The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Enhancing Employability through Authentic Assessment

A Consulting Report in Intermediate Microeconomics


Undergraduate microeconomics education often involves essay-based assessments. Such assessments typically fail to develop employability skills. I designed and evaluated an authentic assessment as an alternative to essays: the “Economics Consulting Report”.

The assessment was used on a core Intermediate Microeconomics (2nd year undergraduate) module with 287 students. Students were asked to imagine they work at an economics consultancy and to develop a model using Expected Utility Theory to advise their client on what to do in the face of uncertainty.


Students were free to choose whatever client and problem they liked. This really encouraged engagement with real world problems. Many students chose firms making choices in light of Brexit uncertainty, while others chose clients closer to their personal interests e.g. a football manager deciding which players to buy. Regardless of their choice, this personalisation meant students were very engaged in applying economics to the real world.

Writing a consulting report for their client immediately implied they developed a number of skills. First, while their theoretical model may be complex, they had to find ways to explain it in simple language to a non-economist (their client). Second, in deciding what to analyse they developed commercial awareness in thinking what their client would care about. This was particularly valuable in teaching students about the value of general theory and comparative statics. Third, this assessment was unlike most of assessments they had done thus far in their degree. It is particularly challenging to develop an independent theoretical model, have sufficient time to write up a report about their model etc. All developing valuable employability skills.

I developed several resources to ensure the assessment worked well. First, I created a suggested “workflow” for a consultant. When writing essays, many students often spend minimal time planning and just write. For a report, the opposite is true. One should do the analysis first and only then start writing. Second, I wrote an example report to illustrate the kind of micro theory analysis and advice a consultant might give. Third, I provided students with a rough mark scheme specific to this assessment since the requirements were so different from essays. Fourth, I demonstrated how easy it is to use Expected Utility Theory to create a simple model live in lectures, so that students have some workhorses to build on if they wish. This was particularly useful for students who really did not know how to start on this relatively open-ended assessment.


In order to assess the efficacy of the assessment I conducted a survey. Based on a 28% response rate (81 students), I found: 73% preferred this assessment to an essay; 81% learnt more from it than an essay; 93% felt it developed employability skills and 69% thought it should be used in other economics modules.

Skills developed by this activity





Writing for academic audience


Writing for non-academic audience


Presentation to academic audience


Presentation to non-academic audience


Application to real world


Applying economics to real world context


Solving policy or commercial problems


Simplifying complex ideas/information to make them accessible to wide audience


Data analysis


Sourcing and organising quantitative data


Analysing and interpreting quantitative data


Fluency with excel


Fluency with statistical/econometric packages




Team-working with economists


Collaboration with non-economists


Wider employability skills




Creativity and imagination


Independent thinking


Can do attitude






Commercial awareness


Time management 


Project management/organisational skills 

↑ Top
Contributor profiles