Complete Guide to HSC Economics – How to Ace HSC Economics

Taking my years of teaching Economics and distilling it into one post.

Aatish Budhwani

Aatish Budhwani

99.75 ATAR and 97 in Economics

1. Introduction

Hey there! Did you know that Economics is actually the most popular major amongst the world’s richest people? It’s true! According to a study by Match College, almost 20% of the world’s top 100 billionaires actually have an Economics degree.

So, if you’re currently studying HSC Economics, that’s great news! You’re already on your way to success. As you delve into the HSC Economics course, you’ll learn about a variety of economic policies and management strategies that impact the Australian and global economy. Though it may not be easy (understanding labour market policies to analysing economic growth can be hard!), don’t worry, I’m here to help.

My name is Aatish Budhwani, and I’m an Economics Resourcer at Project Academy. I actually completed the HSC in 2022 and managed to achieve a 99.75 ATAR, 97/100 in Economics, and even ranked 15th in NSW in Legal Studies. After graduating from Penrith High School as the Proxime Accessit, I went on to enrol in a Commerce and Law degree at the University of Sydney where I’ll be pursuing a major in finance.

In this guide, I want to share my tips and tricks for studying HSC Economics effectively. I’ll cover everything from how to understand economic theory, to how to apply it through crafting masterful short answers and impressive essay responses. So, let’s get started!

2. Get to Know What’s in The Year 12 Economics Syllabus

When I was studying HSC Economics, I used to think of the Economics syllabus as a cheat sheet for acing the subject. It’s like having an answer sheet that guides you to answer exam questions correctly. The HSC Economics Syllabus is divided into four interesting topics including:

  1. The Global Economy

  2. Australia’s Place in the Global Economy

  3. Economic Issues

  4. Economic Policies and Management

When creating content notes for Year 12 Economics, the most useful framework is the ‘students learn about’ section of the syllabus.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn from Topic 2 of the HSC Economics Syllabus:

As you can see, the syllabus provides specific details that you can use to structure your notes. Exam questions usually focus on a singular syllabus dot point or aim to combine a few, so using the syllabus as your guide will help you cover all the key areas and develop a solid understanding of the subject matter.

3. How to best use your Year 12 Economics Textbook

In Year 12, most schools will use one of two textbooks:

  • Tim Riley’s “Year 12 Economics” Textbook

  • Tim Dixon’s and John Mahoney’s “Australia in the Global Economy Textbook”

While these are undoubtedly great sources of information, just reading them isn’t enough to truly understand and retain the content. That’s where active recall methods come in - and trust me, they’re anything but boring! For example, you could try:

  1. Teaching Others:

It might sound crazy, but explaining a topic to someone else, even if they’re not an expert in economics, can work wonders in solidifying your understanding. Plus, it helps you identify any gaps in your own knowledge if you struggle to explain something.

  1. Cue Cards:

This is a classic study technique that never gets old. Making flashcards for key concepts, definitions, and theories and testing yourself regularly is a great way to reinforce your understanding. You can even turn it into a game by getting a friend to quiz you!

  1. Brain Dumping:

Take a blank piece of paper and write down everything you remember about a particular topic without looking at your notes or textbook. It might seem daunting at first, but trust me, it’s worth it. And then cross-reference this with the HSC Economics Syllabus dot points and your own notes - whatever you’ve missed is what you need to revise!

  1. Application:

This is all about taking what you’ve learned and applying it to real-world situations. Look for examples of economic theory in the news, in case studies, or even in your own life. Practice explaining how these concepts apply and what the implications might be.

  1. Exam Practice:

Of course, let’s not forget about exam preparation! Make sure you’re familiar with the format of the exam and practice answering different types of questions, including multiple-choice, short answers, and essays. Past papers from NESA and other schools’ HSC Trials, as well as sample answers, are also great resources to get a sense of the mark range and what examiners are looking for.

One thing to keep in mind is that textbooks usually don’t contain niche statistics or advanced theories. So, it’s CRUCIAL to use other resources when note-making, like your class notes, YouTube videos, or even Project Academy’s notes. The more varied your sources, the more well-rounded your understanding will be.

4. Effective Note-Making for Year 12 Economics Study

Now, let’s talk about note-making! We all know how overwhelming it can be to keep track of all the complex concepts, theories, and relevant economic information we need to know. That’s why I’m here to share some tips that helped me stay on top of my note-taking game.

First, I recommend you structure your notes into TWO separate documents as follows:

  1. HSC Economics Content Notes
  2. HSC Economics Essay Plans

4.1. HSC Economics Content Notes

This is where you should structure your notes using the syllabus dot points, comprising of:

  • Definitions of key terms
  • Diagrams and explanation (if relevant)
  • Trends (if relevant)
  • Advantages and disadvantages

It is important that for every concept, you consider its positive and negative effects as this is most commonly tested in the HSC Economics exam. Thankfully, Project has an extensive range of notes for each topic produced by our state-ranking tutors; which you’ll receive along with your very own iPad!

4.2. HSC Economics Essay Plans

The second document you should create is your HSC Economics Essay Plans. This is where you can craft your arguments for the different topics in the Economics Syllabus. To achieve high marks, it’s crucial that you undertake expansive research into what’s really happening in the economy and incorporate advanced theories and hypotheses to achieve that “WOW factor”. Creating essay plans for broad questions is super helpful to organise these economic theories and concepts. Your essay plans should have at least 3 well-thought-out ideas. If you’re tackling a broad question, your essay plan may have many ideas (e.g., 6+), which is perfectly fine as you won’t be using all of them in the exam. The more ideas you have, the more you’ll be able to adapt to any question you get!

To give you an idea, here’s a snippet of one of my essay plans for a broad Topic 1 case study question for China. Trust me, it’s not as daunting as it may seem!

5. Tackling Multiple Choice Questions in Year 12 Economics

The multiple-choice section of the HSC Economics exam is where you will be tested on how well you understand ALL the economic concepts learned throughout the year. You will generally have a mixture of specific content questions as well as scenario questions where you must apply your knowledge to the circumstances presented. While this can be challenging, here are some key tips you should ALWAYS consider when answering multiple-choice questions:

  1. Read the question carefully:

Yes, I know, this may sound obvious, but trust me, it’s crucial. Even if a question seems easy, make sure to read it at least twice. HSC Economics questions can be tricky, and sometimes there are keywords or phrases that can catch you off guard if you’re not paying attention. So, always read the question carefully! For example, in the question below, an important word to note is “deliberate”.

Taken from the 2021 HSC Economics Exam

  1. Watch out for modality:

Now, this may sound a bit technical, but it’s really just about paying attention to certain words in the question. Words like “can,” “must,” and “will” can give you a clue about which answers to eliminate.

  1. Eliminate wrong answers:

After reading the question and considering the use of modality, try to eliminate the options that are most likely to be wrong. There will usually be two answers that are clearly incorrect, so focus on those first.

  1. Use your knowledge and skills:

This is where you get to show off all the economic concepts you’ve been learning! I found it helpful to create mini flow charts to help me visualize cause and effect. For instance, we can use a flow chart to answer the following question:

Taken from the 2022 HSC Economics Exam

If we consider Option B, an increase in the childcare subsidy —> decreases the difficulty for parents managing work alongside family commitments —> encouraging greater entry into the labour force —> most likely INCREASING the participation rate. Therefore, B is correct!

  1. Beware of time:

Time is of the essence in the multiple-choice section! You’ll want to aim to spend around 10-15 minutes on this section, which means you have about 30-45 seconds per question on average. So, if you get stuck on a particular question, always take a guess - you never know, it might just be your lucky day!

  1. Practice past papers:

Testing yourself with an actual exam paper is probably the best way to improve your multiple-choice marks. Practice makes perfect, right?

6. Getting Full Marks on Short Answer Questions in Year 12 Economics

Writing short answer responses in HSC Economics can be compared to ticking off a checklist - if you hit all the right points, you are bound to receive full marks. In this section, I will discuss the key elements that make up a perfect short answer response, helping you to hone your skills and improve your grades. To do this, let’s deconstruct the following Topic 3 question below.

Taken from the 2022 HSC Economics Exam


  1. Identify the mark value:

This particular question we’ll be deconstructing is worth 5 marks. But don’t worry, there’s a general rule for short answer questions - 1 MARK = 3 LINES of writing. So, for this question, you should aim to write approximately 15 lines. And, unless specified, you should have 1 IDEA for every 2 MARKS. Hence, the structure would be as follows:

  • Definition (1 mark)
  • Idea 1 (2 marks)
  • Idea 2 (2 marks)
  1. Identify the directive term:

The directive term in this question is EXPLAIN. This means that we must show the relationship between cause and effect. NESA has a whole list of directive terms, so be sure to check it out here if you’re unsure about any of them.

  1. Brainstorm your ideas:

Next, you should brainstorm TWO key conflicts between the objective of environmental sustainability and other objectives (e.g., sustainable economic growth, price stability, full employment, external stability, and income and wealth equality). For this answer, we will examine the conflict between environmental sustainability and price stability, as well as environmental sustainability and economic growth.

  1. Develop your response:

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for - the example answer! Pro tip: underlining your headings can be useful to clearly show the marker what your key ideas are.

Exemplar answer:

Environmental sustainability is an economic objective focused on preserving the natural environment and biodiversity, ensuring the sustainable use of renewable and non-renewable resources, and minimising the negative environmental impacts of economic activities. This objective can conflict with the objective of: (1 MARK)

Price stability: If the government aims to achieve environmental sustainability, it may pursue market-based policies such as taxes on demerit goods (i.e., goods whose consumption generates negative externalities) which would increase firms’ average costs of production. This would increase firms’ total costs resulting in a fall in profit margins. Given firms are rational profit maximisers, this would cause a decrease in the quantity supplied of the demerit good leading to a decrease in aggregate supply, thereby putting an upward pressure on general price levels (i.e., cost-push inflation). (2 MARKS)

Economic growth: In an attempt to pursue environmental sustainability, the government may impose regulations such as limiting the use of harmful goods in production (e.g., non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels). This would decrease the quantity of raw materials available for production which lowers the nation’s productive capacity, thereby lowering output and thus short-term economic growth. (2 MARKS)

So, are you feeling more confident about short answer responses in HSC Economics now? I hope so! Remember, it’s just like ticking off a checklist. And who doesn’t love checking things off a list?

7. How to Structure a 20/20 HSC Economics Essay

Just like a builder needs a strong foundation to construct a building, you need a solid understanding of the key economic concepts to write an excellent essay. However, that’s just the beginning. You also need to know how to organise and present your creative ideas in a way that is both logical and aesthetically pleasing. Think of it as building a beautiful and functional house that meets all the requirements of your clients. Similar to short answers, it is essential to pay close attention to the directive term in the question.

So, what’s the best structure for answering economics essay questions? I recommend the following:


The introduction of your essay should cover a few general points including:

  1. Definition of the key term in the question

  2. Thesis statement that directly addresses the question

  3. Signposting key ideas

  4. Contemporary statistic

Body Paragraphs (3-4 Ideas)

The body paragraph structure I used throughout my HSC for Economics was PDEAL. This stood for:

  1. Point (P) – Outline your main point/topic for this paragraph.

  2. Definition (D) – Define/describe the key concept you will be discussing. This sentence will usually be connected to the last.

  3. Explain (E) – Logically explain your argument with reference to contemporary statistics, and a relevant diagram if applicable.

  4. Analysis (A) – Offer counter-arguments to your point as no economic policy or concept is perfect. You may use relevant advanced theories or hypothesises if applicable.

  5. Link (L) – Link back to the question and solidify your judgement.


  1. Restate judgement and key ideas (i.e., similar to the introduction)

  2. Future statement (e.g., a statistic forecasting protection levels in the future)

It is undeniable that finding statistics and advanced theories to support your arguments can be difficult. Fortunately, Project’s notes include both of these which will certainly help you in crafting 20/20 Economics essays.

For a more detailed step-by-step guide on how to write 20/20 Economics essays with exemplar responses, feel free to check out A State Rankers Guide to Writing 20/20 Economics Essays.

8. Year 12 Economics Tutoring at Project Academy

Economics at Project Academy is not like your average tutoring experience. You get the full package, with amazing benefits including:

  • Weekly 3-hour classes taught by state-ranking Economics teachers or 99+ ATAR achievers
  • Unlimited 1 to 4 tutorials to get personalised help for 1.5 hours every week
  • 12 predicted HSC exams that cover almost every question you can possibly be asked. For more information regarding LEAP (our HSC exam program), see our LEAP page.
  • Unlimited short answer and essay marking with detailed feedback from top Economics achievers
  • Unparalleled support online and in-person, outside of class hours
  • Your own Project iPad featuring comprehensive notes, state-ranking exemplars, and 300+ past papers
  • A world-class study space open till 11 pm every night
  • A fantastic community of dedicated and high-achieving students and tutors who will bring out the best in you

In the 2020 HSC cohort alone, Project produced 3 out of the possible 10 state ranks in the whole of NSW, with an average Band 6 mark of 93.

For more information on our HSC Economics Course at Project including our 3 week free trial, see our HSC Economics page.

9. FAQs

Is Economics hard for HSC?

It’s totally understandable if you find HSC Economics challenging. But guess what? Everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and that’s perfectly okay. Some may find Economics to be a piece of cake due to its logical nature, while others may need some extra time and effort to grasp the many complex theories and concepts. But don’t worry, with a little dedication and hard work, you can do great in Economics too!

How to memorise statistics for Economics?

When it comes to memorising statistics for Economics, it can feel like an uphill battle. But fear not, there are ways to make the process less daunting and even a bit enjoyable. From my experience, simply memorising a list of numbers won’t cut it. Instead, try incorporating them into your essay plans. By doing so, you’ll create a connection between the numbers and the concepts they represent, which will make it easier to recall them during an exam. Another helpful tip is to use visual aids such as infographics and charts. It’s amazing how much easier it is to remember information when it’s presented in a visually appealing way. Lastly, consider using spaced repetition techniques to help with long-term memory retention. Apps and programs like Anki or Quizlet can be incredibly helpful for this.

Do you need to do Economics in the HSC to do commerce in university?

Ah, the age-old question: to study Economics or not to study Economics in the HSC? It’s a tricky one, but the short answer is no, it’s not a strict requirement for studying Commerce at university. However, it can definitely give you a leg up in your first year of study. You see, many of the introductory Commerce subjects you’ll encounter in your first-year cover topics that are very similar to what you would have learned in your Prelim and HSC Economics courses. Having this prior knowledge can make the transition to university life a little less daunting.

Does Preliminary Economics Matter for HSC Economics?

The Preliminary Economics course is where you’ll learn all about the basic concepts and principles of economics that you’ll need to build on in the HSC Economics course. We’re talking about things like supply and demand, market structures, economic policies, and macroeconomic issues. Think of it like laying the foundation for a house - you need to make sure it’s strong and sturdy before you start adding the walls and roof. And that’s exactly what the Preliminary Economics course does - it provides you with a solid foundation to build on.

How long should an Economics essay be?

Generally, a good guideline is to aim for around 1000 words. But, keep in mind that it’s not just about hitting that word count. You also need to include 1-2 diagrams that are well-explained to support your argument. These diagrams can really elevate your essay and help to demonstrate your understanding of the topic at hand. Of course, managing your time during the HSC exam is crucial, and you don’t want to find yourself rushing through your essay at the last minute. So, it’s a good idea to budget your time wisely and aim for a minimum of 50 minutes for each Economics essay. This will give you enough time to develop your ideas, include those important diagrams, and ultimately craft a well-constructed and comprehensive essay.

What is HSC Economics about?

Picture this: you’re a detective trying to solve a complex case. You have to piece together clues, make connections, and ultimately come to a conclusion. That’s what studying HSC Economics is like. First, you’ll delve into the complexities of the Global Economy, examining how different countries interact and the impact of globalisation. Second, you’ll explore Australia’s Place in the Global Economy, investigating the factors that influence our economic performance and how we are impacted by global events. Third, you’ll explore the theory and trends in central economic issues, such as economic growth, inflation, and unemployment. But you don’t stop there. You also have to examine the macroeconomic and microeconomic policies used to manage these issues, and critically analyse their effectiveness. It’s a challenging but fascinating journey, and at the end of it, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the global economy and Australia’s role within it.

How hard is it to get a Band 6 in Economics?

It’s not an easy feat, but it’s definitely possible with the right mindset and approach. Sure, memorising theories and concepts is important, but it’s not everything. To truly excel in Economics, you need to be able to critically analyse and evaluate economic situations, applying theories to real-world scenarios and understanding their implications. And that’s not all – you also need to be able to clearly communicate your ideas and arguments in writing, all within the time constraints of the exam. It’s a tall order, but with practice and dedication throughout the year, you can definitely aim for that Band 6!

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