Problem Set Dilemmas: High in Supply, Low in Demand 

  1. Your syllabus is your friend! Look at problem set and test dates and your professor’s office hours.  Take note of when your assignments are due so that you can get them done in advance rather than the afternoon it is due.
  2. Take advantage of your textbook!  Read through the chapter you are focusing on in class—take note of definitions and diagrams by highlighting them in the book or writing them in your notebook.  Also, if you are stumped on a problem, there will mostly be a hint for how to solve it by looking at the example problems.
  3. Introductory Econ courses focus on many important diagrams, so it is crucial for you to understand the diagrams thoroughly (Eg. how the variables change, to find the basic equation…).  Keep a separate page in your notes for a diagram list that you can jot notes on, add to, and reference throughout the semester.
  4. Review your notes from the previous class before the next class meeting—this brief review will help keep the material fresh in your mind.
  5. Make sure your homework is neat!  Pencil is preferred, but if you use pen, use white-out; DO NOT cross out your mistakes.  If you can’t read it, how do you think others will?
  6. When doing a problem, it is important to remember that although the answer may seem obvious, your justification is equally, if not more, important.
  7. Working in groups can be helpful, but don’t trick yourself into thinking that you understand something that your friend did for you.  Take the time to confirm that you understand all of your answers.
  8. After you get an exam back (or a homework), go over incorrect problems.  If you are unsure as to why a question or equation is wrong, ask your professor.  It is best to find out the correct answer while the material is still fresh in your mind.  Then, in a different colored pen/pencil, write down the correct method.  When you study for the final you will be able to understand the problem a lot easier and you won’t have to stand in the epically long line in front of your professor’s door the day before the exam.
  9. Don’t be shy about having trouble with mathematics.  Math is extremely important in understanding the diagrams and concepts used in class, so if you are having difficulty, talk to your professor!  Going to your professor’s office hours and working with the other students there can really make a difference.  Still having problems or cannot make it to office hours? The QSR Center and/or Peer Tutoring Program are other possibilities.
  10. Charts! Charts! Charts!  With graphs, you save a great deal of time memorizing theorems and formulas.
  11. Assumptions.  Almost all economic models are subject to a set of assumptions.  Assumptions are important to figuring out whether a particular model fits a specific situation.
  12. Apply Your Common Sense.  Most people act in their own interest, so put yourself in their shoes and use your common knowledge (Eg. when coffee becomes more expensive, consumers like you tend to buy less coffee and possibly switch to tea.)


Jessica Kelly

Director of the Quantitative & Symbolic Reasoning Center

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