ECON 302 (Simon Fraser University—SFU)

I have just completed one of the most challenging Economics courses I’ve ever taken in my undergraduate academic career. Shih-En Lu is an brilliant Harvard-educated professor who has a great and straightforward style that really appealed to me. My PhD-student tutor this semester told me in passing that he was a Harvard-educated game theorist which I found to be impressive.

Judging from the introductory lecture as well as from what I’ve heard from those in the economics community at SFU, Prof. Lu has a reputation for being brilliant but that he just doesn’t understand that his brilliance isn’t a common trait. His level of difficulty on RateMyProfessor is 4.7 and in lecture he’s mentioned that students ought not be so sensitive if he is a little too blunt at questions he doesn’t seem to be relevant, well-constructed or contextual to the topic at hand. 

Naturally, every tidbit of knowledge I received worried me a little more. And I’m sure that if you’re registered in this class, you are a little worried that you’re not going to perform as well as you wish to. Here’s a little advice for successfully completing ECON 302 with Shih-En Lu.

Here are some tips I took away from this gauntlet of a course.

Do not skip lectures. 

There is no set book for the topics covered in this course. Dr. Lu prefers to teach the entire course from slides with reinforcement of the topics at hand with 9 or 10 hand-in assignments that are simply marked for completion. You don’t simply want to read the slides and skip class because there will be a lot of in-depth explanations, exam strategies, and tips that you will simply not be able to get without attending lecture.

Be comfortable with ECON 201 material. 

Maximization problems for agents with quasilinear utility is something you’re going to be doing the first part of the course. Know what First Order Conditions are and why we use them. Derivatives and algebra is something you will use regularly so do not be. Luckily, there is no use of integration in this course, so don’t be too worried about not being versed in integral maths. 

Take good notes.

To hopefully make life easier for you, in case you miss some lectures. I’ve included my lecture notes for all topics in the Google Drive links below. Feel free to peruse and drop me a comment if it’s helped you!

📁 ECON 302 Lecture Notes (PDFs)

  1. Review: Pareto Efficiency & Welfare Analysis
  2. Externalities, Property Rights, and Public Goods
  3. Monopoly
  4. Introduction to Games & Expected Utility Theory
  5. Iterated Strict Dominance & Nash Equilibrium
  6. Oligopoly
  7. Backward Induction & Stackelberg Competition
  8. Repeated Games
  9. Price Discrimination
  10. Adverse Selection
  11. Signaling
  12. Lotteries Over Money & Risk
  13. Moral Hazard

Do the homework.

There are assignments every week. You’re able to miss one assignment without taking a hit to your grade, but I highly suggest that you don’t do this. The work you do for these assignments reinforces all the topics that will be covered in the exam and it is extremely important that you understand each and every problem set.

Record your lectures.

Review these lectures the night of the lecture. I can’t tell you how valuable the reinforcement of what the topics at hand were for my brain just to get comfortable with the amount of material that is covered in the course.

I went to Best Buy the first thing in the semester to purchase the Sony ICD UX-560 Stereo Digital Voice Recorder. It cost $157.07 (CAD) with tax but I can honestly say this was the most useful tool for me in this class. The recordings I have from each and every single lecture I attended were indispensible in helping me pass the course. I could go over and listen to any part that I couldn’t quite understand easily while studying.

Understand the scope of the course.

The point of this course is to understand where, when, and how markets break down. Read the syllabus carefully and make sure to make use of the resources at your disposal: office hours with the professor and the TA is always available via a quick email.

Get a tutor.

If it is in your budget, I recommend retaining a good tutor. You can email the SFU Economics department at econ_undergrad@sfu.ca to inquire if they have any tutors available this semester. They should be able to get you in touch with a graduate or PhD-level student who is well-versed in whichever undergraduate course you may be taking. Don’t hesitate in reaching out to me if you would like the contact of mine. It wasn’t cheap, but I justified it as an investment.

Use the Internet & Supplementary Youtube Videos.

YouTube was a fantastic learning aid for me. A great channel is William Spaniel’s Game Theory 101 which covers a great deal of topics that overlap with ECON 302.

Make Flashcards (or use mine)!

I use Quizlet for to aid in my studying. Here’s an example of the flash cards I made for myself:

If you like them, click here to access all the flashcards I created for this course!

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