If you’re applying for Economics at Cambridge, you’ll have to sit the ECAA: the Economics Admissions Assessment, Cambridge’s pre-interview test for Economics. It might seem daunting at first, but don’t worry – we’ve got a complete guide to the ECAA. It’ll be a breeze!
What is the ECAA?
It is composed of two sections, and lasts a total of 2 hours. It is sat towards the end of October, and plays part of the decision as to whether you are interviewed or not.
- Section 1: A multiple-choice assessment consisting of around 35 questions, roughly 20 of these will be problem solving and the remaining will be advanced mathematical questions. All of the questions in Section 1 are worth 1 mark, and you do not lose any marks for incorrect answers. You have 80 minutes for this section. It is recommended that you spend 40 minutes on the problem solving questions and 40 minutes on the mathematics questions: although there are fewer mathematics questions, they tend to be harder and more involved.
- Section 2: This section is a written response to a short excerpt of text, which is Economics based. You have 40 minutes to complete this section.
The problem solving in Section 1 of the ECAA relies on 3 key skills:
- Relevant Section: requires you to analyse information to get a solution
- Finding Procedures: involves manipulating relevant information to get a solution
- Identifying Similarities: involves finding a situation with similarities to the one you were given.
What do I need to know for the ECAA?
There is no compulsory Economics prerequisite knowledge required for the ECAA. The questions will potentially involve an economics topic, and the text in section 2 will be economics based, but no prior knowledge is required. The only compulsory prerequisite knowledge is Mathematics A-Level, based predominantly on the AS syllabus. However, some of the advanced questions are more challenging, so although you will not be hugely disadvantaged not having done Further Maths A-Level, it is helpful. For a full breakdown of the ECAA syllabus, to ensure you are completely prepared, take a look at our free, comprehensive guide to the ECAA.
How well do I need to score on the ECAA?
The ECAA is graded on a scale of 1.0-9.0, and you want to be achieving a score of around 5.0+ (60%+) to be in with a chance of an interview. The average candidate scores 4.0.
How should I prepare for Section 1 of the ECAA?
Although there is no compulsory prerequisite Economics knowledge, you want to be competent in all the Maths expected of you before the ECAA. Make sure you look at the syllabus, broken down in our free guidebook, and are confident that you understand all the topics covered. The Advanced Maths section is challenging enough without you not knowing some of the topics!
The best way to familiarise yourself with the format of the questions is through doing past papers.
At STEPMaths, we offer all of the ECAA past papers with worked video solutions. These will show you how expert tutors solve the ECAA questions, and improve your ability to spot the patterns you need to in order to solve the questions.
Also, if you run out of questions, or want more to graze on, the problem solving questions from section 1 are based on the questions from section 1 of the TSA. So you can also prepare by solving the questions from the first section of the TSA: the more practice you do the more you will improve your problem solving skills.
How should I prepare for Section 2 of the ECAA?
To prepare for the second section of the ECAA, it is worth reading some economics texts, and asking yourself questions about them. You can find excerpts from the books on our economics reading list, or just try and find an Economics based news article. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What is the purpose of this text?
- Is this text biased?
- Summarise the main argument
- Pick out two arguments for and two arguments against the topic being discussed
For Section 2, I compiled a list of all the questions that had come up in previous years, plus any sample questions I could find online, and drafted outlines for each of them. It helped my confidence a lot to have a vague idea of what I wanted to say for any of the topics that may come up.
The ECAA is challenging, but with enough preparation, and if you stay calm, you’ll do the best you can. And for when you’re actually in the exam room, take a look at our top tips for maximising your ECAA score.