A level Economics course

Economics is the study of the allocation of scare resources between competing uses

One of the great things about studying A level Economics at Ashbourne is that students examine real life situations to discover how people and organisations make decisions based on scarce resources like time and money. This helps them develop a theoretical understanding of how better decisions can be made by themselves, society and government.

Keeping up-to-date with current affairs is essential for Economics and we expect students to regularly read newspapers and magazines such as the Economist and watch programmes such as Newsnight. We also teach students to articulate their ideas and to distinguish between facts, bias and opinion allowing them to put forward persuasive arguments and view economic issues from multiple perspectives.

From very early on students receive plenty of exam practice to improve their technique and enable them to get the best results.

Why study A level Economics?

Possibly without realising it you are already an active part of the global economic system: whether you are buying clothes that cost 50 percent more than their manufacturing cost, lamenting the price of petrol, paying more for flights at the weekends, not getting paid enough for your weekend job, employing someone else to do your homework, avoiding your taxes or wondering just why some people are far richer than you. Well, what better way to stay afloat, get ahead or help others than by studying economics?

Studying Economics will help you understand why prices fluctuate, where your taxes go, how government legislation can push people to change their spending habits (or not), why some companies dominate their market, how global or societal changes like climate change and ageing can have an impact on a country’s economy, why people fight for resources and why certain economies grow faster than others.

You will also learn how to analyse complex issues, create strategies, monitor the political climate, understand commercial incentives, problem solve, interpret statistics and data, explain your ideas clearly and be ready for any eventuality – all highly desirable and transferable skills.

Economics is an intellectually challenging subject that universities hold in high regard. The study of economics facilitates a wide range of careers across multiple sectors. Private firms such as investment banks, public sector organisations (HMRC, Bank of England, FCA and the Civil Service) and charities all recruit economists.

What skills are required

Economics requires both written and numerical analytical skills. Familiarity with GCSE Maths concepts such as percentage changes, ratios and averages is needed in many exam questions. Additionally, much of the exam paper will require writing essay-style answers so confident writers often make strong economics students. The course covers exam technique and how to approach both question styles early so students gain confidence with their assessments.

What background do I need?

There is no formal background or previous GCSE Economics study required to study A level Economics. Most students are meeting the subject for the first time when starting their A level course. Some preparatory reading to gently introduce key economic concepts are listed in the resource section below. Economics: The User’s Guide by Ha-Joon Chang and The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford present accessible and engaging accounts of the development of the discipline and its application to tangible examples. Exam case studies are based on modern macro and microeconomic issues, therefore an interest in current affairs and willingness to engage with commentary on these topics will assist students with their course.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the Edexcel specification for Economics A level and AS level.

What is covered in the course?

This course covers micro-economics (how individual people and businesses behave and make decisions in relation to resource allocation and the price of goods and services) and macro-economics (the bigger picture: large economies, entire industries and global factors).
A level students will cover themes 1–4: two are micro- and two macro-economics; students will sit three final examinations at the end of the course.
AS level students cover themes 1 and 2: one is micro- and one macro-economics; students sit two final examinations at the end of the course.

Theme 1Theme 2Theme 3Theme 4
Introduction to markets and market failure
This micro-economics theme introduces you to the reality that people do not always behave as predicted which can affect the demand and supply of goods, services and labour.

You will also discover how the vagaries and anomalies of markets can make societies better or worse off: certain businesses may hog the marketplace keeping the price of your software high; you may be unable to buy locally grown fruit because it is all being exported; your local hospital may not have the provision to do the operation you need, but you can buy cheap booze and cigarettes; and the fumes from the car you bought are creating pollution and affecting others’ health.

Then you can examine how local organisations and governments try to correct these market ‘failures’ and question why their actions do not always succeed.

The UK economy – performance and policies
This macro-economics theme takes all of the individual markets put together and investigates how they affect households, businesses and government within the UK. You will need to keep up to date with current affairs issues – like unemployment, government legislation and trade relations with other countries – and examine how specific government policies aim to achieve sustainable economic growth, low and stable inflation rates and full employment.
Business behavior and the labour market
This is where you really scrutinise how businesses work (micro-economics) in different markets by applying theory and crunching numbers: you will analyse the revenue, cost and profit schedules of firms and how these may or may not equate to an efficient allocation of resources. You will also take a look at ways governments attempt to protect consumers’ rights and how they encourage firms to be more efficient.
A global perspective
What if companies could sue governments for decisions they believe jeopardise their profits? How would this affect governments’ ability to protect people, the environment or services? Who makes international trade rules? In this macro-economic theme you will examine international trade patterns and relations, and the governing role of institutions like the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. You will also consider the (human and economic) impact of global issues like poverty, inequality and environment and what policies governments might use to tackle these problems.

Who teaches this course?

Brendan Casey

BSc Hons, (London School of Economics); BEd, (Greenwich); Accounts, Business, Economics, (HoD)

Brendan has been instrumental in developing Ashbourne’s highly successful Economics Department. He is a long-standing member of staff, having been at Ashbourne for many years. Brendan is a graduate of the London School of Economics. He trained as an accountant and worked in the city before completing his PGCE at the University of Greenwich. He is the author of eight A level revision books on economics and accounting.

John Curran

MA Economics Education (Institute of Education, University of London); BA (Hons) Economics; EdD Policy, Research and Professional Practice (London Metropolitan University)

John taught Economics at London Metropolitan University for 35 years before joining Ashbourne in 2015. He is the author of Taking the Fear Out of Economics, an introductory text for A level and first year degree students. John engages students through the use of real life examples to explain economics.

Adam McMaster

Bsc Economics and Political Science (University of Birmingham)

Adam joined Ashbourne following his recent graduation from the University of Birmingham. As well as teaching economics he also runs the Ashbourne Finance Programme, designed to give students the best chance of gaining a place at top UK universities to study Finance and related subjects.

Adam presents economics as a tool to explain the successes and failures of modern society and illustrates how better understanding of theory could propose solutions to such failures. He’s keen on the development and history of economic schools of thought, and closely follows the microeconomic changes in the housing market and higher education. 

Stefania Spinu

MA Economic Policy and Analysis, Economics of Sustainable Development (University of Nantes, France); BA Economics (University of Bucharest ASE); PGCE Economics (Institute of Education, UCL)

Stefania specialises in economic analysis, and environmental and sustainable economics. She is also an Edexcel examiner for Economics.

Stefania also loves painting and clay modelling, music and cinema, aquariums and space.

Beyond A level Economics

With your excellent understanding of how economics affects your own finances, influences business success, shapes government policy and drive global markets you should be well-suited for a degree in Economics-related courses like International Relations, Law, Business, Economics or Maths. Then you could go for high flying jobs in the government forging economic policy, work at the World Bank, make predictions for economic thinktanks, shake up the stock market or attempt to regulate the finance industry. Alternatively, you may plan to set up your own business, get involved in the law, become a journalist, offer advice to non-profit organisations or become a crusader for global trade justice.

Suggested reading and resources

BroadcastPrint and onlineVideoOnlineBooks
Current affairs programme (on BBC 2) famous for rigorous cross-examination of senior political figures and news analysis.

Freakeconomics Radio
A quirky and engaging take on the economics news from Stephen J. Dubner, an author from the well-known ‘Freakeconomics’ books.

More or less
Tim Harford analyses the numbers and statistics used in the week’s political and economics debates on this BBC Radio 4 programme and asks if we can really trust them. 

Current affairs programme (BBC 1) featuring interviews and investigative reports on a wide range of issues.

The News Quiz
Topical news quiz (BBC radio 4) where the players offer a humorous take on the week’s events.

Have I Got News for You
Comedy news quiz (BBC 1) with celebrity guests and regulars Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

The Economist
Weekly ‘newspaper’ (magazine format), established in 1843, offering reports and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science and technology.

Weekly magazine on current affairs, world politics, arts and culture.

Financial Times
Award-winning daily newspaper covering global business, finance, economic and political news, comment and analysis.

LSE Blogs
Highly insightful short pieces written by experts from a number of fields on economics and political events, both current and historical, from the London School of Economics.

Private Eye
Weekly satirical current affairs magazine taking a poke at the establishment and exposing what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Economics meets popular culture. This media channel splices through classic films, TV shows and popular entertainment programmes to humorously expose the economic subtexts.

The Masters of Money
Find out how economics giants Keynes, Hayek and Marx shaped the 20th century in this short series by BBC economics editor.

Economics Made Easy
Series of debates and analyses broadcast by the BBC, including The Wealth of Nations, The Darwin Economy, Keynes vs. Hayek and What is Money?

Economics online
News, analysis, theory and comment on micro, macro, business and global economics.

Economic Review
Educational publication written by experts for economics students.

Economics Help
Essays and advice on topical UK and global issues.

Ha Joon-Chang 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism
In this contrarian book, Ha-Joon Chang challenges the biggest myths of our times and shows us his alternative economic thinking. Chang critiques a wide range of conventional thinking from the influence of the internet and globalisation.

Kate Raworth Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist
Raworth identifies seven areas where modern western economic systems have failed, from inequality to environmental damage, and offers alternatives to balance growth and sustainability.

Partha Dasgupta Economics: A very short introduction
Dasgupta describes the two contrasting lives faced by a child in Ethiopia and the USA, using economics to explain how the difference in living standards arose and what might be done to change this.

Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow
Kahneman (and Amos Tversky)’s groundbreaking, and Nobel Prize winning, research into human behaviour finally debunked the long-held theory that people are purely ‘rational thinkers’. Their experiments demonstrate how systematic (and unconscious) biases influence the way people think and make decisions.

Tim Harford The Undercover Economist
Economist Tim Harford uncovers the complex world of hustling (negotiation), vying and outwitting that lie behind seemingly small events we take for granted like buying a coffee to seismic transformations in national prosperity. From resource scarcity and market failures to price hiking and game theory, Harford reveals how economic forces shape our lives.

Charles Wheelan Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science
Economics stripped bare. Entertaining and easy to read dissection of everything economics providing the would-be economist with the tools to navigate and understand all the hot issues of the day.

Jeffrey D. Sachs End of Poverty
Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs draws on more than thirty years of experience to create a roadmap to end world poverty in this influential and classic book.

Brendan Casey‘s range of A level Economics study books.

John Curran Taking the Fear out of Economics
Curran uses real world examples to enrich the economic theories and wide range of topics covered in this comprehensive textbook.


A Level EconomicsEconomics HandbookOther resources
Title – Edexcel A level Economics A
Author – Peter Smith
Web link – Edexcel A level Economics A

Title – A-Z Economics Handbook
Author – Nancy Wall
Web link – A-Z Economics Handbook

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What I like about Ashbourne is that everyone is enveloped into the really close-knit family, regardless of race or background. The teaching goes beyond simply imparting skills and knowledge, but also extends to encouraging and inspiring students, which makes learning a lot more enjoyable. The amount of passion that everyone has and the amount of individual attention the college gives to every student creates a pleasant and stimulating environment. Ashbourne has exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and I have really enjoyed my time here in the college
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