Anything That Interests Me! :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Are you in the USP? Do you study History or Economics at NUS?

Are you in the USP? Do you study History or Economics at NUS? Are you a freshman/ freshie?

This post is for you :)

Q and A

I usually write to the people who ask me for advice or write on my comment tagboard. Mostly, I get all sorts of interesting comments, questions and ideas, and very nice ones, too! However, since I notice that recently most people have been asking me about USP, Economics and History, this post is dedicated to freshmen/ freshies/ new students at NUS or anyone who happens to pass by and indicates some passing interest. I also note that it's near CORS bidding time that they send me this very interesting deluge of emails. It's fine :)

[As an aside, I feel a "warm glow" or "impure altruism" or maybe even some kind of happiness when I help others by sharing my experiences or my knowledge, not just solely because of advice on this blog, but also when I share my travel experiences or German studies programme. I think it makes blogging such an interesting enterprise - you get to help people while you do your thing/ what you like. Beautiful, isn't it?]

Most Economics juniors of mine came to read this article "How to Get First Class Honours in Economics at NUS" or "How to Study Econometrics 1" or "How to Study Econometrics 2/ Rebuttals to some comments". Others just came to me because they know me already. I summarise those articles basically here, in a single post, as that might help you:

How to Get First Class Honours in Economics
for more details, see actual article

How does one get a first class honours in Economics at NUS? I wrote that I've absolutely no idea. But here are some things that I did, and those can maybe inspire you.

1. You have to be willing to work long and hard. I mean long hours and hard work. Long hours: I spent almost five to twelve hours in the Central Library every day - on top of lectures and tutorials. Hard work: for instance, for Econometrics - a bane of existence for most undergraduates unless they're math majors - I did the entire textbook... at least thrice.

2. You need to get help for mathematics and statistics. Unless you're a math major or a stats major, it is very likely that you're in my position - you know some math and some stats, but you can't seem to prove the Stolper-Samuelson theorem or Rybczynski theorem. I mean, even though I did the module and once knew how to do to the Rybczynski theorem by heart, it was thanks to getting good help from my trusty friend, Roastbird. He helped me out also for Econometrics 2 - a killer module. Get help from real mathematicians or real statisticians! We're economists.

3. You need to get friends. This is related to point 2, but point 2 is about the importance of mathematics and statistics and how your A level math or whatever isn't going to give you any advantage. Friends on the other hand... help you with tutorials, help you with lectures, lend you materials, give you heads-up... what else can I say? Get economics friends! Quod erat demonstrandum.

4. You need to get a good supervisor, and start working early on your thesis. This is because in NUS you need to get an A- or better for your thesis to get first class honours, on top of a sterling CAP. These are self evident arguments above, so I won't explain further. Finding a good supervisor and a good thesis topic are all topics that can take up entire posts or even entire blogs!

5. You need luck. I am entitled to hindsight bias, and thus can say my all time favourite (and many of my friends either hear this from my mouth or label me as such) "I'm a genius". Hahaha! How nice if that were true. However, I'll have to be really honest with you and say that luck plays a small but significant role.

How to Study Econometrics 1

1. No one actually knows how to study econometrics and do well at it. I've searched the whole Net and asked countless people. That's why I am attempting to answer the almighty question for students worldwide: "How the heck do I study Econometrics well and do well in Econometrics exams?"

2. But there are indeed things that you can do to study Econometrics and do well at it in examinations :)

3. The question fields/ sets are limited, so these are the fields that you need to know and master:

probability, statistics, matrices, linear regression and other regression models (e.g. log-log, log-linear, linear-log, quadratic, and know what the differences are, what the intepretations are, and what the similarities are)

4. You should do questions every day. The thing is that the field is limited, but the questions are vast in number.

5. Theoretically, you can learn the equations and formulae, then practise questions related to them. That is the best option, but the thing is: Your teacher didn't give you easy equations right? He also didn't give you questions related to those right?

I know, I was there. So the point 4, which is more general, holds. Do questions every day. You can actually learn the formulae and then apply them, but at higher levels, this method will not work. So just try to practise.

6. MATRICES turn out to be so important, but I didn't know that before. But now you do. To study Econometrics well, you definitely need more than a passing command of Matrices - you need to learn all the hard terms and methods immediately!

7. You need to learn a lot of important and hard words like heteroskedasticity, homoskedasticity, linear regression, multivariate normal distributions, variances, standard deviations, means, modes, medians, and more. Your command of esoteric language in the weird realm of Econometrics will improve. You have to know all that in order to do well, because questions routinely have those terms:

e.g. "According to the Gauss Markov theorems, with i.i.d., BLA BLA BLA?"

E.g. Do you know the law of iterated expectations?

8. Even though Econometrics is tough, you can study Econometrics if you have the motivation and persistence.

9. Mathematics will be your friend and your neighbour. The good thing is, that when we study Econometrics, we unlike Mathematicians, do not need to have formal rigid proofs, but we can do easier stuff than they do. I know, I know, it looks Greek to everyone (which it is - most of the symbols are Greek!) but trust me, when you study Econometrics you learn hard stuff that is easier than what pure mathematicians do. So there. We have it good, in that sense.

10. To get the highest marks, get into your teacher's good books and get a lot of practice.

How to Study Econometrics 2 (Quek DF 2008/2009)

1. Complete proofs.

2. Learn the individual parts and then bring them all together.

3. Practise the problem sets.

4. Understanding truly, and real learning is better than getting the form right - i.e. don't do my performance method; use Quek's real learning method.

5. Know your lecturer.

I also answer some other questions that were posed to me, via email or via the tagboard or via face to face interaction:

Should I go for the USP?

I strongly recommend the USP for good students. Good students are defined as those students who are already experts in at least one academic field, like to read, think through issues and are articulate or eloquent. The USP will teach you how to synthesise knowledge and how to write academic articles and academic, maybe even journal standard, papers. Basically you get very good academic training and you can learn cross subject, interdisciplinary subjects that are very interesting.

Warning: not all USP students are good students though, as some get eliminated halfway through the course. You will most likely require a CAP of above 3.5 just to stay in, and must be on an honours programme (3 years' degree = no USP certificate).

Should I do Economics?

Do you love maths? Do you know a lot of statistics? Believe in drawing graphs, running regressions on computer programmes, or writing esoteric materials? Then economics at university is your cup of tea, I kid you not.

On a more serious note, if you like Economics or did it successfully before or think that you can see a future career in it, such as in government or in the private sector, go right ahead. It is known as the queen of the social sciences because of its difficulty though!

Is behavioural economics mathematical?

All of economics is mathematical. But behavioural is largely empirical or experimental based, so it is more statistical in nature rather than mathematical. Basic statistics is needed.

Yet at the same time, behavioural is more qualitative and verbally argumentative rather than being like microeconomics or macroeconomics. If you like writing or arguing or reading academic papers, there's absolutely no problem! Should be very fun; I recommend it - well, I did it after all. You can read about behavioural on my blog - use the links on the right if you can!

Is Basant scary?

YES!!! Basant is very scary!!! I got a B for his module, EC4102 - GOD SAVE THOSE WHO DO HIS MODULE!!! God save you. You will need divine help!

I like him, by the way. He's quite an interesting chap! But he is very strict and - dare I say it - old school!!!

Should I do philo or economics?

YM, I told you already!

Development Economics?

Verbal based rather than mathematical - I should say do it only if you're good at reading and writing, and exploring various themes. A basic grounding of economic history or basic development economics should be useful in doing EC4371. I did it under Shin at NUS, and learnt verbal models of heteroeconomics that challenged monoeconomics.

Economic History?

Hard to do an ISM on Economic History at NUS, but easy to do at LSE, UOM and Cambridge. Reason is that - there aren't many economic historians at NUS! There are several, including a self-styled contemporary economic historian (Shin), but they are fewer than DGE model theorists and empirical, applied economists and econometricians.

Good luck, my juniors! All the best!

Anything that interests me!