Announcement: Enrolments for T1 2023 are open! 🎉

Complete Guide to Year 11 Economics - How to Ace HSC Prelim Economics

Your complete guide to Year 11 HSC Prelim Economics!

Xerxes Lopes
99.65 ATAR, AR at Normanhurst Boys, 1st in Economics (97)
Year 11 Guides

We produce weekly state ranker and 99+ ATAR content like this. Be a part of the highest achieving community today.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

The Sacred Year 11 Economics Syllabus

As a year 11 student, it’s tough to know where exactly to start studying. Thankfully, NESA actually produces a (somewhat) concise document that tells you EXACTLY what you need to know to ace your exams, key concepts, skills and all! This 44 page guide is called the HSC Economics Syllabus, and will be the most important document for the next 2 years of your life.

I’ll break it down for you so that we can ignore the fairly irrelevant information. All the IMPORTANT year 11 information starts on page 15 and ends on page 30. That’s it. That’s everything your school can test you on. 

How to Make Economics Summary Notes 

With that in mind, you should use syllabus dot points as a guide to make summary notes throughout prelim. All the dot points under ‘Students learn about', describe the actual topics your teachers will provide lessons on for the next 9 months.

Here’s an example below for Topic 1:

I personally used a google doc, and broke it into the 6 main topics, and then further by these dot points under each topic. Under each, summarise key theories, key concepts and explanations. However, if you want to be the BEST at Eco, you need to fill out your summary notes with loads and loads of contemporary examples, statistics and evidence to support all the theories you collate.

Year 11 Economics Revision

When it comes to that crunchtime near exams, you should be specifically referring to the dot points under ‘Examine economic issues’ and ‘Apply economic skills’. These dot points literally tell you what you should be able to do after finishing learning a topic, and therefore HOW your teacher will assess the content in your exams.

Here’s an example below for Topic 1:

After learning Introduction to Economics (Topic 1) you should be able to do all of the above in an exam! 

  • For example, you could be asked a question on how “A higher level of unemployment will impact the production possibility frontier for an economy” - which is taken from dot point 3.
  • So, trust me when I say the syllabus is pretty useful.

Other Summaries

In addition to normal summary notes, it’s integral that you have a summary of important formulae that you come across. Calculations are some of the easiest marks in the exam, and it never gets too complex if you know your basics. Looking through the syllabus dot points (just like above) will give you an idea of what equations you need to know for the HSC. 

For some inspiration, here’s a snippet of Project’s very own equations cheat sheet:

Dealing With Economics Essays

Economics has essays?!?

Yes! As a HSC Economics student, you will NEED to know how to write amazing essays to 20 mark questions. It’s seems scary at first but let’s break down the general structure:

  • Introduction
  • Define key terms
  • Signpost your arguments (that answer the question)
  • Link to the simulus (if necessary)
  • 5-8 Arguments
  • Expand on each of your arguments from your introduction
  • Conclusion
  • Summarise your arguments in brief detail

For your arguments, you can implement a PEEL structure (or whatever body paragraph structure feels most familiar to you) - as long as it has these main points, your essay will flow well:

  • Topic sentence - Topic sentence answering the question with an argument
  • Theory - An explanation of the theory associated with the argument identified
  • Evidence - Relevant evidence to support how the theory can be applied in real-life
  • Link - Link your general argument back to the question, using the keywords given

The Wow Factor

Before giving you a 20/20 in an essay, teachers generally look for something we call the wow factor. This is also known as niche band 6 content - and as it implies, helps you push your essays into the top band. This wow factor can be a number of different things but generally teachers will look for:

  • Interesting theories; ones that build on the theory the syllabus explains
  • Niche arguments; that the average students wouldn’t think to include in a normal essay
  • Unique pieces of evidence; statistics & examples to support theory

If you are keen to learn more about essay structure, have a read of this article, which goes further into body paragraph structure and the wow factor, with an exemplar paragraph for a Topic 1 essay question.

Getting full marks in Economics Short Answer Questions

Short answer questions are instruments your teachers use to test specific parts of the syllabus. This means exactly you NEED to know the WHOLE syllabus. Know it in and out, and figure out what they’re trying to test you on. Most of the time, these questions are trying to test your content in an application-based scenario, where you must apply your fundamentals to the context given in the question. The marks associated with these questions generally range between 1 and 6 marks. 

If you’re unsure of how to approach questions, look back on your summary notes. You can even ask your friends or teachers to explain the possible correct responses to you. As I said, most of these questions are very application based and few will be definitions-based. This means that you need to make sure you’re familiar with how to apply economic theory before you start practicing these - this is usually done by ensuring your summary notes are finished.

If you want to get full marks in your short answer responses, you’ll need to develop your own special exam technique. Unfortunately, it’s not something that you can learn overnight, but once you establish the skill through effort and practice you’ll be able to score high marks. 

Here’s an example of a short answer question deconstructed using exam technique from topic 2:

From Topic 2:

Explain how consumer sovereignty in the market for smartphones may be undermined (4).

This question comes from the part of the syllabus where Advertising is a factor that influences consumer choice.

(A) With the explain directive verb in year 11 economics, we want to provide a point for every 2 marks.

  • For an explain response, we want to use a cause and effect response

(B) Given this is a 4 marker, we should therefore provide 2 ways in which consumer sovereignty can be undermined through Advertising - specifically in the market for smartphones. 

Here’s an exemplar answer:

Marketing from firms who sell smartphones can be used to alter spending patterns of consumers, manipulating them into purchasing their products over others. This will undermine the control that consumers have over the production of goods and services, reducing consumer sovereignty.

Smartphone firms may also produce goods that are designed to deteriorate rapidly, in order to encourage consumers to make more purchases in the future. This is known as planned obsolescence, which further reduces the control that consumers have in production decisions, lowering consumer sovereignty.
If you’re keen to learn more about short answer exam technique, I’ve deconstructed more in this article!

Acing Year 11 Economics Multiple Choice Questions

The third and final type of question you’ll come across are multiple choice questions. These are all weighted at 1 mark each, and will pop up at the start of most of your exams. The MCQ is the section where you really shouldn’t be dropping ANY marks.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to master when it comes to multiple choice techniques. The one and ONLY strategy you should use to ace the multiple choice section is practice. As you continue practicing, your accuracy should improve and the amount of time you spend will drastically decrease. In preliminary economics, there really is only a fixed number of question types you will see in your exams. Thankfully, Project has past papers from a variety of schools on the Library application; which you’ll receive along with your very own iPad. 

Similar to SAQs, you should look back on summary notes if you’re lost answering MCQs. MCQs tend to be more calculation based and similar to SAQs will be very focused on the application of content to different scenarios (which tend to be hypothetical). 

To give you an idea of some key techniques with year 11 multiple choice questions, I deconstructed a question from each topic below:

From Topic 1:

2019 North Sydney Girls Yearly 

An outward shift in the production possibility curve, from P1P1 to P2P2, can be caused by:

  • Discovery of new technology 
  • Discovery of new resources
  • Increased productivity

Thus the correct answer in this case would be either (B) or (C). This is where an important exam technique comes into play; choosing the most correct answer.

  • (B) directly satisfies the conditions mentioned above so it sounds like a pretty good choice
  • (C) could lead to an increase in labour resources, but we can’t assume that the increase in population will directly increase the size of the labour force (as they may not want to / be able to participate in the labour force)

Therefore, we choose (B) since it is the most correct answer.

If you’re keen to see more multiple choice questions deconstructed, have a read of this other article, or visit Project Academy's website!

How do I Memorise Stats & Examples in Year 11 Economics?

Strategy #1: The Example Bank

If you feel like you want to organise your evidence really well, an example bank is essential. Start by dividing a new document into 6 different sections (based on the 6 topics in the syllabus). In each of the 6 sections, consider the most relevant examples based on the syllabus. If you want, you can put these example banks (or tables) throughout your summary notes as well if you think they fit better there.

For example, in ‘Economies: their similarities and differences’ under ‘Introduction to Economics’, this is how you could document statistics and examples for “Examine similarities and differences between Australian and at least one economy in Asia in relation to”:

Strategy #2: Essay Scaffolding

This method is a little easier and more intuitive, but you could run the risk of not knowing certain stats in your exam.

Very simply, whenever you write an essay scaffold, you should be integrating relevant statistics and examples THROUGHOUT your response. By actively explaining stats while using them, it becomes much easier for your brain to remember numbers by heart.

Strategy #3: Don’t bring all the cutlery if you can bring a Swiss army knife

Many of your stats will double up between topics, and this flexibility should be used to your advantage. A good example of a versatile stat is the ‘estimated 50,000 job loss due to Toyota pulling out of manufacturing in Australia’. Use these flexible stats as much as possible and feel free to double up on them between different questions!

Strategy #4: The Hail Mary Rough Estimate 

The name of this strategy should tell you to use it as a last resort. Using this technique is very risky, since you can easily get called out by any marker who knows specific stats.

For this strategy, have an idea of what the stat ought to be, and from there it is much easier to estimate a value. For example, unemployment generally floats around 4.5-6% in the long term. If I was to provide a stat for unemployment during the second mining boom, where unemployment would have been lower, I could say unemployment is approximately 5%.

To make this strategy a little more structured, it would be a good idea to create a document (similar to the structure suggested in strategy #1) and collate different graphs relating to a variety of statistics. Graphically representing the trends in important statistics helps you to memorise roundball numbers a little better, especially if you are a visual learner. 

If you’re keen on this strategy, use this website; https://www.rba.gov.au/chart-pack. The RBA collates data for a variety of important economic indicators, some of which are very likely to actually pop up in your exams. 


Below are some examples of graphs from the RBA’s Economic Growth Chart Pack:

Why Project?

Joining Project Academy is a package deal. Along with your usual weekly lesson filled with syllabus content, you’ll receive exam-style questions hand-picked and made to replicate exam papers from NESA. To sweeten off the package, you’ll receive unlimited tutorial book-ins which you can use to prepare for assessment tasks or just revise any part of the syllabus. If you need help at any point throughout the week, you can slack message anyone from our team and receive personalised help on any misconceptions or questions you might have. 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!


FAQs for Year 11 Economics

Q: How do you do well in HSC Economics?

Read Project Academy’s Complete Guide to Year 11 Economics - How to Ace HSC Prelim Economics [link to that article]!

Q: What topics are there in Year 11 Economics?

There are 6 topics in Year 11 Economics, including:

  1. Introduction to Economics
  2. Consumers and Business
  3. Markets
  4. Labour markets
  5. Financial markets
  6. Government and the Economy


Q: Is Year 12 Economics similar to Year 11 Economics?

Similar to most Year 12 courses, HSC Economics builds on the foundational skills and knowledge taught in Year 11. Moving into Year 12, we focus on how the concepts of consumers, businesses, governments, and markets apply to a larger, macroeconomic scale; the Australian Economy & the Global Economy as a whole.

Q: How can I find more practice papers for Year 11 Economics?

To find more practice papers for Year 11 Economics, ask around! Ask your teachers, friends who’ve completed the subject already and friends from other schools. If you’re still looking for practice, Project Academy offers over 300 past papers in addition to homework exam-style questions assigned each week according to the syllabus.

Q: What are the best Economics textbooks?

Most schools will use one of two textbooks, either:

  • Tim Riley’s “Year 11 Economics” Textbook
  • Tim Dixon’s and John Mahoney’s “The Market Economy” Textbook

In year 12, both publishers produce textbooks as well:

  • Tim Riley’s “Year 12 Economics” Textbook
  • Tim Dixon’s and John Mahoney’s “Australia in the Global Economy Textbook”

Both textbooks are sufficient, but Riley tends to add extension information and concepts that build upon syllabus content. If you’re looking for something simple, use Dixon. 

You should always be using the syllabus as an ADDITIONAL resource to supplement the other resources you have to help you. Some of the top economics students will write summary notes as they move through the syllabus. In writing these notes they consult a variety of resources; textbooks; School notes; Project’s notes. Never solely rely on one resource or another!

Q: Overall, is it hard to achieve a Band 6 in HSC Economics?

Year 11 and year 12 Economics can be hard at times, but staying on top of content, theories, policies, and contemporary information is your gateway to doing well. 

Of course it isn’t as simple as that when it comes to achieving a band 6. If you want to be in that top band you’ll need to focus on smashing that final exam, section-by-section. If you break down your preparation according to the syllabus (both by content tested and how it can be tested as I’ve done above), you will achieve amazing exam results.

If you're interested in Economics tutoring and would like more past papers for revision, come sign up to Project Academy's year 11 Economics course!

Maximise Your
Chances Of Coming
First At School

Trial any Project Academy course for 3 weeks.

NSW's Top 1% Tutors
Access to Project's iPad
Unlimited Tutorials
Access to Exclusive Resources
NSW's Most Effective Courses
Access to Project's Study Space
3 WEEK TRIAL