A Guide to Applying for Economics

Economics is an increasingly popular degree subject that examines how companies and society should allocate resources, capital and money. It is best suited to those who enjoy both social sciences and essay-based subjects, as well as quantitative and data-based approaches.

Economics courses are some of the most competitive degree programmes in the UK and applicants are typically required to achieve high grades and submit applications that stand out to top universities. If you want to know more about how to do that, then you’re in the right place.

This guide includes: what an Economics degree actually involves, what the entry requirements are for top universities (including admissions tests and interviews), what you should include in your application, and top tips from The Profs’ Head of Consulting, Joseph Robbins.

The Profs’ admissions team are experts in helping students get into even the most competitive of courses. 90% of our undergraduate and postgraduate students get into their first or second choice university and our Oxbridge acceptance rate is more than three times higher than the average. If you need support, get in touch with our team today.

What is involved in an Economics degree?

Economics degree courses don’t just involve the study of money, but the ways in which society and individuals produce, use and distribute resources. Economics is a social science, meaning it includes elements of both quantitative subjects (Maths and Statistics) as well as Geography and the humanities (especially Politics and International Relations).

While most undergraduate and postgraduate Economics courses cover similar topics, each course will offer something slightly different, so always check on the course page and research modules before applying. Some of the modules you might cover at undergraduate and postgraduate level include:

  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Mathematical and statistical skills modules
  • Econometrics
  • International trade
  • Business law and ethics
  • Economic history

Joe’s tip: Whilst A level or IB Economics is not a requirement for the vast majority of Economics courses in the UK, students who studied Economics at both school and university often express how different the two are.
Most commonly, students do not realise an Economics degree is one of the most mathematically-focused degrees in the UK and that over 50% of their degree is likely to be spent learning and applying advanced mathematical and statistical methods. Always check the course specification and/or speak to an expert before applying.

Which courses are similar to Economics?

Economics is a unique course in that it draws from a range of different subjects that require a range of skill sets. Some courses that Economics is most similar to include:

  • Accounting and Finance
  • Business Management
  • Statistics
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Human Geography

Joe’s tip: As Economics is an interdisciplinary subject, most universities look for a good mix of A level subjects – from essay-based to mathematical – in their applicants. They’ll want to see that you are able to work with data and draw logical conclusions, whilst also understanding the bigger picture and how society works. See more in the Entry Requirements section below.

Can you take Economics in combination with another subject?

Combining Economics with another subject is very common at UK universities – even the top ones. For example, Oxford does not offer straight Economics, instead offering it in combination with Management or as its unique PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) course. Taking a joint Economics course is a great way to add more variety and tailor your degree to your skill set by, for example, reducing the amount of your degree spent applying complex mathematical techniques.

What are the entry requirements for Economics?

Undergraduate and postgraduate Economics courses are offered by almost all of the UK’s top universities, including LSE, Oxford and Cambridge (all three of which are ranked in the top 10 in the world for the subject). However, the specific entry requirements differ between universities and it’s important to know what you are aiming for before applying.

Undergraduate

Many of the universities listed below offer multiple Economics courses or Economics in combination with other subjects. For example, Oxford only offers Economics in combination with either Management or Politics and Philosophy (PPE) at undergraduate level, while Imperial offers a unique, combined Economics, Finance and Data Science course.

The table below shows the top universities in the UK for Mathematics – according to the QS World University Rankings (2021) – and the A level entry requirements for each. If you’re applying to university with alternative UK or international qualifications, make sure to check the course page for the equivalent entry requirements.

UK rankingUniversityEntry Requirements (A levels)
1London School of Economics (LSE)A*AA
2OxfordA*AA-AAA
3CambridgeA*A*A
4University College London (UCL)A*AA
5WarwickA*A*A
7Imperial College LondonA*AA
8ManchesterAAA
9EdinburghA*AA-AAA
10BristolA*AA
11NottinghamA*AA-AAA

Joe’s tip: Given the strong quantitative focus at universities such as LSE, UCL, Oxbridge and Warwick, an A* in Further Maths is the most valuable subject for straight Economics. If your school does not offer Further Maths, you should ask your referee to state this so that you are not at a disadvantage when applying.
Combining either Maths or Physics with a respected qualitative subject such as History, Economics, Geography, Government, English Literature or Philosophy can also give students a small advantage in suitability, assuming that the grades are competitive. Ironically, despite the proximity in subject matter, Business Studies A level could hinder an application to the very top universities because it is often seen as an easier subject to score highly in.

Postgraduate

Postgraduate courses allow you to specialise more closely in particular areas of Economics, including Econometrics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and more. These courses may offer very different modules and be tailored towards different career paths, so make sure you check the course specifications or speak to an expert before applying.

Most top universities (including Cambridge, Warwick and Imperial) require postgraduate Economics applicants to have a 2:1 in their undergraduate degree, although typically only 65% or above is considered competitive. Some universities, such as UCL, specify a 2:1 degree in Economics with a significant quantitative component, or another quantitative discipline, such as Statistics, Mathematics, or Physics.

Some particularly competitive universities require applicants to have a first-class undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, including:

  • LSE requires a first-class Economics degree (or a degree in an Economics-based, quantitative subject).
  • Oxford requires a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree in Economics.

Which admissions tests are required for Economics?

Undergraduate

Most undergraduate Economics applicants will not have to sit an admissions test to apply for their chosen university course. However, Oxford and Cambridge both require undergraduate applicants to take the following admissions tests:

  • Cambridge – TMUA (Test of Mathematics for University Admission)
  • Oxford – TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment)

If you require support with either the TMUA or TSA, get in touch with our undergraduate admissions team today. Our expert tutors can triple your chances of getting into Oxbridge.

See our articles on how to prepare for the TMUA and TSA.

Postgraduate

For postgraduate courses, the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) are often encouraged by top universities to help your application stand out. Oxford encourages all applicants to sit the GRE (with most successful applicants scoring at least 160 for verbal, 164 for quantitative and 4.5 for analytical), while Imperial encourages applicants to sit the GMAT (the current class average of Imperial students who have taken GMAT is 710).

Some universities not only encourage but require applicants to take a graduate admissions test, such as LSE. Cambridge also requires Economics Master’s applicants whose previous university training has been in countries outside the UK or part of the University of London International Programme to submit GRE results.

Joe’s tip: The average GMAT score of a successful applicant who works with The Profs is 30 points lower than the average for other applicants from the most competitive schools. This is because we help students with all areas of their application to allow for other strengths to shine, meaning less dependence on a high GMAT score.

Which universities require an interview?

Undergraduate

Oxford and Cambridge require undergraduate Economics applicants to attend an interview if they perform well in their respective admissions tests and their application satisfies the entry requirements. UCL also sometimes interviews selected – but not all – candidates, so it’s best to prepare just in case. Get in touch with our team for support today, or find out more about Oxbridge interviews in our helpful article.

Postgraduate

Many postgraduate courses require applicants to attend an interview. This could be an interview with a member of admissions staff or alumni, or alternatively, an online video interview. Interviews for Imperial’s MSc Economics and Strategy for Business, for example, will normally take place via a recorded video interview platform. Occasionally, you may also be invited to interview via Skype or telephone instead.

Joe’s tip: The most successful candidates will use their personal statement to set themselves up well for their interview. This skill is extremely difficult to master, but our best applications consultants have, in the past, managed to influence which interviewers turned up!
By advising our students to read the works of specific professors and discuss these in their applications, they have been able to attract those same professors to take on the interview personally, allowing them to discuss their views on that professor’s research, give them a stronger connection to the interviewer, and increase their chances of success.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

What should you include in your Economics application?

  • Demonstrating that you understand what Economics actually examines and, in particular, the difference between an Economics degree and a Management and Finance degree.
    If you talk about ‘the study of money’ in your application, you will likely be rejected as this is closer to Finance than Economics.
  • Work experience at a relevant company
    This shows that you are motivated and dedicated to the subject area outside of a school setting. It also gives you real-life insights and experience of what a career after an Economics degree might involve and which skills are important to succeed.
  • Volunteering
    Similarly to work experience, volunteering shows that you are passionate and committed to contributing to wider society. The types of volunteering you can do vary greatly, but you might look at volunteering your skills for a data analysis project, working on a charity or governmental campaign, or mentoring young people.
  • Participation in relevant competitions, clubs or challenges
    This is a great way to help your application stand out and prove that your academic ability goes beyond the school setting. Examples of relevant competitions include an Economics essay prize or UK Maths challenge.
  • Details about specific modules
    This shows that you are motivated and dedicated to the subject area outside of a school setting. It also gives you real-life insights and experience of what a career after an Economics degree might involve and which skills are important to succeed.

How can we help?

The Profs’ consultancy team have many years of experience advising students on how to get into some of the most competitive universities and degree programmes in the UK. Our dedicated undergraduate and postgraduate admissions consultants help you at every stage of the application process, from choosing the right universities for you to preparing for admissions tests and interviews.

Our network of Economics tutors can also help you get the A level grades required for entry and stay on top of your studies once you’re at university. Whatever support you need, we’ve got you covered – get in touch with our team today to start preparing.

FAQs

What’s the difference between BA and BSc Economics?

In reality, all Economics degree courses are social sciences that require mathematical and statistical skills. In some cases, a BSc (Bachelor of Science) in Economics may place more focus on data and mathematical skills, while a BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Economics might place more emphasis on the wider interdisciplinary context.
However, you should always research any Economics course you apply for in detail, looking at the modules on offer and credibility of the department. You could also contact past students, the university itself, or The Profs to better understand whether a course is quantitative and/or suitable for you.

Does London Business School offer Economics?

London Business School (LBS) is a highly rated institution which offers postgraduate business-related courses. It does not offer Economics, although it does offer Management which contains Economics modules and electives, such as Managerial Economics, Strategic Economic Analysis, and the Global Macroeconomy.