Being a successful economics student is easy; it really isn’t too much different from succeeding anywhere else in the academic arena. Here are some tips to make your life as an economics student much easier.
PAY ATTENTION. As a student, you should be doing this in every class. Paying attention to the lecture can save you so much time and effort from having to learn the material on your own via the textbook (which is probably more boring than your professor) the day before an exam.
Take a look at the syllabus and read ahead of the class. Even skimming a chapter ahead of time will work wonders. Your brain won’t be overloaded trying to process all the information during lecture because it won’t be the first time you’re seeing the material. This will give you the opportunity to think things through a little bit so you can come up with more profound questions or answers when the professor picks on you to speak in front of the class.
Speaking of questions, the moment you don’t understand something, ASK! Economics tends to build on itself and having a good grasp of the material taught in the beginning will pay dividends on understanding the material taught later on. Not only do the concepts build on each other, patterns and themes tend to repeat throughout concepts. For example, learning how to read supply and demand curves will give you the necessary foundation to read almost every other equilibrium graph presented in economics.
Just like any other subject out there, economics is full of definitions. Luckily for us, most of the jargon isn’t very difficult or unrelatable, unlike chemistry and biology. You’re probably already familiar with a good amount of the words and may have even used them before. The problem is that these definitions can get very specific and having just a general understanding of the word won’t cut it sometimes.
How Much Math Do I Need to Know?
In my opinion, undergraduate econ courses are pretty easy in general. Most classes focus mainly on concepts and the intuition behind the concepts. The great thing about economics is that it is a very logical subject, so everything makes sense. An intuitive understanding of a core concept will go a long way towards understanding everything else.
How much math you need to know and how well you need to know it is going to vary based on what economic track you’re on, the level of the course you’re taking, and what school you’re going to.
For introductory classes, as long as you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, you should be fine. And know how to graph. We like to use graphs. Lots of graphs.
For intermediate classes, it would help if you knew a touch of trigonometry, some calculus (just how to derive and integrate, you don’t really need to understand the proofs behind the math, just how to do it), and elementary statistics. Maybe some econometrics as well (which is based off statistics), again depending on your track and school. Still know how to graph. We love to graph.
Advanced classes: now we’re talking graduate school level. If you are in an advanced course, chances are that you love economics and you already know what’s coming. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be subjecting yourself to such torture. This is where things quickly go from being intuition based to math based. That’s not to say things don’t make sense; they still do. Just not to most people. Real analysis, advanced econometrics, linear algebra, multivariate calculus, and differential equations are math subjects you should be familiar with, just to name a few things. There is a large discrepancy between undergraduate economics and its graduate counterpart. Don’t underestimate the jump; Prepare yourself.
In the lower levels of economics, we use a lot of intuition to explain things and not very much math. There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and that could not ring more true in economics. I’ll be explaining the majority of the concepts in econ using graphs. Later on I’ll revisit many of these topics and derive them using proofs and more hardcore math, but I’ll keep things simple to start.
Next economics post: Introduction to Economics
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