IB Economics – HL or SL Economics ?

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Firstly, many struggle to choose between Business and Management (or other Humanities subjects) and Economics.

Economics is an academic subject, hence essay responses written during the exams have to be referencing a specific concept in mind; there is no room for ‘waffling’, contrary to popular belief. As such, those who enjoy a form of ‘specificity’ within a Humanities discipline would do well to choose Economics. Economics is a perfect blend of the expressive nature of the Humanities, whilst also being well-rooted in academic concepts and theories. 

Economics is also very useful for business and investments. Take it from Principal Tutor, Mr Kelvin Hong, who has started up 10 companies (if his memory serves him right) and are spot-on with many investment tips he casually shares with his students (all through the application of economics!).

But should you take Economics at HL or SL ?

We recommend taking HL Economics if you:

  • Have a passion for Economics having read about it or studied it before either leisurely/in Secondary School/the IP Programme.
  • If you enjoy the Humanities but appreciate an element of specificity.
  • If you wish to take at least 1 Humanities subject for your entrance into University, and other combinations are unsuitable for you – many of our students go into Medicine, Law and Engineering in the future!
  • Want to possibly read Economics in the University (to stand a chance to be Singapore’s next PM!)

We spoke to a couple of students who told us why they chose to study HL Economics:

“I chose HL…it was between HL Econs or Chem…I didnt want to become a doctor plus Econs seemed like an interesting subject. I would do the same all over again. :-)”

Josh Foo, ACS Indep

“I picked HL Econs because I thought it would be interesting. I had a vague idea of what the subject was, but I wanted to study it in depth and learn how the economy worked. I think if I were to do it all over again, I would probably give some thought to Business Management but ultimately I’d remain with Economics because the overview and understanding of the economy from both micro and macro is invaluable. I can now explain to friends and family why the government does things, and I like that understanding and insight a lot. However, while it was very interesting, the many essays and diagrams detracted from the enjoyment somewhat. It’s a subject that you have to really, truly understand and put effort into consistently to do well in, I think, and I’d like to recommend that new students be prepared for the rigour. It’s challenging but rewarding.”

Zach Tay, ACS Indep

“Decision between HL and SL was not difficult because it was a choice between taking a HL humanities subject or a HL science subject (at SOTA, students have to take HL for their art forms as well, unless they appealed to take up double science and dropped their art form). And since my strengths and interest were inclined towards Humanities, the choice was clear.

The calculations for the third “math” paper that HL students had to do was manageable even for a non-mathematically inclined student like myself haha.

In the pre-IB years, I was a History student so the content and skills were not entirely transferable to Econs. However, in consideration of the reduced amount of time I would have due to the demands of doing HL visual arts at SOTA, I decided to take up Econs in the IB years because I felt it would be less dependent on content memorisation, and therefore less time-consuming.

Based on the above factor alone, I think I would have taken up Econs again. From a practical standpoint, Econs is a highly structured, and skills-based subject, with more emphasis on concepts and theories as opposed to being content intensive and subjective, relative to History. Stastically, there is also a higher percentage of students getting 7 for Econs than for other subjects (in SOTA, at least).

On a more personal note, I came to enjoy and appreciate Econs as a subject that is applicable to our everyday life, and current affairs (esp. after attending your classes!). The knowledge that I gained still remain relevant and useful in my course of study today.

Advice for new IB Econs students would be to practice drawing diagrams with labels and all (most answers require making references to diagram – chances are, being able to draw the diagram correctly, means also being able to explain the concept, and provide corresponding analysis)

Also, follow the news to look out for recent topics/articles (within the past 6 months, I think) that could be potentially used for the two required Internal Assessments papers

As a two year programme, IB demands students to be consistent (and often independent) in their learning, so seek help early, if necessary!

Hui Jun, SOTA

We recommend taking SL Economics if you:

  • Are keen about Economics but need to take other subjects at HL to fulfill college/university entry requirements.
  • Wish to take a Humanities subject at the SL level (less content, with almost the same amount of joy!)

We spoke to our couple of students, who told us why they chose SL Economics:

“I chose SL Econs because I wanted to work in the medical sector, so my teachers recommended I take Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics as my HL subjects. I also wanted to study Economics (instead of Business Management) because my mother encouraged me to. She said Economics was a subject I needed a teacher to learn from, but I could learn BM on my own. So in the end I chose Economics as an SL subject. No regrets!

Kenny Go, ACS Indep

“I chose SL Econs. Simply because I was unsure of my career options in Yr5. Picking HL PCM was the safest option & IB didn’t allow be to pick 4 HLs, so I went with SL Econs. Considering that now I want to study Economics at Uni, Would have picked HL Econs instead! Studying economics gave me the opening to make a decision regarding my future career.”

Karthik, SJI Indep

“I chose it because I felt like it was relevant to everyday life. Since I never had any exposure to learning econs so I chose SL over HL. If I could choose again, I would’ve chosen to do econs at HL because the content covered is almost the same, the main difference being a 3rd paper.”

Rachel Lee, SJI Int’l

“I chose it because I felt like it was relevant to everyday life. Since I never had any exposure to learning econs so I I chose SL econs as there wasn’t an option for 4 HLs… and I had to take PCM HLs for the ASP class anyway. I would love to have done econs HL as there isn’t as big a gap between econs SL and HL as there is for other subjects.

Econs is difficult, but at least it is not as luck based as other humanities subjects. It’s difficult to study and memorise a lot of content though, and write essays without going off on a tangent by accident.

Tim Low, ACS Indep

“I chose SL econs because I alr had 3 HL subjects in mind but was still very interested in learning more about econs. I think it is a completely new subject to many of us, and it is very useful and applicable in real life and has proven me right to have chosen it over BM.

I would definitely have done the same because despite the heavy content and rigour of the subject, I think it has helped me improved my knowledge of the real world and the way people and markets interact with each other.

The only thing that I disliked about econs was the sheer amount of content we had to go through for 2 years, nevertheless, it was worthwhile and enjoyable because I have greatly benefitted from the useful knowledge gained. Maybe another thing that I might have disliked would be how I have never done well for econs, at least to my expectations, maybe because I didn’t really grasp some concepts well at first but anyway, it takes time to get everything right on track again.

My advice would just be to stay on task because econs is a subject that piles one up with many concepts and no one would want to be left behind and panicking over how much I had to catch up like how I was back in year 5. Another advice would be to learn to love econs because it is a subject that one must really enjoy to be able to do well in. All the best to everyone taking econs :)”

Max Goh, ACS Indep

Whether you are taking Economics at HL or SL, Mr Hong will prepare you very well. Almost every HL and SL student in our IB economics tuition scores a 7! Please feel free to also consult Mr Hong on your Internal Assessments. If appropriate, he might also incorporate your IA into a lesson for everyone to discuss and learn from. Many of our students score almost full marks for their IAs. You will also benefit from our library of economics real world examples as well as highly sought after IB Economics Model Essays and Study Guides.

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