Economics Admissions Assessment (ECAA)

This admissions test is taken for some Cambridge courses.
Last updated: 1 year, 11 months ago


The Economics Admissions Assessment is a pre-interview assessment designed to determine your ability to use and apply your reasoning and mathematical knowledge in possibly unfamiliar contexts. It can be difficult, even for those who do well in school, but hopefully this guide will help you rise up to the challenge.

How to Prepare

Here are some general resources related to the Economics Admissions Assessment (ECAA). Use this page as a hub to branch off and use other resources!

Who takes the ECAA?

Applicants for the Economics course at the University of Cambridge are required to take the ECAA pre-interview assignment.

If you're a mature student (aged 21 or over) applying to one of the mature Colleges for interview in Cambridge, you aren't required to take any pre-interview assessments, and will take a common format written assessment at interview instead. However, if you're a mature student applying to a mature College and wishing to be considered for interview overseas, or if you're a mature student applying to a standard age College, you must take the ECAA. More details are available here 🔗.

What’s the format of the test?

Section 1: Multiple choice questions in mathematics (60 minutes).
These comprise 20 Mathematics questions and 20 advanced Mathematics questions.
Each correct answer scores 1 mark. No marks are deducted for incorrect answers

Section 2: Extended essay (60 minutes).
You will read a short passage of 1-2 pages and write an essay in answer to a question, drawing on the material in the passage and any other ideas you consider relevant.
This section will relate to a topic of economic interest, broadly defined.
You are not required to have any knowledge of the specific techniques of economic analysis or factual information about the economy of any particular country.
Your essay will be assessed by taking into account the quality of your reasoning, and your ability to construct a reasoned, insightful and logically consistent argument with clarity and precision

Calculators and dictionaries are not allowed in the entire test.

How should I prepare?

The ECAA Specification 🔗 🌟 This is the resource that will guide all of your preparation for the ECAA. Be sure to check that you are extremely familiar with most, if not all, of the assumed knowledge for Section 1 of the paper (from page 5 onwards). Every piece of required knowledge is explicitly detailed here, which gives you a very easy way to test yourself.

ECAA Specimen and Past Papers 🔗 Normally, past year papers would be the way to go. However, the ECAA has undergone some changes - as of 2020, Section 1 of the test involves more Mathematics but less problem-solving questions, and a shorter time limit than previous years. The time allocated for the essay in Section 2 is longer.

The problem solving questions from Section 1 of previous years will be less relevant to papers taken in 2020 and beyond. This does not mean that the previous papers are not worth looking at. You can still get good practice by doing them. However, for a feel of what you will be going through on the day itself, you may want to check out the specimen papers instead. Find out more here 🔗.

Oxford Mathematics Admissions Test - Past Year Papers 🔗 Since ECAA papers are in limited supply, you can look to other assessments for some mathematics practice.
“I prepared with Oxford MAT questions, a section of the BMAT, and TSA questions [...] since there aren’t that many ECAA papers” - Incoming second year Economics student

Essay-related Advice

The essay component will involve you reading articles related to economics, but outside of a purely academic setting. You can practice reading such articles in the economics/finance section of news websites, or more specialised publications such as The Economist 🔗 🌟

“It’s helpful to read articles from the Financial Times/The Economist to get used to the style of writing and analysing them.” - 2nd Year Economist

Articles related to economics often have “missing steps”. They fail to fully explain how moving one part of the economy affects another. A useful exercise is filling in these “missing steps” yourselves. This will help you practice constructing arguments and logical links regarding topics related to economics during the ECAA.


This is a quote from the article provided in the ECAA Specification document 🔗

‘If the dollar is rising because the Fed is inducing a deflationary recession, that’s probably not good for anyone.’

It is not explicitly stated what exactly the Fed (The U.S. Federal Reserve) might be doing to induce a deflationary recession, or why the dollar is rising (appreciating) as a result. These are the “missing steps” that you can practice explaining.

In this case, the Fed might be raising interest rates to increase the cost of borrowing, which reduces consumption and investment. Since consumption and investment make up part of aggregate demand, aggregate demand is dampened, which induces a deflationary recession. At the same time, the increased interest rates in the U.S. attracts foreign investors, increasing the demand for USD and hence causing the USD to appreciate.

Tips from Current Students

“Practice essay structure planning - very important for time management. Make sure you practice writing essays before the assessment to get the flow (these can be AS/A level essays, not necessarily ECAA past papers). While writing the essay, make sure that you don’t summarise the content that you’ve read only. Apply your AS knowledge as well.”

“Time management is key. I didn’t finish the maths section in the ECAA because I ran out of time!”

“I would recommend leaving the past papers to 1-2 weeks before the actual ECAA, when you should feel more prepared. Before that, use A Level material and the MAT if applicable.’

“During practice, you should time yourself. Note, along the way: 1) Are you stressed for time? 2) If so, is it the maths? Is it the essay? And note the type of questions you are easily stuck on.”