The 3 ‘S’ Techniques to Excelling in A-Level Economics Essays

It is not uncommon to hear students exasperatedly complain as they struggle to comprehend concepts in Economics, or that they are unable to score well in their essays. Some learning centres attempt to bridge the gap between knowledge and performance by doing as many past year questions from the A-Level and JC examinations as possible, hoping that when it comes to the real thing, one of the questions would be similar to those they had gone through before, and students could just regurgitate the memorised answer. This is not an optimal method because firstly, what if none of the questions were correctly spotted and secondly, this ‘skill’ is not transferrable to other subjects.

By following these 3 ‘S’ techniques, students are able to overcome any obstacles. It comprises three skills that must be applied in a hierarchical order: Schematic Planning, Structuring and


It is important for students to develop a good schematic plan in relation to the question. This requires the recognition of the directive word used, the context of the question, as well as the phrasing of the question. Taking these into account, students would then develop the three main points of the answer. For example, when asked to “Discuss”, the three main points should include one main point in agreement to the proposition and two other points to counter the proposition. But if asked to “Assess”, then all three main points can also be in agreement with the proposition, but to varying degrees.

Next, students need to align their answer to the phrasing of the question. Take for example the following question: “Discuss if product differentiation strategies are the best way to help small firms return to profitability.”

Because “best” was used, students have to provide alternative ways, first by explaining how product differentiation can help firms increase profits, and second by offering counter arguments which would be cost strategies and other methods used to increase revenue.

If however, the question was “Discuss the extent to which product differentiation can help small firms return to profitability.”

Then, the thesis is the same as above but the anti-thesis will be the main limitation of the strategy, and not alternate strategies.

Lastly, the students have to take note the context is for small firms and carefully avoid discussing strategies that small firms cannot use.


After developing a good schematic plan, students must explain each of the main points such that they include all the relevant concepts written in the correct order. This is the skill of structuring. Students must be able to identify main question types in each topic and then apply the taught structure to each essay type. Through repeated practice, students will become more competent in using the various structures according to the question’s requirements.


For each essay structure, there will be several steps through which the point is analysed and explained, with relevant concepts applied at each step. However, this is not all that is needed. Each point has to be elaborated with a Statement, and then an Explanation with clarifying Examples.

Taken together, these skills will help students develop confidence and competence in essay writing. Students are able to dissect their low-scoring answers to identify the skill set that they are weak in, and focus their efforts on improving this area, by purposely choosing practices that target the specific skill. By using the 3 ‘S’ techniques, they will get that much closer to being able to produce essays that will give them the scores that they have always dreamed of.

Quoted from an educational magazine

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