How To Study Economics

Superficial cramming is unlikely to succeed in any economics course. Keeping up is crucial.

People tend to learn most effectively if exposed to concepts in several ways over a period of time. You will learn more economics and retain it longer if you read, see, hear, communicate, and then apply economic reasoning. AP Macroeconomics is much more than a few facts and glib generalizations; understanding it requires reflection. Here is one strategy that should help you in studying this material; many students have also adapted these techniques for other classes.

Visual Information

Donít let the extensive graphics in economics frighten you. There is a brief review of graphical analysis at the end of Chapter 2 (Miller, pp. 38-44). Avoid the agony of trying to memorize each graph by taking the time to learn how graphs work. You may be surprised to find yourself mentally graphing many noneconomic relationships, and even more amazed to find this process enjoyable.

Be sure that you also understand simple algebra. The elementary algebra used in this course should pose no problem if you remember the material from a basic course.


Schedule ample time to read your assignments, and try to use the same quiet and cool room every day. Avoid drowsiness by sitting in a hard chair in front of a desk or table. Think about the material as you read. Sketch out brief answers to the exercises imbedded in each chapter. (These should help break up the reading into digestible chunks.) Many students spend hours highlighting important points for later study, for which they somehow never find time. Too frequently, busy work substitutes for thinking. Try to skim a chapter; then go back and really focus on five or six pages. Donít touch a pen or pencil except to answer brief exercises or to make margin notes cross‑referencing related materials you already know.


After a healthy dose of serious reading, close your text and outline the important points with a half‑page of notes. If you cannot briefly summarize what you just read, put your pen down and re‑read the material. You have not yet digested the central ideas. Donít be surprised if some concepts require several readings. Be alert for graphs and tables that recapitulate important areas. When you finish each chapter, read its Chapter Review, and work through all Questions and Problems.


Donít procrastinate. Most lectures blend your instructorís own insights and examples with materials from the text, but few students conscientiously work through assignments before lectures. You will have a major advantage over most of your classmates if you do, and will be able to take notes selectively. Focus on topics your instructor stresses but not covered in depth in the text. Notes from lectures should supplement, not duplicate, your text.


Your instructors know they learn their subject in greater depth every time they teach it. Teaching exposes you to previously unfamiliar aspects of a topic because you must conceptualize and verbalize ideas so other people can understand them. Take turns with a classmate in reading the key points in the Chapter Review to each other. After one person reads a key Point aloud, the other should explain it in his or her own words. Study groups work well in this way, but you may learn economics even more thoroughly if you explain microeconomics to a friend who has never studied it.


Working the parallel materials from your study guide for each chapter of the text you study will make it easier to comprehend economic events regularly featured in the news. When this happens, you will be among the minority who truly understand economic and financial news. Use economic reasoning to interpret your day-to-day behavior, and that of your friends and relatives. This will provide unique insights into how people function and how the world works.


Following the preceding suggestions should keep you primed for minor tests and pop quizzes. To prepare for major exams and finals:

  1. Read the Chapter Reviews for all material to be covered on the examination. Keep a record of any key points you could not explain to an intelligent friend who had never taken economics.
  2. Return to each key point that you do not grasp adequately.
  3. Read the text material that covers it and rework the parallel parts of the accompanying chapter from your student activity guide.
  4. Discuss any key point that is not clear to you with a friend.
  5. Skim the Glossary at the end of the text for a last-minute refresher before your final exam.

We know that this is a tall order, but if you conscientiously follow these study tips, we guarantee you an enjoyable and enlightening course.


Adapted from Byrns & Stone, Economics (6th Edition)