I did well for O Level Economics, why am I struggling for my A levels?

Recently, a fellow tutor asked me over Whatsapp:

I am trying to determine why a student scored A for O Lvl econs but struggling alot in JC. Can u also share your thoughts on that ?

And this was my response:

The A Level content is more challenging.

O Level Economics covers the same topics as with A levels, but with perhaps only 10-20% in depth for every one of them.

The content by itself therefore doesn’t prepare the students very well for A level Economics, which goes further into the roots of each Economic phenomena in the syllabus. In fact, the content feels like O Level Human Geography in some ways.

In addition, the examination format includes MCQ, unlike in the case of A level Economics. So this has a potential side-effect of masking a relative inability to express concepts well in essays.

That was the short answer.

Because typing more out over Whatsapp would have made for a pain in the neck – literally. And also there was more to it, than was superficially relevant.

One of my advices to students in general, is that past results are not necessarily a good indicator for future results. Some of the contributing reasons are therefore less peculiar to the above situation, more general instead, and not immediately actionable.

Your competition changes.

You may have implicitly assumed that that your competition remains unchanged.

That is unlikely to be true:

  1. Post-O Level, students filter to their respective tracks (JC, Polytechnics, ITE, drop-out etc.)
  2. Other students hop onto the “Econs bandwagon”.
  3. Their learning abilities may have matured (I am not joking).

You may know this fact – yet you may have approached the A Level Economics with a similar approach thinking that what applies for O Levels will work here.

That’s basically an implicit assumption that the nature of your competition will remain the same, for one, and that’s not true.

Much higher workload for A Levels.

Remember I mentioned earlier about O Level Economics scratching only the surface for the same topics covered at the A Level equivalent?

Now imagine having to deal with the same story repeated with all other subjects at A Levels (plus PW), and you should see my point easily.

So you may find that Economics now requires more attention, but can you afford to do so at the expense of the other subjects?

Even the reduction in absolute number of subjects taken at A Levels will not compensate for the direct increase in content rigour, and the compression of the content in half the time taken with O Levels.

What can you do then?

The struggles above can be eased to an extent by adopting these strategies:

  1. Maximise your time-use by ensuring that you pay attention at class, and complete assigned homework diligently.
  2. Have clarity and ownership over your choice in education path (but still recognising that things may not always go your way).
  3. Know that your academic struggles are unlikely to be unique in themselves – don’t beat yourself up too hard.

I am probably not doing much justice with a summary like that above – maybe I will do a more elaborated piece for the future.

Did you study Economics at O Level?

Share your experience with us in the comments below!

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