Economics Assessment Centre
As well as the other stages required for geneeral civil service fast stream entry; applicants to the GES are required to attend an Economics Assessment Centre (EAC). This centre has 5 different stages, and whilst good advice is given on the fast stream website, there are still a few things that I feel should be mentioned.
1) Technical Report - This is where you are asked to show off your economic skills in writing a reprot for an economist. You do have the chance to add diagrams, to a seperate bit of paper. I found it useful to label each diagram "diagram 1", "diagram 2" etc then refer to them in my report. There is no scope for adding diagrams into the report as you perhaps would an essay.
2) Policy Report - This report is based on the same topic as Technical Report but you cannot use any economics jargon. use of metaphors is an excellent way to put accross your point in an easy to explain manner (for example, I used to theory of a household getting in too much debt to show the dangers of excessive government borrowing). Getting parents or friends to read a draft of this report is useful as they will tell you where you have used economics terms you use for granted. Examples I came across were output and inflation; I simply forgot they are terms we use as economists rather than terms that the wider public would use. A contact I have within the GES pointed both of these out to me, and suggested an easy way around this problem was to define the words you cannot escape using in brackets after you have written them, providing a brief and easy to udnerstand explanation.
3) Short Answer Questions - This part of the assessment day takes the form of 10 short questions. There is a mix of pure theory and applied economics here so revision is vital. Some of the questions i got included "what is Coase theorem", "how may immigration help keep the interest rate low", "what are 2 advantages and 2 disadvantages of joining the Euro currency zone", "what is the impact on an econometric regression of omitting a key variable. What is the impact of including a redundant one?" and "Define returns to scale, economies of scale and economies of scope".
These three parts of the assessment are taken one after the other and last half an hour each. There is a short break in between each one where you are allowed to leave the room and go to the toilet, get a drink etc. After the completion of all three exercises, half the candidates go to stage 2, and ahlf get a break of roughly 2 hours before returning for the second part of their assessment.
4) Presentation - You are given half an hour before you have to give this presentation to prepare. When I was preparing they were perfectly happy to let us use the computers but it may be worth clarifying this first. The presentation is based on your policy report, although both your policy report and technical report are returned to you. I found the acutal presentation itself very informal. I remained seated and just talked through my report/presentation to the two interviewers, and this seemed perfectly acceptable at the time.
5) Interview - This follows directly from your presentation and the first round of questions are related to this. The interviewers have read your reports beforehand and listened to your presentation, so ahve alot of ammunition for questions, but generally they try and build upon ideas you have presented and come up with implications you may not have thought about. For example, I spoke about a multiplier effect from increased government spending, and they then asked what implications a joint international increase in spending would ahve on the multiplier rather than countries following individual policies. Clearly here they would not expect this to have been taught and were testing my ability to apply economics. After this section of the interview they moved on to discussing my short answerr questions. I was given the chance to expand on any answers I had given, or see if I had answers to questions I had left blank. Again, they sometimes took their questions beyond what was obvious from the questions set out in the first stage. Finally, the interviewers asked if I had any particular area of economics I was interested in and then conducted a series of questions based on this. I would advise revising clearly a topic you think is your strongest as you will likely be asked questions on this; but do not neglect the general revision you will require for answering the short questions.
Overall, the day was quite enjoyable and relatively relaxed. Preparation is vital but there is only so much you can you do.