GCE Economics B: assessment support

14 January 2020

GCE Economics B: assessment support

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

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There is a sister page to help you in the delivery of this qualification.

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.

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:

At this level do not assume that a simple definition will achieve a knowledge/understanding mark. It is the use of this knowledge to demonstrate understanding that is rewarded. There are no marks for definitions as such, it is important that accurate knowledge and understanding is there to support application and analysis.

The 4 mark ‘Explain’ questions will always have two application marks so candidates must ensure that there is enough application to achieve both marks. The AO allocation for this question will always be: 1 knowledge, 2 application and 1 analysis mark, so candidates need to ensure that they provide enough use of context - whether this is use of their own examples, data or context from the extract to be able to gain both application marks.

The examiner tip is to use the extracts for application. There will be more than enough context in the extracts to provide the application needed for a 4 mark question. Do not forget that for 4 mark explain questions, two points of application are required in order to get full marks.

Quantitative skills are an important part of the linear A Levels. ‘Calculate’ requires a calculation comprising four stages. For example, identifying the formula (for the one AO1 mark), locating the data, substituting the data in the formula and performing the calculation (for the three AO2 marks).

Candidates who are able to calculate the correct answer are awarded 4 marks. Marks could be awarded for showing workings but these are not necessary if the correct answer is shown. It is always advisable to show your working because even if the final answer is incorrect, marks can be awarded for formulas and correct workings.

Candidates are expected to be able to apply a range of quantitative skills such as percentage change. If the question asks for a percentage or an answer to two decimal places, then marks will be deducted if the response does not show a percentage or answer to two decimal places!

Don't lose marks by not rounding correctly or by missing the percentage sign.  

These questions assess quantitative skills.

The 4 mark ‘construct or draw’ questions will always require correct labelling of the diagram, so candidates must ensure that responses are fully labelled, with equilibrium point(s) shown on the axes. When a shift is required, it must not be ambiguous.

To demonstrate knowledge and understanding (for the two AO1 marks) students are required to draw the supply and demand curves, label them correctly, and ensure that the axes are also labelled correctly.

For application (the AO2 mark) candidates must manipulate the diagram showing the shift in demand or supply and the analysis mark (AO3) is gained by identifying the consequences of the manipulation, the new equilibrium to indicate a new price and sales volume (consequence).

The AO allocation for this question will always be: 2 knowledge, 2 application and 2 analysis marks, so candidates must ensure that they provide enough use of context to be able to gain both application marks.

Candidates who only give one clear point of application will reduce the total marks achieved on this question. It is worth noting that simply copying the stem of the question cannot be considered for application marks.

For an 8 mark ‘Discuss’ question there are three levels. Examiners read the whole response and then decide which level best matches the response. Examiners then award marks according to the quality of the response within the level. If a response is lacking certain characteristics, examiners move towards the bottom of the level.

The command word ‘discuss’ is an evaluative command word so candidates must provide both sides of an economic argument in order to achieve full marks. Candidates should make sure they give both sides of the argument and use relevant evidence on both sides of the argument. A conclusion is not required for an 8 mark discuss question.

Weaker candidates only give a one-sided response so are unable to fulfil all the requirement of ‘a balanced awareness of competing arguments’ part of the descriptor in Level 3 in order to achieve full marks.


• The 2016 Paper 2 Examiners’ Report includes an example of an 8-mark answer and a 7-mark answer. The 8-mark answer is a well written response which uses relevant evidence throughout the answer. It is balanced. The 7-mark answer has clear chains of reasoning throughout the response, good use of relevant evidence and a balanced awareness of competing arguments.
• June 2017 9EB01 ER has an 8-mark response.
• June 2019 9EB01 ER has a 7-mark response.
• June 2019 9EB03 ER has an 8-mark response and a 7-mark response

The command word "Assess" will always require a deeper evaluation of an economic concept compared to the command word of "Discuss".

To reach the higher levels, chains of reasoning need to be developed. This means showing step-by-step why or how, something might happen.

Try to evaluate as the responses progresses. Donot make competing arguments less significant by locating them just at the end of the response.

Try to base a conclusion upon previous analysis and evaluation, rather than introducing new points in the conclusion.

Try and show some perception in your conclusions and do not simply just repeat the points already given in your answer.

To achieve level 4 candidates should demonstrate knowledge and understanding as well as provide coherent chains of reasoning. There should be balanced arguments which demonstrate validity and significance of competing arguments.

With the level of response questions, it is a good idea to read through your response and try and decide if the examiner could determine the question set from reading the essay. If this is not the case, then it is unlikely that the question has been fully answered. Remember, the 'assess' command word requires a full and balanced awareness of the validity and significance of competing arguments.


  • June 2017 9EB01 ER has a 9-mark response
  • June 2017 9EB03 ER has a 9-mark response which makes good use of the supporting evidence and the counter arguments are developed and balanced.
  • June 2018 9EB03 ER has a 10-mark response and a 9-mark response
  • June 2019 9EB01 ER has an 8-mark response
  • June 2019 9EB03 ER has a 9-mark response

This is a levels-based question with 4 levels.

Candidates are encouraged to use a range of relevant evidence throughout their response - either from the Extracts or use their own examples to highlight and demonstrate their chains of reasoning. The conclusion should not just be repetition of the earlier points made.

One-sided responses even with relevant evidence are unable to enter Level 4, as the bulk of the descriptors are concerned with the candidate providing evaluation and a full and balanced awareness.

Generic responses are unable to get full marks. One of the Level 4 descriptors states that "full understanding of the question" is needed. Candidates need to ensure they show good understanding of economic theory and use this knowledge to develop coherent chains of reasoning based on the evidence provided.

Where arguments are evaluated, with one side very brief and/or basic, this restricts the answer to Level 3 where the descriptor of ‘an awareness of the significance of competing arguments is present although this may lack balance’.

For a Level 4 response, examiners are looking for arguments which are developed and evaluated and supported throughout with relevant evidence. For a high Level 4 response, examiners are looking for developed evaluation as well as a full and balanced awareness of the validity and significance of competing arguments.

If you are asked to 'assess' the importance of an economic concept, you must give the benefits of that economic concept as well as give other factors which may also be as important. Do not just agree with the question and give a one-sided response.

As with many of the more extended, levels based questions, there is a tendency to make unsupported assertions or offer lots of unexplained points, rather than following through coherent chains of reasoning which leads to many Level 2 scores.

The structure of such responses is important. It is not necessary to begin by defining terms but by answering the question straight away and relate this to the context. Then proceed with arguments and counter-arguments as the answer continues.

When setting out an argument or chain of reasoning it is always a good idea to be conditional, e.g. say 'it may happen' or 'this may lead to...' rather than ' it will happen' or 'this will lead to...'.  This also acts as a prompt to set up a counter argument which is essential to reach the higher levels.

A conclusion is a good way to end the longer questions but don't just repeat previously made points. Try and sum up the opposing ideas and add something new by way of evaluation.

Examples of high scoring answers:

  • 8EB01 2016 ER - 12/12
  • 9EB01 2018 ER - 10/12
  • 9EB02 2018 ER - 12/12
  • 9EB03 2018 ER - 12/12
  • 9EB02 2019 ER - Two Level 4 responses

The 20 mark questions should allow candidates to take advantage of the wide-ranging data provided to them as well as to use prior-learning to produce balanced and coherent answers. Candidates who fail to use the data provided to them and give generic answers are unable to access the high levels in the mark scheme.

Candidates are still providing generic and assertive responses for the 20 mark questions. The exam paper provides many extracts to enable the candidates to provide a contextualised response. Many candidates are not using this data well and are producing generic responses. Always ensure that examples used to support arguments are related to the context.

The conclusion should show awareness of the validity and significance of competing arguments leading to a judgment. It should not simply repeat or summarise points previously given in the answer.

In the Section B and C questions, the essays can be supported by candidates' own examples arising from their study of the subject. However, if a question asks for a response relating to a specific context, then it is expected that the answer will attempt to do this. Purely generic essays are unlikely to achieve Level 3, let alone Level 4 for these more extended question.

Examiners are looking for relevant evidence in terms of using the information in the extract or by candidates bringing in their own examples. Examiners do see many responses with ‘flawed’ or ‘incorrect’ economic understanding which does restrict the level an answer could access. Responses with accurate knowledge, supported by use of relevant evidence and an awareness of competing arguments with correct chains of reasoning, are able to access Level 3.

In order to access the highest marks, examiners are looking for a ‘nuanced and balanced conclusion’ which could include references to things such as the impact may depend upon PED, the state of the economy, the magnitude of any change, and time lags.

Candidates should think about how to write a balanced conclusion and base a conclusion upon previous analysis and evaluation. There may not be a single, 'correct' final conclusion. Perhaps more data may be needed or the time period in question may be too short. In any case, do not conclude an essay with simple, unsupported assertions. Read essays published in magazines and journals and take note of how conclusions are constructed in such articles.

For 20 marks response it is a good idea to create a simple plan at the top of the available space. This can help to ensure that the response is equally balanced and is not one-sided.

Examples of high-scoring responses:

  • 9EB01 2018 ER - a high Level 4 response
  • 9EB01 2019 ER - a top Level 4 response
  • 9EB02 2019 ER - a mid-Level 4 response
  • 9EB03 2019 ER - a 16/20 response

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 C D E U
2017 335
230 199 172
146 120 94 0
2018 335
222 188 163 138 113 89 0
2019 335
219 193 169 145 121 97 0
October 2020 335 208 182 148 114 80 46 0
  Paper 1 A* A B C D E U
2017 100
68 59 51 43 35 28 0
2018 100
70 59 51 43 35 28 0
2019 100
67 59 51 44 37 30 0
Oct 2020 100 64 56 45 34 24 14 0
  Paper 2
A* A B C D E U
2017 100
66 57 49 41 33 26 0
2018 100
64 54 47 40 33 26 0
2019 100
62 59 51 44 37 30 0
Oct 2020 100 58 51 41 32 23 14 0
  Paper 3
A* A B C D E U
2017 100
73 63 55 47 39 31 0
2018 100
65 55 47 40 33 26 0
2019 100
67 59 51 44 37 30 0
Oct 2020 100 64 56 45 34 23 13 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 C D E U
2017 1575 4.7% 22.4% 48.6% 75.6% 91.7% 97.5% 100%
2018 1554 4.3% 24.2% 50.1% 74.7% 89.6% 98.1% 100%
2019 1504 4.2% 20.5% 49.7% 75.1% 91.6% 97.7% 100%
June 2020 (CAGs) 1595 11.7% 36.4% 64.5% 88.7% 97.1% 99.8% 100%
Oct 2020 19 5.3% 21.1% 52.6% 89.5% 89.5% 100% 100%

Subject advisor

Colin Leith

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Colin Leith, Business and Economics subject advisor

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