This is my first post and will be hopefully followed by many others during my studies. My name is Oscar, I’m Italian, and currently pursuing the BSc in Economics and Finance.
I decided to join the blog since I felt I had to share my impressions and experiences with fellow students as well as actively discuss about subjects we’re studying and how these relate to our daily lives. I hope we’ll have engaging discussions along the way.
One of my main interests (besides economics, of course!) is astronomy. A passion deriving from an innate desire to know the causes of things (the LSE motto, by the way), which makes me think about the outer space almost every day.
I’m aware the past few weeks were quite stressful for us… yet, exam results are finally out!
A subject I loved is Introduction to Economics (EC102) by Professor Amos Witztum. It was the first time I studied Economics from an analytical perspective and such a tough course was exactly what I was looking for.
Unlike other modules, the EC1002 subject guide (SG) can be viewed as a book rather than a simple guide. Most of what you need for the exam lies there and, according to many students, in Witztum’s own book (based on the SG). Another extremely useful source of information is the examiner’s commentary, which should perfect your knowledge of the discipline while providing an example of how to excel in the exam. This course requires DISCIPLINE, TIME, and PERSISTENCE. It’s like a rollercoaster. Sometimes discouraging – when you spend days or even weeks trying to decipher complicated concepts expressed in economic language – sometimes immensely rewarding.
I’d like to give you some tips on how to do well in this course, based on my experience.
- Set your goal. Mine was to excel (i.e. 100/100). This point is crucial. Setting a target simultaneously conditions your approach towards the discipline. I eventually scored 90/100 and, without aiming high, this would’ve not been possible. One can even get a lower mark, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, always aim at the highest grade.
«Aspiring economists, this module is critical!». Once you master the material, you can safely go on with intermediate courses. I’m now studying for Microeconomics and the foundations built last year are exceptionally useful.
Here’s an examiner’s commentary extract, confirming what I’m saying:
“Your objective should never be merely to pass the examination. Your aim should be to excel in it. This will give you the encouragement and enthusiasm for later study as well as the ability to do well in the examination. After all, as you are involved in a process of studying anyway, why not make the most of it? Why not let the materials teach you how to think? This is bound to influence not only your ability to handle questions that are specific to economics, but it will also help you to organise your thoughts, whichever path you choose to follow.”
Beautiful, isn’t it?
- ‘Exploit’ the available resources: lectures, SG, discussion forums, examiners’ commentaries, videos/papers on the web, etc. I studied independently, no particular background in economics (living proof everyone can succeed, if they REALLY wish to), and very eager to learn. I relied on each resource mentioned above and worked hard. Honestly, that paid back in abundance.
- Make sure you understand EVERYTHING in the SG. Graphs help you understand complex passages. Being able to derive them is fundamental. Once you read a section in the guide, use graphs, maths (‘subtip’: concurrently study for Mathematics 1!), and logic to translate economic models into daily language.
The SG has few optional sections (i.e. ‘Economics as a theory’, ‘The determinants of output’, ‘The algebra of macroeconomics’ general equilibrium’). My advice is to ignore the word ‘optional’ and study these sections thoroughly!
Moreover, mathematical digressions are of major importance. They abstract and condense concepts in few lines: quite useful in the exam. Hence, PRACTISE until you’re able to derive each formula.
- Try to sort out problems by yourself. It impressively boosts your analytical skills and critical thinking. By deciphering paragraphs independently (it obviously takes time), you’ll see things others don’t. At first, it feels like climbing a mountain and you actually proceed slowly. Nonetheless, as you accumulate information, you surprisingly become faster and faster. By the end of the year, you’ll be driving a Ferrari.
- Use the discussion forum as much as possible. There are plenty of insightful discussions there! When you’re stuck and cannot understand something relative to the SG, it’s highly likely other students already asked the same question. Use the search tool (keywords are needed or sentences for an advanced research) and look for what you need. I had the pleasure of debating with fellow students and I found extremely valuable posts dating back 5/6 years. I hope you’ll find mine useful as well!
- Explore the subject beyond the essential material. I particularly enjoyed the philosophical questions Professor Witztum disseminated throughout the course, either during lectures or via SG. It is then that one realises the relevance of economics. After all, once we learn how to use the economist’s toolbox, we must apply the tools to make sense of the world. Doing more than required is generally beneficial and strengthens your knowledge. You’ll encounter many causes for reflection and further investigation. Take advantage of them and pursue your own research.
- Start solving past papers early. If possible, start before the ‘Study Month’ begins (i.e. January/February). Important: time yourself and critically evaluate your performance! Highlight your mistakes, go back to your notes/books and see what went wrong with your reasoning. Always try to combine words, maths, and graphs.
Again, you must read the commentaries in their entirety to discover what examiners are looking for. They are sometimes detailed and complicated at first sight. Do not get discouraged. With time, you should be able to reproduce those elegant solutions, and have a lot of fun doing it!
A word of caution, though. The course is very demanding and it might be frustrating when you fail to understand or solve questions/exam papers. I incurred these problems frequently. However, this is exactly the point: make mistakes, you have to. DO NOT LOSE YOUR CONFIDENCE! Keep trying and go ahead, no matter what. Reward yourself accordingly but be inflexible as far as your studies are concerned. Be uncompromising and don’t look for shortcuts. Enjoy what you read. If not, take a pause, do something else, come back and start afresh!
In conclusion, the University of London and LSE maintain stringent academic standards – recognised worldwide – and we must deal with it. We chose this programme for different reasons. I chose it because of its academic rigour and the benefit I derive from two great institutions like the University of London and LSE. Be prepared to face arduous challenges, they make our degree prestigious.
Good luck to those starting with this subject; it’s both fascinating and enriching.
Oscar is studying the BSc Economics and Finance by distance learning in Italy.