We live in a world where peoples’ choices are unlimited but the resources available to meet those choices are finite. Consequently, we have a problem of scarcity. For example, we would like to do many things, such as go on holiday and buy a new car but we might not have either sufficient time or money to choose both of these options. Economics attempts to tackle problems of scarcity by providing people with incentives to change their behaviour, to achieve a better allocation of scarce resources. For example, introducing a congestion charge in central London (an incentive to use public transport) means fewer vehicles use the roads (a scarce resource) during the day. The favourite way for economists to address the problem of scarcity is to use a market. Let buyers and sellers determine the price of a good and how much of that good is traded. Unfortunately, markets do not always achieve the optimum allocation of scarce resources. Imagine if healthcare was left to the market: what would happen? Only those people able to afford healthcare would be treated. Others, with equal need, would be left untreated. In other words, the market would not allocate enough resources to healthcare.
As well as studying individual markets (known as microeconomics) we also look at national economies (macroeconomics). Here, again, the problem is characterised by scarcity and issues of resource allocation. At the national level, these problems give rise to issues such as inflation; unemployment; inadequate growth in the economy; balance of payments difficulties and unsustainable development. To tackle these issues, you will investigate some of the different ways governments can intervene in the economy and alter the total amount of demand and supply of goods and services available.
No prior knowledge is required before taking this course. However, most universities to which students from Sutton Grammar School apply to study economics require at least A level mathematics in order to be admitted onto their undergraduate courses. The most important attribute in a student coming on to this course is an interest in current affairs. Reading a daily newspaper and magazines, such as The Economist, as well as watching programmes such as Newsnight and Channel 4 News are essential if you are to include relevant up-to-date examples in your answers.
The course is assessed entirely by written examination. These involve multiple-choice questions; data response questions and essays. All the examinations are sat in the summer term of Year 13 and are marked externally. There is no coursework.
As well as preparing you for a career in finance; accountancy and insurance, students from this course have gone on to study a wide range of subjects at university including mathematics; management; accounting and finance; law; medicine; history; modern languages and engineering. Whatever you go on to study, I hope that after the AQA Economics course, you will have a better appreciation of how the society in which you live operates.