May 25, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
Once we turn your focus from the AS economics exams towards A2 we need to adjust our sights a bit. Those of you doing both AS and A2 exams this summer will be used in AS to putting your knowledge and understanding into little silos depending on the exam you are doing. In an AS micro exam all you need is…AS micro, same in AS macro. But A2 is different. A2, whatever the exam board – is synoptic.
Synopticity means that you are expected to be able to bring in ideas from the WHOLE of your A-level into what you are writing. This means dipping into your full economics “toolkit” – planning, particularly in the essay questions, to use concepts from all four units you have studied. This is not something you should be afraid of – it means that you have a much wider choice of concepts you can use to answer questions and you should look at this as an opportunity rather than a threat.
For example, when looking at the benefits of mergers in a competition policy question in the A2 micro paper you can mention the possibility that the combined company will have more reserves that they can use for investment in R&D, to improve their productivity or lower their costs. If this happens you could mention – from A2 micro – that it could increase productive and dynamic efficiency. You could also add from AS Micro that it could shift the PPF to the right and from AS Macro it could shift AS to the right as you are also increasing the productive capacity of the UK. You can even use diagrams.
Poverty and the distribution of income are the ultimate in synoptic topics. The policies that you would discuss to address issues in this area can involve a real mix of macro and micro – not just in terms of what they are but also in their analysis. For instance, increasing the personal tax threshold might improve incentives to work – which helps the supply side, but don’t forget that low income learners have a higher marginal propensity to consume so there will be a multiplier effect as well which could have a positive effect on the circular flow of income. In AQA poverty and the distribution of income is in A2 micro and I have pupils every year say “I didn’t know what to write as most of what I wanted to say was macro”. That’s just not a problem.
The joy of A2 economics is that you are not restricted as to what you can write as long as you use appropriate economic analysis. Yes, make sure you answer the question – but never be afraid of using all of your tools – not just the ones you think are marked solely for the exam you are doing.