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How to Study Economics

No one ever said that economics is an easy subject, and many students tell us it is the most challenging subject they have studied. Despite the challenge, most students manage to learn a great deal of economics, and we're sure you can too. But doing well in economics requires a commitment from you to keep up your studying and to study properly.

Keeping up: Although there may be subjects that can be learned reasonably well by cramming the night before an exam, economics is not one of them. Learning economics is like building a house: first you need to lay a solid foundation, and then you must carefully build the walls. To master economics you must first learn the early concepts, vocabulary, and ideas; if you do not, the later ones will not make any sense.

Studying properly: Listening in class, reading the text, and going through the Study Guide are not really enough to learn economics-you must also organize your studying. The textbook and the Study guide have been designed to help you organize your thinking and your studying. Used together, they will help you learn.

We recommend following these steps for each chapter:

  1. Skim the text chapter before your instructor discusses it in class to get a general idea of what the chapter covers.
    1. Read through the Fundamental Questions and the Preview to get a sense of what is to come.
    2. Skim through the chapter, looking only at the section headings and the section Recaps.
    3. Read the chapter Summary. By this point, you should have a good idea of what topics the chapter covers.
  2. Read the text chapter and Study Guide one section at a time. Both the text and the Study guide break down each chapter into several sections so that you will not need to juggle too many new ideas at once.
    1. Read through one section of the text chapter. Pay attention to the marginal notes containing definitions of key terms, highlights of important concepts, and Fundamental Questions.
    2. Study the section Recap. If parts of the Recap are not clear to you, review those part of the section.
    3. In the Study Guide, read the answers to the Fundamental Questions covered in the section you are studying.
    4. Take the Quick-Check Quiz for the section. Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper so that you can use the quiz again later. If you missed any questions, review the applicable section in the text.
    5. Work through the Practice Questions and Problems for the section, writing your answers in the spaces provided. Check you answers, and then review what you missed. Read through the explanations in the Answers section, even if you answered the question or problem correctly.
    6. If there are ideas that are not clear or problems you do not understand, talk to your instructor. Economics instructors are interested in helping their students.
  3. Review the chapter as a whole. Although each section should initially be studied alone, you will need to put the pieces together.
    1. Read through the chapter again, paying special attention to the Fundamental Questions, the section Recaps, the Economic Insight boxes, and the chapter Summary. If you like to outline chapters on paper, now is the time to do so. The section headings and subheadings provide an ideal framework for outlining the text.
    2. In the Study Guide, read through the Fundamental Questions and their answers.
    3. Review the list of Key Terms. Write down the definition of each one at this point, and check your definitions against the marginal notes or the glossary. Study any terms you missed.
    4. Work through the Exercises at the end of the text chapter.
    5. Read through the Economically Speaking section in the text to see how the real world contains examples of economic thinking.
    6. Work through the Thinking About and Applying section of the Study Guide.
    7. Complete the Homework section of the Study Guide and hand it in if your instructor requests it; otherwise, save it for exam review.
  4. Ideally, studying for exams should be a repetition of steps 1, 2, and 3. However, economists recognize the existence of opportunity costs, and you have many other things to do with your time in addition to studying economics. If you cannot study for an exam as thoroughly as you should, you can use some techniques to help refresh your memory. These techniques assume that you did study the materials at least once (there is no magic way to learn economics without doing some serious studying).
    1. Review the Fundamental Questions, the section Recaps, the Key Terms lists, and the chapter Summaries in the text.
    2. Read again the Fundamental Questions and their answers in the Study Guide.
    3. Take the Quick-Check Quiz again, writing your answers in the Study Guide this time. Questions that you miss will direct you to the areas you need to study most.
    4. Take a Sample Test, found at the end of each part in the Study Guide. These questions are likely to resemble closely the questions you'll see on your exam. They cover one part's worth of chapters in one test, because you are likely to be tested this way. Check your answers against the answer key; review the appropriate sections of the text if you answer any of the questions incorrectly.

If you follow these suggestions, you are sure to meet with success in your study of economics.

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