How I Grade

Economics has the reputation of being a difficult discipline.  To be honest, it can be. Hell, I got a “D” when I took Principles of Microeconomics from Professor Klose (you can read part of the letter of recommendation he wrote for me here – Late Bloomer). 

Its difficulty arises from the fact that the “economic way of thinking” challenges your common sense – to truly think like an economist takes a lot of practice and discipline.  You can only master it by doing lots of problems.

However, if sufficient effort is dedicated, there will be a pivotal moment in the semester when you will experience an intellectual “click” and the “economic way of thinking” will come into focus.  Trust me, when you experience the moment, and you can, it is exciting for both you and me. 

It will forever influence how you see the world around you, how you make choices, and, some would say most importantly, how you socially interact at parties and family gatherings.  As your professor, I endeavor to make the “click” happen.  In fact, it is one of the perquisites of being an economics professor.   However, as with all things, the “click” is a scarce good (I am now using my “Econ” voice).  And, as with any scarce good, to acquire it takes sacrifice.  To guide you in this sacrifice, you can count on me to honestly inform you when you have not met the standards of a particular assignment.  A clear signal of academic performance informs you that additional effort must be allocated to a particular task.  If a false signal is sent, as a rational individual, you may forgo a valuable opportunity to reallocate scarce intellectual effort; thus, pushing back the moment. 

As one of my students you can expect honest and rigorous grading; however, because I want you to experience the “click” you can also expect a lot of encouragement.  My grading philosophy is shaped by the desire to create a classroom environment that is conducive to this experience – an environment that will allow you to proudly exclaim at the end of the semester: “It clicked!”

Grading Logistics

Two principles guide the grading process: student anonymity and giving honest feedback.  Here are the steps I take to grade exams:

  1. To insure student anonymity, students are instructed to not sign the front cover of the blue-book.  Instead they will sign their names on the inside of the back-cover of the blue-book.
  2. One question is graded at a time.
  3. All exams are then shuffled before choosing the next question to grade.


Each exam is worth 100 points and is composed of three parts: multiple choice (usually 15 – 20 points), short answer questions (20-40 points), and long answer questions (50-70 points) questions.  And, get this, except for the multiple choice questions, all questions (yes, I just said all) come from the questions at the end of each book chapter. And, get this, I will give you the answers to all of the questions at the end of each chapter. Yeah, I know. Sounds too good to be true. It isn’t.

As a test-taking strategy, you should attempt to do each question at the end of chapter. Grade your answer using the answer key. And, them come see me if you have any questions.

On the day of the test, I also recommend starting with the long answer questions first, then the short answer, and finally the multiple choice.


Test-taking is physically and mentally draining.  And, given that the bulk of the exam points are in the long answer section, you want to begin there when you a mentally fresh.  Remember, if at the closing end of the examination period you are mentally fatigued and running out of time you can always guess on the multiple choice and still have a 1 in 4 chance of getting the answer right. 

All exam questions are answered in a blue book (You can pick one up in the bookstore).  Short answer questions can usually be answered in less than 5 sentences, while long answer questions take more.  Remember, it is the student’s job to demonstrate to the instructor his or her command of the material.  So, make sure that your answers are (1) clearly written (You have studied hard for this exam so make sure that I can grade your answer.) and (2) complete (i.e., all subsections of a question are answered).  “You knew what I meant” is not a valid defense.  Getting to the point is a virtue.  Also, I have the reputation of being a “nitpicky” grader.  What does that mean?  With respect to graphs on assignments, you want to make sure that all markets, axis, and curves are correctly identified, shifts and movements along curves are demonstrated with arrows, and a brief synopsis of the shock and its ramifying consequences for the market are provided.   

It is also important to remember that examinations are stressful.  So, before each answer, you should take some time to breathe and reflect – think about the basics, the economic building blocks we reviewed in class.  Every question asks you to return to these basic building blocks.  Finally, if you feel the need to take a walk outside and clear you head do so…however, be courteous when exiting.  Good luck, you can do it!

One more thing, I give out quite a bit of extra credit. So, come to class. Come to class every day. Do the problems at the end of each chapter. That’s the formula.