How prior economic education influences beginning university students’ knowledge of economics

Faculty/Professorship: Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftspädagogik (inaktiv) 
Author(s): Happ, Roland; Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, Olga; Förster, Manuel
Publisher Information: Bamberg : Otto-Friedrich-Universität
Year of publication: 2022
Pages: 1-20
Source/Other editions: Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training,10 (2018), 5, S. 1-20, ISSN: 1877-6345, 1877-6337
is version of: 10.1186/s40461-018-0066-7
Year of first publication: 2018
Language(s): English
Licence: Creative Commons - CC BY - Attribution 4.0 International 
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-irb-539355

When beginning higher education studies in business and economics students bring with them diverse knowledge and experience in the field, which could affect their success in the program. Differences in prior economic education pose challenges to the teachers in higher education as they have to decide which knowledge of economics the students have. This is important for preparing the lessons in higher education. In this paper, we investigate how prior economic education influences beginning university students’ knowledge of economics.


We administered items from the German adaptations of the test of economic literacy and the test of understanding college economics, both developed by the national council on economic education, to assess the general knowledge of economics and specific knowledge of micro- and macroeconomics of 511 beginning students at two universities in Germany.


Participants who had completed vocational training or a course in economics as a major subject at secondary school (“Leistungskurs Wirtschaft”) performed significantly better on items relating to general economics and macroeconomics; however, there was no significant difference in performance on items relating to microeconomics between the comparison groups. Attendance of an upper secondary school specializing in economics (“Wirtschaftsgymnasium”) has no significant effect when controlling for these two learning opportunities and other personal characteristics. In addition, we performed regression-analytic modelling to examine the correlation between economic knowledge and personal factors such as gender, grade on university entrance examination, and migration background and found effects depended on the economic content area assessed.


The study demonstrates that there is a heterogeneity in students’ knowledge of economics when beginning higher education studies in business and economics. The results of this research highlight the importance of designing target-oriented teaching methods that take into consideration the study-relevant (prior) knowledge of beginning students.
GND Keywords: Studienanfänger; Schulische Vorbildung; Ökonomische Bildung; Hochschulökonomie; Berufsausbildung
Keywords: vocational training, course in economics as a major subject, upper secondary school specializing in economics, prior economic education, business and economics, test of economic literacy, test of understanding college economics, heterogeneity, beginning university students
DDC Classification: 330 Economics  
650 Management & public relations  
RVK Classification: QB 320   
Type: Article
Release Date: 27. May 2022

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