George Mason University's Econ 811 course (formerly Econ 611, which is now a masters-level course) is a first-semester microeconomic theory course that is required for all Ph.D. students. "Micro I" is typically taken in the first semester, and it feeds into GMU's spring-semester "Micro II" course, which is also required for Ph.D. students. The course is regularly taught by John M. Olin Professor Walter Williams.

looking for the Macro Wiki? Macroeconomic Theory I, Econ 715

Course Materials[]



Study Questions

  • Here is a list of the questions with links to answers that some students have posted.

Problem Sets[]

Prof. Williams typically hands out three sets of mathematical problems during the semester, intended to help students better understand the mathematical relationships underlying the theory they're learning. (The problems are fairly successful at this.) All three problem sets require knowledge of the Power Rule for finding derivatives. The first two problem sets require understanding of the LaGrangian formula; the second and third require knowledge of how to work with exponents.

  • Here is an explanation of how the LaGrangian formula works. Though only knowledge of the technique is necessary for the exam, this explanation is intellectually useful.

Problem Set 3[]

For a PowerPoint explaining Problem 5 on Question Set 3, contact


The course has two exams, a midterm (counting for 35% of the grade) and a final (50%). The midterm focuses on the theory and dynamics of exchange and consumption, the final is cumulative. Below are some helpful materials, including kufers (past exams).

Note on kufers (past exams): These copies of past exams are presented as study aids. Prof. Williams prepares new exams each semester, so the kufers cannot be used for cheating. Prof. Williams does recommend that students use past test questions to prepare for his exams.


Test-Taking Strategy[]

As the kufers below reflect, Prof. Williams does not vary the content of the mid-term significantly from year to year. He is testing for a solid understanding of the theory and dynamics of exchange and of consumer behavior; he is not trying to stump students or see if students can be exceptionally clever or nuanced.

The difficulty of the mid-term is the time limit -- answer five (plus an extra credit) extensive questions, requiring some graphing, in just 90 minutes. It is a common error that students will spend too much time answering the math and graphing questions, and be rushed completing the (equally weighted) essay questions.

The best strategy to avoid this dilemma is to practice the kufers under test conditions -- 90 minutes, a blue book, and pen or pencil. Know ahead of time how you want to draw your graphs, what points you want to make in the essay questions, and what issues you want to raise in the T/F section. "Figuring out the test as you go along" is a strategy that will result in not completing the test.

Some final suggestions:

(1) Consider using a pencil for the figures, as a mis-drawing can be easily erased and corrected.

(2) Consider using colored inks or colored pencils for the figures. As the figures are complicated (e.g., depicting income and substitution effects and their resulting Marshallian, Hicksian, and Slutskian demand curves), using different colors to differentiate can help make the information clearer.


1998 Midterm for Econ 611

1999 Midterm for Econ 611

2001 Midterm for Econ 611

2002 Midterm for Econ 611

2003 Midterm for Econ 611

2005 Midterm for Econ 811 (2nd page only)

2006 Midterm for Econ 811

2007 Midterm for Econ 811

Study Guides[]

  • A scan of chapter 11 in two parts from Baumol's Economic Theory and Operations Analysis: part 1, part 2. Here's a low quality version of the chapter in a single file that's only about 740K.



1999 Final for Econ 611

2001 Final for Econ 611

2002 Final for Econ 611

2003 Final for Econ 611

2005 Final for Econ 611

2007 Final for Econ 811

Economics Discussion Material[]

Economic Sophisms[]

Prof. Williams said something in class that reminded me of a short commentary piece by Frédéric Bastiat. Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist who used satire to reveal the foolishness of various ideas and policies. To wit, the link below takes you to a open letter Bastiat wrote to French politicians seeking trade protections. It seems that candlemakers faced unfair competition from the sun (which made light available for free), and thus were deserving of government protection:

The full piece in Bastiat's Economic Sophisms is here, but here is a selection:

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price… We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds—in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.:
[I]f you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?:

P.S. Our very own Prof. Williams himself wrote the introduction to an edition of another of Bastiat’s famous works, The Law; you can read his comments here.

--Atlas.shrugs 16:02, 5 October 2007 (UTC)