GCE Economics A: assessment support

14 January 2020

GCE Economics A: assessment support

The purpose of this page is to help you understand our assessment of GCE Economics A.

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Exam materials

Past question papers, mark schemes and examiners' reports are available on the qualification page.

These are kept locked for the first 9 months after an examination series and you will require an Edexcel Online username and password to be able to gain access.

Exam feedback

There are two recorded feedback events from the summer 2019 exam series, one for Papers 1 and 2, and the other event for Paper 3.

Examiners' reports

Examiners' reports are a useful way of understanding the standard that has been applied. You can see exemplar student answers to each question with examiner comments and tips. Combining a reading of the examiners' reports with the mark schemes can provide useful insights.

There are extracts from the examiners' reports as they relate to the different command verbs below:

There is no need to write anything for these questions - just draw the diagram.

When drawing diagrams candidates should always double-check that the lines and axes are correctly labelled.

Draw diagrams clearly and large enough to be easy to interpret.

In Paper 2, the main reason for candidates scoring 3/4 marks as opposed to 4/4 marks is labelling the vertical axis as price rather than price level.

In this question the marks are evenly divided between knowledge, application, analysis, and evaluation (2 marks for each). Candidates need to offer some evaluation of their answer. Two correct factors explained in context are required. Two small pieces of evaluation or one more developed point is all that is required. Without evaluation answers are limited to 6/8 marks.

Candidates should not spend too much time on long introductions. Marks will only be awarded for the explanation and evaluation of the measures/factors so candidates should start immediately with the first measure.

We only award application marks for data/contextual references which actually support the point being made

If you are asked for causes, reasons, effects or similar, then there is no good reason to define the key terms. On short questions such as this the knowledge marks are for identifying the causes and there are no definition marks.

The best responses show a very clear structure to the answer, with two points identified, explained and with context quoted from the extracts before providing one or two evaluation points. This structure really helps the examiners follow a candidate’s answer.

There are examples of candidate responses scoring full marks in the following examiners' reports:

  • 2017 Paper 1
  • 2017 Paper 3
  • 2018 Paper 3
  • 2019 Paper 1
  • 2019 Paper 1
  • October 2020 Paper 1

One substantial point is enough assuming it demonstrates an understanding of the concept in context, is fully integrated and answers the broad element of the question (perhaps connecting mini points well applied). This, followed by one substantial applied evaluative point, which answers the broad elements of the question through a coherent chain of reasoning, is sufficient to obtain full marks on one page.

Of course where a 10 mark question requires candidates to assess two reasons or effects then there is a requirement to move beyond substantially evaluating one major point.

A purely theoretical answer which is not applied to the context or does not refer to the data cannot achieve Level 3 for KAA.

There are examples of candidate answers which scored full marks in both the Paper 1 and Paper 2 2017 examiners' reports.

The 2019 Examiners' Reports included the following examples:

Paper 1 (9EC01)
• example of a 6/10 response with commentary
• example of a 9/10 response with commentary
• examiner tip: Try to ensure evaluation is not on the brief side. A safe approach to this would be to evaluate each reason separately.

Paper 2 (9EC02)
• example of a 8/10 response with commentary
• examiner comment about the 8/10 response: Note that this is a fairly brief answer, yet the candidate has done a good job of accurately answering the question and so it still scores highly.
• example of a 5/10 response with commentary. This example has good KAA and no evaluation

For a 12 mark question there are only 2 levels of evaluation, two brief points or one well-made point can reach the top of Level 2 evaluation.

There are examples of candidate answers which scored full marks in all three 2017 examiners' reports and a further example in the 2018 Paper 3 report.

The 2019 Examiner's Reports included the following:

Paper 1 (9EC01)
• example of a 7/12 response with commentary
• example of a 11/12 response with commentary
• examiner tip: Ensure you provide a clear diagram, when asked, with additional annotations that help you answer the question set.

Paper 2 (9EC02)
• example of a 6/12 response with commentary
• example of a high scoring response with commentary. This example has top levels for KAA and evaluation
• examiner tip: Don't forget to relate your answer to the real world - either making use of the information provided in the figures and extracts or your own knowledge.

In the 15 mark responses a limited number of points (typically two substantial points) evaluated in depth would be sufficient to access top levels rather than the legacy specification approach where a specific number of points were required. A large number of points evaluated at each step can create a rather disjointed response which lacks integration or clear chains of reasoning.

Conclusions are not needed in these questions.

There are examples of high scoring candidate answers in the following examiners' reports:

  • 2017 Paper 1 (15/15)
  • 2018 Paper 1 (14/15)
  • 2019 Paper 1 (14/15)
  • 2019 Paper 2 (top level answer)

To achieve Level 4 analysis candidates need to offer a depth of thinking which is best secured with two, or three, major points rather than attempting to do so through a wide range of points.

Definitions are not required (unless specifically requested in a question) but they are a useful way to keep the answer focused on the question.

Application - full marks cannot be accessed when the answer does not consider carefully the context of the question and data available. Try to fully integrate theory and context in both KAA and evaluation to guarantee top level marks.

Marks are lost when candidates don’t accurately interpret data in different statistical formats. Quantitative skills are a vital skill in the new exams and candidates need to be practising looking at graphs/charts and being able to explain what they show.

Analysis - the Level 4 Knowledge, Application and Analysis descriptor states that there needs to be "logical and coherent chains of reasoning". This contrasts to the Level 2 descriptor which describes a "two-stage chain of reasoning only".

Candidates should use relevant diagrams to explain their analysis.  If candidates are going to use a diagram they should ensure that it is fully labelled and used in context. Evaluation also needs to be well balanced to offer an alternative viewpoint to the one already made.

You can get Level 4 by using just one micro and one macro factor, if both are valid. Fewer points done well and in context, with diagrams, makes a good strategy for 25-mark questions.

Candidates should practise offering informed judgements, being critical of the underlying assumptions in economic theory and recognising different viewpoints, as they respond to the essay-based optional question. Candidates should practise making answers contextual, and extend their chains of reasoning. It is clearly better to use a few points well, with data from the extracts, rather than trying to use all the policies and examples that could be used.

Level 1 evaluation (L1e) does not go beyond the generic or thin opportunity cost or magnitude type response. For top level evaluation (L3e) in the essays, 'informed judgement' is required – many candidates attempt this as a conclusion with mixed success – highly effective responses are critical of the assumptions underlying the theory initially put forward and are able to recognise different viewpoints in coming to their own clear judgement.

Top level evaluation displays relevant reasoning and appropriate reference to context as well as being critical of the evidence.

Centres may wish to practise getting candidates to evaluate what they have already written as their substantial point and to critically evaluate the knowledge, chains of reasoning and data as a means of developing their evaluation. This will also help them to access top level essay evaluation (L3e) in the essays where ‘sustained judgement’ is required. Candidates would benefit from attempting to weigh up theory and the sufficiency of the data as they write, to offer clear and sustained judgement.

A judgement is expected to get the very top marks for evaluation on the 25 mark question. The tendency is to make a summary at the end. What is needed, however, is an informed judgement. The difference is critical.  Candidates are too often just summarising/repeating
their points in their conclusions, rather than making a reasoned judgement. Without this, candidates are able to achieve a Level 3 score for evaluation, but not to be awarded full marks.

If the question staes 'With reference to an industry of your choice', to achieve Level 4 candidates must refer to a specific industry in their answer and must ensure that most of the response is focussed on one industry.

In Paper 3 candidates should observe how a micro influence is also linked to a macro influence. Write an informed, critical conclusion weighing up your argument, not a summary. Return to the question and answer it - avoiding the personal pronoun is preferred - in an informed and reasoned framework.

There are examples of top level candidate answers in the following examiners' reports:

  • 2018 Paper 1 (21/25 and 25/25)
  • 2018 Paper 3 (22/25 and 25/25)
  • 2019 Paper 1 (20/25)
  • 2019 Paper 2 (top level)

Grade boundaries

The A level maximum mark is 335 as this reflects the different weightings of the three A level papers. All three papers are out of 100 but Papers 1 and 2 have a 35% weighting whereas Paper 3 has a 30% weighting. This means that the marks you see are adjusted marks and not raw marks.

The conversion works by multiplying Paper 1 and 2 marks by 1.1725 and the Paper 3 mark by 1.005.

Notional grade boundaries

Notional grade performance at component level plays no part in the determination of a qualification grade.

For teachers, the notional component grade boundaries can be useful as an indicator of grade performance when, for example, an examination paper is used as a future mock examination.

  Maximum mark A* A B
2017 335
261 230 199 168 137 107 0
2018 335
261 234 205 176 147 119 0
2019 335
268 240 209 178 148 118 0
Oct 2020 335 256 227 189 151 113 75 0
  Paper 1
A* A B
2017 100 79 70 61 52 43 34 0
2018 100 77 69 60 51 42 34 0
2019 100 80 72 62 53 44 35 0
Oct 2020 100 77 68 56 44 33 22 0
  Paper 2
A* A B
2017 100 76 67 57 48 39 30 0
2018 100 77 69 60 51 43 35 0
2019 100 82 73 63 54 45 36 0
Oct 2020 100 77 68 56 45 34 23 0
  Paper 3
A* A B
2017 100 78 69 59 50 41 32 0
2018 100 77 69 60 51 43 35 0
2019 100 78 70 61
52 43 35 0
Oct 2020 100 76 67 55 44 33 22 0

Grade statistics

The grade statistics in the table below show:
• the total number of candidates
• the cumulative percentage of candidates at each grade boundary as a percentage of the total cohort

  Number of candidates A* A B
2017 10695 9.2% 35.4% 64.8% 85.4% 95.3% 98.6% 100%
2018 11991 9.3% 34.5% 65.0% 85.5% 94.9% 98.5% 100%
2019 12186 7.6% 31.6% 63.0% 84.4% 94.6% 98.3% 100%
June 2020 (CAGs) 13144 15.3% 43.6% 72.8% 92.1% 98.1% 99.8% 100%
October 2020 271 6.3% 26.2% 60.1% 83.8% 92.6% 96.3% 100%

Subject advisor

Colin Leith

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Colin Leith, Business and Economics subject advisor

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