Two Steps to "Productive Efficiency" in AP Macroeconomics

The AP Macroeconomics exam may seem like a looming cloud hanging over your sunny spring.  But, if you take these two steps throughout the school year, you will set yourself up to receive a great score on the exam in May.

Step 1. Learn the vocabulary backward and forward.

Over the course of your AP class, you are going to be exposed to lots of new words that seem big and scary: fiat money, aggregate expenditures, multiplier effect, elasticity, frictional unemployment, and on and on…  But, it’s worth the time to learn what these words mean. The good news is that these are the types of terms that you can plop on the back of a flashcard and memorize. Keep in mind that knowing the vocabulary and phrases will build upon each other.

Let’s look at a sample question:

An increase in which of the following would cause an increase in aggregate supply?

(A)  Labor productivity

(B)  The wage rate

(C)  Price of imports

(D)  Consumer Spending

(E)   Interest Rates

There you have it: A pretty straightforward question that asks for very little interpretation or imaginative activity! It would be an excellent start to know, for instance, that aggregate supply simply means that price levels and the amount of goods firms are willing to produce have a relationship. Based on that information alone, you could immediately eliminate (C) and (E). Let’s add another sentence to that definition on your flashcard: only productivity and efficiency really affects aggregate supply. Voila! You would immediately be able to pick (A) and move right along!

Okay, so the majority of the test doesn’t ask these types of questions. But the sections that aren’t asking these types of questions will require you to have a firm foundation in the subject. After all, you can’t answer a FRQ without knowing what the words in the prompt mean! Which takes us to our next step…

Step 2. Form an opinion on these topics!

AP Econ is similar to a philosophy class. The terms you’re learning are different ideas that thinkers have had on how to make processes run well. That’s why we hear people—from the presidential candidates, to our teachers and friends—arguing about which policy to use. This subject is not a hard science. In fact, a lot of my students (and fellow classmates, back when I took the test in high school) make the big mistake of treating this test like AP Chem or AP Stats. It’s an easy mistake to make; after all, most of what you’ll learn comes in the form of graphs or formulas. But, you can—actually, should— still have an opinion on all of it. That way, when the dreaded month of May arrives, it won’t be completely scary or foreign to interpret the data they give you. Moreover, this approach will make the course more enjoyable.

As you’re memorizing those terms, ask yourself questions about them:

  • What are the benefits of using this idea in our country?
  • What are some bad things that could come out of using this idea?
  • What have I heard about this from the news or people I know?
  • How do I feel about this?

It also helps to read simple news articles on monetary policy, watch debates, and talk to your friends about what they think. These moves will help you organize your thoughts when you reach the interpretive multiple-choice questions and the FRQ sections.

You might also like