FELIX ZHANG – APRIL 20TH, 2023
Every Berkeley economics journey must start somewhere, and for most students, that takes place in the friendly confines of Econ 1. The course covers a wide breadth of topics from micro to macro, household level to international – all in just two hour-long classes per week. Econ 1 can be a tricky course to take without prior economics experience because of the sheer expanse of content that is covered, but students with a background in the field, either through high school classes or real-life experiences, will find Econ 1 as a helpful way to improve their depth of understanding of core concepts before moving into more challenging and specific upper division economics classes.
Hailing from Scotland, Professor Jim Campbell makes Econ 1 an enjoyable and memorable experience through his friendly and comprehensive teaching style. Professor Campbell is a very organized and well put together lecturer, and he always finds balance by bringing humor and exploring topics from a variety of perspectives. A lot of the discourse revolves around current events such as climate change, labor laws, international affairs, and much more. Professor Campbell is also extremely approachable either after class or during office hours, and he is always willing to answer questions – even if the answer is more ambiguous and theoretical than practical. The course is split into fourteen different topics, with each one covered in roughly two class periods. The first part of the course covers basic economic concepts and microeconomics, while the second half dives into macroeconomics and international economics.
Although the content is not always covered in whole during the actual class period because of the scale of the course, the slides are always posted beforehand so diligent students can take notes and learn concepts ahead of time, which is particularly helpful when it comes to new ideas that are introduced in the class. It is often more valuable to just listen and do the problems presented in class as opposed to taking notes, as the lectures are fast paced and cover a lot of ground in a short time. The most practical tool that Professor Campbell provides for students is the course pack: the holy text of Econ 1. The course pack features an immense collection of resources, most notably practice problems that pertain to each one of the topics. Working through the course pack’s problems is easily the best way to prepare for the exams in the class.
The class has three midterms, the first two covering the longer microeconomics section of the class (Topics 1-9) and the last one covering the macroeconomics section of the class (Topics 10-14). Each midterm features four or five free response short answer questions, ranging from diagramming and applying formulas to crafting more theoretical answers to complex moral economic problems. While one or two of these short answer questions can be a curveball, generally, all the resources are available for students to succeed in the class. Attending discussion, while not mandatory, is a crucial tool to build depth of understanding and to get help in a low-stakes environment. As mentioned before, the course pack has dozens of example problems which serve as great preparation for the midterms.
The final exam of Econ 1 takes up a different form than the midterms, requiring students to write two separate essays with prompts provided from a list of topics. These essays are meant to challenge the student to incorporate their newly gained knowledge from course content while relating their essays to current events in the world. The final large component of the grade in Econ 1 is a presentation in a discussion group, which is done with one other class member and covers one of the course’s fourteen unique topics. The grading in the class is generally accommodating, with the main emphasis being on completion of quality work and plenty of half-credit being given on Midterm responses.
Econ 1 is a class that most prospective economics majors will have to take. Luckily, with Professor Campbell, the class is engaging, informative, and relevant, which makes it a worthwhile course to not just take, but to also pay attention to. As far as intro classes go, Econ 1 provides a great overview of the subject while encouraging students to think critically about the role of economics in the ever-changing world that we live in.
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