overall answer will be, akin to a mini thesis.
Explain – Provide further details that elaborate on your point. Depending on which directive verb you are asked, this is also where you can start to show relationships (analyse), provide additional economic theories that demonstrate a cause and effect (explain) or make a judgement (assess).
Evidence – Integrate elements from the stimulus if it is a Section III Economics essay. Further, it reflects more in depth synthesis if you refer to specific statistics or quotes from the stimulus rather than simply stating a vague, ‘as seen in Source 1.’ If it is a Section IV Economics essay, this is where relevant statistics, graphs or economic theory will further elaborate and support your argument. However make sure you also explain graphs and their effects, rather than simply referring to them as ‘Figure 1,’ as failure to do so severely limits their effectiveness.
Link – Conclude your paragraph by linking your points back to your original thesis.
Use transition signals
The ‘sustained’ element of the marking criteria means the markers want the essay to flow uninterrupted. No additional details or sidetracks.
The best way to achieve this is through the use of transition signals.
Transition signals include words such as furthermore, hence, as a result, this leads to, but, however. These are ‘linking’ words which along with the DPEEL structure FORCE you to stay on track and sustain your attack on the thesis, as each sentence must relate to the previous. Hence this makes it extremely difficult for you to stray off topic, allowing you to create a sustained response!
Prepare a table of key statistics and economic developments
Just like with English, Economics is also a subject with high demands on memory. Not only must you remember course content, you must also remember relevant statistics and graphs. An efficient way to facilitate this process is a simple table that allows you to organise your information. For example:
This will increase your mind’s ability to chunk the information without feeling overwhelmed.
Write a Strong Conclusion
HSC Economics essay conclusions are quite straightforward.
They need to:
Reaffirm your position and perspectives by restating your thesis – your answer to the question.
Tie up your points and summarise how those ideas have supported your thesis.
Provide a final statement that ‘zooms out‘ and provides a broad perspective of the question. This could be through providing an insight into future trends, expectations or areas for discussion.
Make sure you don’t overdo the conclusion. Three to four sentences is more than enough and the last thing a marker wants to see is a conclusion that has overstayed its welcome!
Step 4: Practice HSC Economics Essay Plans
The final and most important tip is to practise this approach using different styles and topics of essay questions. It is also important that you plan the essays as you would in an exam to give you practice for planning for unseen questions.
We’ve done the hard work for you and you can find a collection of HSC Economics Essay Questions here!
Apply these steps to build your consistency in writing logically and systematically.
That is the only way you will improve and better appreciate the amazingly pragmatic text type that is the HSC Economics essay. If you need more essay questions you can use past HSC exams, your textbook, or ask your teacher.
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Terry Huang completed his Bachelor of Secondary Education with a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of New South Wales. A strong believer that lessons should be engaging, relevant, and effective, his hustle and teaching approach have led to his recognition on the UNSW Faculty of Social Sciences Dean’s List for Academic Excellence, the NSW Teachers Federation Future Teacher scholarship, and the New Colombo Plan program. Terry enjoys listening to Kanye West, learning about cryptocurrency and memorising scenes from The Office.