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A comparison of A-level performance in economics and business studies: How much more difficult is economics?

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  • Barry Reilly
  • Ray Bachan

Abstract

This paper uses A-Level Information System data to compare academic performance in two subjects often viewed as relatively close substitutes for one another at A-level. The important role of GCSE achievement is confirmed for both subjects. There is evidence of strong gender effects and variation in outcomes across Examination Boards. A counterfactual exercise suggests that if the sample of Business Studies candidates had studied Economics nearly 40% of those who obtained a grade C or better in the former subject would not have done so in the latter. The opposite exercise suggests that 12% more Economics candidates would have achieved a grade C or better if they had taken Business Studies. In order to render a Business Studies A-level grade comparable with an Economics one in terms of relative difficulty, we estimate that a downward adjustment of 1.5 UCAS points should be applied to the former subject. This adjustment is lower than that suggested by correction factors based on conventional subject pair analysis for these two subjects

Suggested Citation

  • Barry Reilly & Ray Bachan, 2005. "A comparison of A-level performance in economics and business studies: How much more difficult is economics?," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(1), pages 85-108.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:edecon:v:13:y:2005:i:1:p:85-108
    DOI: 10.1080/0964529042000325225
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Machin, Stephen & Oswald, Andrew, 2000. "UK Economics and the Future Supply of Academic Economists," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(464), pages 334-349, June.
    2. Adnett, Nick & Bougheas, Spiros & Davies, Peter, 2002. "Market-based reforms of public schooling: some unpleasant dynamics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 323-330, August.
    3. Chesher, Andrew & Irish, Margaret, 1987. "Residual analysis in the grouped and censored normal linear model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 33-61.
    4. Machin, Stephen J & Stewart, Mark B, 1990. "Unions and the Financial Performance of British Private Sector Establishments," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(4), pages 327-350, Oct.-Dec..
    5. Booth, Alison L & Burton, Jonathan & Mumford, Karen, 2000. "The Position of Women in UK Academic Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(464), pages 312-333, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ray Bachan & Michael Barrow, 2006. "Modelling Curriculum Choice at A-level: Why is Business Studies More Popular than Economics?," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 5(2), pages 58-80.

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