The exam was praised for being topical and giving candidates the opportunity to think about real-world scenarios
IT WAS never going to be a walk in the park, but at 38 pages, the economics higher Leaving Cert paper may have just been too “long” and possibly even too “overwhelming” for some students.
Made up of 16 challenging questions on issues such as demographics, the European Central Bank ( ECB), the black economy and solar panels, the paper was topical and certainly appeared to give students the prospect of thinking financially in real-world scenarios.
However, with a long paper and some lengthy, taxing questions, it may have been a huge challenge for some.
Keith Hannigan, economics teacher at The Institute of Education, told Independent.ie: “Coming in at 38 pages, the paper was very long and could have been overwhelming for some students.”
However, he added: “Although very diverse, there were at least five nice short questions which would have suited students and the choice here would have really helped them too.”
The paper “continued” with a new style of not displaying the marks afforded for questions, Mr Hannigan stated.
He felt that newer parts of the syllabus were “represented well, including market failures”, which were made up of short questions. The question on sustainability was a long question.
“The format of the long questions meant that multiple topics on the course were combined in some questions,” he said.
“Because of this it was important that students read questions right to the very end before they started.”
In general though, Mr Hannigan felt that the majority of students would have found three long questions they would have been happy with.
In part A of the paper, students had to answer five out of ten questions. In previous years, prior to changes being made, they would have to answer eight out of eight.
Mr Hannigan felt question one in this section was “lovely” and merely required a “simple calculation”.
Another question focused on minimum unit pricing of alcohol. He said this was a “topical theme” and that it was “nice to get students' opinions on this issue”.
Demographics, and the fact there will be over one-million people over 65 living in Ireland by 2031, framed another question within section A. Students were asked to look at the impact that this will have. Again, this was felt to be a “current and topical” question, he added.
Students were asked about interest rates in this section – something affecting their families – and then to focus on the functions of the ECB. Mr Hannigan felt this was a “nice and straightforward question which required textbook knowledge”.
Interestingly, question 8 in this section examined the black economy and the fact that there are supply-chain issues for illegal fireworks in Ireland.
“Again, this was nice and topical, and if students keep in touch with the general news, they would have had insight here,” he added. Solar panels and their benefit and cost were examined also.
In Section B, students were faced with extended response questions.
Like last year, students had to answer three out of six questions. Normally they would have to answer four out of five.
The first half of question 11 was felt to be quite standard and focused on the factor of production land.
It then moved on to the benefits of the Government supporting regional development, such as financing regional airline services.
Question 12 was on market structure, focusing on monopoly and oligopoly. It also looked at electric cars and planning permission for data centres.
Question 13 was, Mr Hannigan felt, “more concise” and focused on something every student must know about – taxation.
The final section of the question was “nice and topical”. It asked students’ opinion on whether a new tax should affect all firms, or just large firms.
Question 15 examined how quotas and subsidies affect the milk supply chain and how Brexit has affected trade between Ireland and the UK. While most of the question was on trade, the last part changed its focus to fiscal policy. This is a different part of the course, which some students may have found more challenging, Mr Hannigan said.Mairead O’Sullivan, economics teacher at Glenstal Abbey School in Co Limerick and economics rep for the Business Studies Teachers Association of Ireland (BSTAI), said: “This was a very challenging but fair paper that was very topical throughout.
“Students needed to have a thorough knowledge of the entire specification attempting this paper because all questions featured a mix of topics. Even with the extra choices on the paper, there was no possibility of cutting down the paper which may have been the case in other subjects this year.”
Ms O’Sullivan stated section A provided enough choice for most students to find five questions they could complete out of the 10 provided. Section B was, however, she felt more “challenging and it was really important that students read through questions carefully before making their choices.”
Timing was, Ms O’Sullivan added, “an issue but because of the shorter paper this year, students had just enough time to get everything done.”
“One of my students said to me after the exam that it was tight enough to complete,” she added. She added that the student felt it would “be nearly impossible” to answer eight short questions and five long questions in the same time next year.
The student felt the exam needed to be increased to three hours. Ms O’Sullivan added: “I have to agree with him. Students reported that they found the paper long and were writing to the very last minute.”