Is Economics A Level Hard?

Whether you're studying Edexcel Economics A, OCR, AQA, or any other exam board, these revision tips will help you maximise your revision efforts and help you to achieve top marks.

Steve Vorster

Economics & Business Subject Lead


Read time

10 minutes

Is Economics A Level hard? Illustration

Preparing for A Level Economics exams can be a daunting task for an economics student. However, with the right revision strategies, you can tackle the challenge with confidence. As an experienced Economics examiner, with a specialisation in A Level , IBDP, GCSE and IGCSE Economics, I have a track record of helping students gain top results in their exams. I'm here to share valuable insights and expert tips on how to revise effectively for your A Level Economics exams.

Setting yourself up for success

The best way to set yourself up for success is to use brain science as the basis for your Economics revision programme. Long established research (Google Ebbinghaus for more details) shows that 90% of new information is forgotten within three days, unless spaced repetition occurs. Spaced repetition involves reviewing material within 48 hours of having been taught it. This gives the brain the time it needs to form the synaptic structure and connections surrounding new information so that it is consolidated into long-term memory.

I encourage my students to build spaced repetition into their homework programme: I recommend that they review their notes from the previous lesson midway before the following lesson. Your brain then forms these new connections, and you will start any exam revision process with a higher base level of knowledge and understanding. Each instance of revising for a unit test or exam is then another episode of spaced repetition, which enhances your memory retention.

Understanding the building blocks of Economics revision

Revision for A Level Economics involves more than just memorising facts and figures. It requires a comprehensive understanding of economic concepts, the ability to apply economic theory to real-world examples, and proficiency in exam technique. 

Let’s break this down into building blocks that you can master one step at a time. Then, when you stack them on top of each other, you will be guaranteed exam success.

  1. Definitions
    Learn the specific subject terminology for each unit, as you can often gain up to 25% of the marks on offer by incorporating good definitions into every answer.

  2. Diagrams
    Most A Level Economics essays require diagrams. Create a diagram glossary and be confident in explaining each one. Develop confidence in drawing both microeconomic and macroeconomic graphs.

  3. Real-world examples
    Be curious about the world around you! Read news and current affairs, and actively look for the economics in what you are reading. Take note of the examples your teacher uses in lessons and where possible, incorporate them into your essays.

  4. Quantitative skills and data interpretation
    Practise the quantitative skills required for your syllabus. Learn the formula definitions. Analyse and question the data, e.g. what does a value of PED = 0.6 mean? How can a firm use that knowledge to its advantage? etc.

  5. Critical thinking

    How can you demonstrate critical thinking in your essays?

    • Question the assumptions of underlying economic theory

    • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of a particular policy

    • Analyse the impact of a policy on the different stakeholders

    • Consider the relative size of pros and cons

    • Consider government priorities and the effectiveness of the policy in accomplishing them

    • Consider the long- and short-term impacts

    In short, start thinking like an economist and let this shine through in your essays.

  6. Exam technique
    Seek to understand the structure of each of your exam papers early on in your course. Develop strategies for approaching different types of exam questions, such as multiple choice, essay questions, and data response questions. Practise time management techniques to ensure you allocate sufficient time to each section of the exam and answer all questions thoroughly. Familiarise yourself with the structure and format of each exam paper, including the number of questions, the allocation of marks, and the time allowed. Use past papers to answer questions and develop effective exam techniques.

  7. Essay structure
    Different command words often require you to write in slightly different ways. For example, when answering a question that starts with “Explain”, you will mainly repeat the theory that is requested. However, if the command term is “Evaluate” or “Justify”, then this is asking for you to deliver the level of knowledge found in “Explain” questions, and to provide more critical insights into the context or the real-world example that has been presented. This may be as simple as developing relevant advantages and disadvantages of particular economic theory. However, it may also require some application of economic theory to a particular context, before a conclusion is presented.

When you are familiar with the requirements of the different command terms, you can develop an essay structure for each one. A common structure for evaluation essays is to write two to three paragraphs and a conclusion. Each paragraph would include knowledge, application, analysis, and evaluation. In many ways this is a PEA essay:


PEA Essay Structure with E

KAAE Requirements

POINT: Make a point


EVIDENCE: Provide evidence from text or real world example


ANALYSIS: Develop analytical chains of reasoning by using connectives(as a result; will lead to etc)





Effective A Level Economics Revision Strategies

1. Practise terminology using flash cards

Create flashcards for important definitions, formulas, and economic concepts. Use flashcards to quiz yourself or study with a peer. Flashcards are a portable and interactive revision tool that can help reinforce your memory and improve recall. Review your flashcards regularly to reinforce your learning and identify areas that require further study. Use different coloured flashcards to categorise different topics or units for easy reference. Be sure to include examples and real-world applications of economic concepts on your flashcards to reinforce understanding.

2. Create comprehensive revision notes

Condense your course materials into concise revision notes that highlight key concepts, theories, and definitions. Use bullet points, diagrams, and mnemonics to aid memory retention. Organise your notes by topic to facilitate targeted revision sessions. Be sure to include examples and real-world applications of economic concepts to reinforce understanding. Review your revision notes regularly to reinforce your learning and identify areas that require further study.

This comes with a warning! Some students take so long creating revision notes they do not have time to engage in active recall, which is where information is consolidated into a learner’s long-term memory. I have seen many students be extremely successful by using concise revision notes (such as the ones at Save My Exams) and focusing on active recall, rather than engaging in laborious rewriting.

3. Utilise revision guides

Linking to the point above, invest in a reputable A Level Economics revision guide, like ours at Save My Exams, that covers the entire syllabus and provides clear explanations, examples, and practice questions. Revision guides are valuable resources for consolidating your understanding of key topics and identifying areas for further study. Choose a revision guide that aligns with your exam board's syllabus and provides comprehensive coverage of all relevant topics. Use the revision guide as a supplementary resource to your class notes and textbooks to reinforce key concepts and improve your understanding.

4. Use active revision techniques

Repetitive reading of material does very little to aid memory recall. Engage your brain using a range of strategies, such as summarising key points (thinking about how best to summarise them engages your brain), answering practice questions, and teaching a friend, to reinforce your learning and improve retention. During a free period, find a whiteboard and draw graphs on it, then explain them to a friend. By revising content promptly, you can build a solid foundation of knowledge and maximise your chances of success in A Level Economics exams.

5. Teach a friend

Teaching a friend or peer is one of the most effective ways to reinforce your understanding of A Level Economics concepts. Explaining key concepts and theories to others forces you to articulate your thoughts clearly and organise your knowledge coherently. Teaching a friend also provides an opportunity for interactive learning and knowledge exchange, as you can discuss challenging topics, answer each other's questions, and provide feedback on each other's understanding. Teaching a friend can help solidify your understanding of A Level Economics concepts and improve your confidence in your knowledge.

6. Utilise past papers

One of the most effective ways to prepare for A Level Economics exams is to practise with past papers. Examiners often reuse or modify questions from previous exam papers, so familiarising yourself with past papers will give you insight into the types of questions you may encounter and help you refine your exam technique. Aim to practise with past papers from different years and exam boards to cover a range of topics and question formats.

7. Review mark schemes

Familiarise yourself with mark schemes for past exam papers to understand the expectations of examiners and how marks are allocated. Pay attention to the level of detail required for different types of questions and practise answering exam questions according to mark scheme criteria. Analyse sample answers provided in mark schemes to understand the structure, content, and level of detail required to achieve full marks. Use mark schemes to identify areas where you can improve your answers and focus your revision efforts.

8. Seek feedback

Review your answers to past papers or practice questions and compare them against mark schemes. Identify areas where you may have lost marks and seek feedback from your teacher or tutor on how to improve. Actively engaging with feedback will help you refine your exam technique and address any weaknesses. Schedule regular meetings with your teacher or tutor to discuss your progress and receive personalised guidance on areas for improvement. Use feedback to identify specific areas where you need to focus your revision efforts and tailor your revision plan accordingly.


How do you get an A* in A Level Economics?

Follow the above process. The most important steps are:

  • Review lesson material within 48–72 hours of being taught it

  • Learn definitions and formulas

  • Draw graphs and explain them to a friend

  • Use active recall to engage your brain; don’t just spend hours rewriting the textbook

  • Practise past paper questions (both by writing answers and also testing yourself verbally)

  • Practise quantitative work and also data interpretation. Make sure you can explain what economic data means and understand the different formats in which it is presented

  • Hone your exam skills and your essay structure

What percentage of people get an A in A Level Economics?

In 2023, around 4.1% of students achieved an A*

In 2023, 16.2% of students achieved an A

A final word of encouragement from Steve

The key to success is to set up a process that you can use repeatedly. Ad hoc revision results in sub-par results. Use the above to make a plan and then tweak it for improvements as required. Definitely avoid spending hours and days rewriting the textbook. 

Effective revision is essential for success in A Level Economics exams. By utilising past papers, creating comprehensive revision notes, using revision guides and flashcards, reviewing mark schemes, seeking feedback, understanding exam techniques, teaching a friend, and setting yourself up for success, you can maximise your chances of achieving exam success. Remember to stay focused, stay organised, and stay motivated throughout your revision journey. With dedication and the right revision strategies, you can master A Level Economics and achieve top marks in your exams. Good luck!

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Written by Steve Vorster

Economics & Business Subject Lead2 articles

Steve has taught A Level, GCSE, IGCSE Business and Economics - as well as IBDP Economics and Business Management. He is an IBDP Examiner and IGCSE textbook author. His students regularly achieve 90-100% in their final exams. Steve has been the Assistant Head of Sixth Form for a school in Devon, and Head of Economics at the world's largest International school in Singapore. He loves to create resources which speed up student learning and are easily accessible by all.

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