Making a good start with Introduction to Economics

Runners starting race

Dear readers,

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.

  1. 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?

  1. ‘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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

12 thoughts on “Making a good start with Introduction to Economics

  1. Thank you very much for your post! The advice was very very great! This surely is a good confidence booster!

  2. Two things are not clear to me from this post. Are you studying physically in London or did you followed the course by distance learning through the internet ? If distance learning from Italy do you do it from home or through another partner academic institute ?

    Can you do it from home or do you need to study through a partner university ?

    Thank you for post Oscar.

  3. Hello Kristov,

    I assume you are not a student of the University of London International Programmes.
    Hence, should you be interested in these programmes, the following are links you should read to understand how the system works. Please explore the websites’ content in full.

    – Some history and general aspects:

    – Official UoLIP website. How we study, materials, tuition, etc.:

    Hope this helps!

  4. Oscar thank you for the links you have provided. I will investigate them. However do you study from home or through an Italian partner institute who for example takes the examinations ?

    I am afraid for example that future employers will not take this program seriously if it is only self-study. etc. Especially with so many ‘wannabe’ online programs and fake degrees out there.

  5. Hello Kristov,

    In Italy there is no recognised institution offering local tuition. Moreover, even if I had the chance to attend lectures, I am not sure I would be able to attend them because local tuition implies extra costs, not included in the total cost of a UoL degree.
    Therefore, extra tuition is currently not an option for me: too expensive given my early budget!

    The truth is that we actually do not study independently because we have lots of resources like recorded lectures, subject guides, examiners’ commentaries, etc.
    In my opinion, although many students decide to attend lectures at recognised centres in their respective countries, we have all we need to succeed even without local tuition.

    Should you be interested in attending lectures at these institutions, check out the following:

    I urge you to take a look at the links of my previous comment. They contain relevant information about how we study, materials, TUITION, etc.

    As for you last point, again you just need to click on the links above. You will find detailed explanations about global reputation of these programmes, academic standards, integrity of UoL qualifications, etc. Explore the website as much as you can!

    As for your fear about employers’ views, I cannot help. Different employers have different opinions about these kind of programmes and different countries may hold different positions with respect to distance learning. Thus, it depends. It’s your choice. My advice is to read about UoLIP and see what you’re looking for. If you’re satisfied with the rules of the game, then the choice is easy: just study!

    If you read some history (again see my first link) you will realise this is not a simple distance learning programme and we’re examined to the same standard as LSE internal students.
    Rest assured, it’s not easy to perform well and it has nothing to do with classical distance learning programmes.

    Good luck for your choice!

  6. Dear Oscar,

    Thank you for the very informative article/blog. I wanted to find out if you only used the guide to study and prepare for this exam or did you actually purchase Professor Witztum’s book as a supplement in your studies.

  7. I didn’t buy Witztum’s book last year because I believed the subject guide was enough, as main resource. Yet, I practised VERY MUCH through past papers since January/February till May.
    Having that said, if I could go back in time, I’d rather purchase it since I’ve now realised (by talking with other students) that many aspects of the subject are explained more detailedly in his book. I’d have probably saved a lot of time!! In addition, you have more exercises to practise on – even though past papers may offset the ‘lack’ of practise questions in the guide.
    Thus, it should be a good investment. I’d definitely prefer it over the other suggested readings, which are much less focused as far as the exam is concerned.

  8. Hello Anonymous.

    Check on the EC1002 discussion forum. You’ll surely find quite a few old posts of mine relative to MCQs. Some of them also include PDF files with my solutions, analyses, and comments to each MCQ. I also wrote about how I was preparing for these (i.e. extensive practice with graphs and mathematical derivations).

    As I said in tip 5 above, use the search tool (keywords are needed or sentences for an advanced research) and look for what you need.
    You’ll probably notice many students discussed about MCQs extensively. Try and push other students to work collaboratively and practice together. This involves posting your questions on the VLE and hopefully get to discuss with other students taking the same course.

    There’s no much of a difference between an open question and this kind of MCQ because in both cases you need a model to solve the question. The only difference is that, with MCQs, it should be easier for you to answer it because the correct option must be one of the four available. If you’ve properly studied the basic material (i.e. subject guide), it’ll just take a lot of practice and it should be fine.

    You also have a video purposely uploaded by Professor Witztum, where he explains how to deal MCQs.

    As always, the best advice is to practice A LOT. In particular, you need to become fast at recognising the model required to solve the question and then applying it. Make sure you check the forum for further info.

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