AQA BUSS4 Research Theme for 2015 - Manufacturing in the UK

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BUSS4 Exam Prep. Making Connections to Achieve 5 Levels of Analysis

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In preparation for June 18th, my class and I did the follow PowerPoint activity which focuses on planning and analysis.

The premise is simple; the BUSS4 questions invariably ask students to analyse the causal relationship between 2 concepts, such as “does strong leadership lead to a successful business?” or “Is targeting emerging markets the best way to improve profit?”. Students therefore have to fill in the blanks and make the connections between these two concepts to achieve good analysis. More importantly, in doing so it forces students to answer the questions set without digression, deviation or departure from the subject.

The first example is given to get the ball rolling. There are 8 questions and some blank templates below to add additional questions. In terms of differentiation (if you like that sort of thing), they can obviously be made easier or more difficult by taking away or adding some “blanks”, and a natural extension strategy would be for students to then add a paragraph of application to support the answer.

I sincerely hope it helps and wish you all the very best for the upcoming exams.

Exam Technique Classic: Evaluation in 2 Words

Monday, May 12, 2014

It all started when one of my A2 students asked me today: “How do you get full marks for evaluation?” in relation to a BUSS3 Question 4 (the 34 marker)

It can be summed up in 2 words:


(Just a note that the examples given are BUSS3 related but could be applied to any evaluation question in BUSS1 or 2 also)

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Replicating the stress of an exam to show the importance of planning.

Friday, May 09, 2014

“If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend 6 hours sharpening my axe”

Abraham Lincoln

“The battle is won before the battle is fought”

                                                                           Sun Tzu

“Time spent thinking about how to approach a particular question and ensuring the response stays focused is time well spent”

                                         AQA Business Studies Moderator

Despite these wise words, it would appear, based on in-depth research from my classes and the 1000s of A2 students from the BUSS4 Revision workshops, that most students do not spend time planning their answers. Their reason is invariably “I don’t have time”.

To dispel this myth I did the following; I asked a student to stand at the front of the class and gave him 30 seconds to answer an on-the-spot business studies question “Analyse the benefits of operating in niche market”. After lots of nervous umming-and-ahhing, the brave students managed to score one mark before the time was up.

I then gave him 30 seconds to plan an answer to the same question. He came back strong and gave a fantastic 6 mark answer! Conclusive, empirical, irrefutable evidence (sort of) that a small amount of time invested in planning in the short term will reap great benefits in the long term.

I wish you all the very best for the next month!

BAD Application by Michael Jackson

Monday, January 27, 2014

My students often struggle to fully apply their knowledge to the case, so to demonstrate the importance of application, I do the following:

1) Set up the YouTube clip of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal with volume DOWN to zero. (If, understandably, you’re not a fan of MJ, choose another music video in which they dance in time to the music).

2) On another webpage, set up the YouTube clip of Michael Jackson’s BAD with volume UP.

3) Show the silent Smooth Criminal video whilst playing the Bad song.

4) Ask students what the problem is.

They soon realise that it doesn't quite "go". I play the video with music as it was intended and ask how this links to their exam answers. The most perfect answer I've had is  "it doesn't matter how well you "dance", you have to dance to the tune of the case study"!

Revision Party!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's that time of year again when Year 11 mock exams are fast approaching and every subject in school is getting the pupils to revise, so after seeing various twitter posts about revision parties I decided to host one myself! With a £10 budget I set off to my local supermarket in search of party essentials and it has been the best £10 I have spent in a long time!

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The view from the other side of the desk

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I've been teaching Business for some years now. But I don't have any qualifications in the subject (my background is Economics). So this year, I thought it'd be fun to take my Business A-level. I'm getting sponsored within school on a per-mark basis with the proceeds going to a project the school is linked with in Ghana, but besides that worthy cause it's been a real eye-opener to be there in the thick of it with the students. With one exam to go, tomorrow, I thought I'd put up some thoughts on how its gone so far...

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BUSS4 Exam Technique - The Basics of PEEL

In our exam preparation workshops, we coach students to develop their essay writing technique by using a series of approaches which help students write relevant answers to the required depth of application, analysis and evaluation.

A core part of that approach is the PEEL technique for writing powerful paragraph points. PEEL is a particularly powerful approach because it allows students to reach the highest levels of application (good application) and analysis (good analysis) in just one well-developed and argued paragraph point.

Here's a key-point summary of the PEEL method.

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BUSS4 Section B - Prepare for Hybrid Essay Questions

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I’ve been taking a close look through our AQA BUSS4 Topic Tracker to get a feel for how the Section B essay titles have been selected and structured in recent papers (and since the current spec was introduced). There is a clear progression in the style of the Section B essays and I suspect this has important implications for students refining their exam technique. I’ve jotted down a few thoughts about this below.

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BUSS4: Don’t be a Story-teller – Be an Expert Pundit

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ronnie Corbett is a superb story-teller.  Once he begins, you can sit back, relax and allow the story to unwind, step by step.  His stories ramble on and on…and on. Each story is filled with superfluous details, with Corbett easily side-tracked by related memories and very slowly getting to the point. Eventually you get to the punch line, but it’s the journey or story that mattered.

Corbett’s method of story-telling neatly sums up the approach taken by too many BUSS4 students in their use of evidence and examples in their essays.

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What is evaluation?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I cant take credit for this fantastic, student friendly explanation of what evaluation is. It was sent to me by David Thresher, Trinity School, Croydon. Certainly worth reading!

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Making the most of Edexcel ResultsPlus- updated for Jan 2013

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Read on to find out how to print out individual grade reports for all your students using the complete results spreadsheet you can download from ResultsPlus

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Extending student reading with the Institute of Directors

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Institute of Directors produces a regular magazine for its members, which includes lots of articles and snippets that students might enjoy. Great reading for all students, particularly those taking A2 modules that require them to get a feel for decision-making, and involved in that all-important independent research. Just take a look at the items highlighted on the cover of the November edition: Turn Your Business into a Great Brand, The Collaboration Game - are your teamwork skills up to the job?, Setting up in Brazil, Why we need more Engineers in Government, and the key-note article is an interview with Sir Stuart Rose about strategy, self-doubt and why business must embrace change. There are also articles on apprenticeship schemes, the Guardian Small Business Network, the effects of the US election result for business, start-up funding for young entrepreneurs and the secrets of success of winners of the 2012 Directors of the Year, as well as lots of mini interviews and items that give a feel for every aspect of running a business.

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There’s More Than One Right Answer: Ownership

Monday, October 01, 2012


This mini case study activity deals with the subject matter of ownership status but is more focussed on developing students skills at writing answers for Business Studies and demonstrating that business is not an exact science.

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BUSS4 in June 2012: An Examiner’s Perspective

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Many teaching collagues who read the Business Studies Blog prepared their students for the AQA BUSS4 exam in June 2012. We’ve been sent this perspective from a BUSS4 examiner who has kindly agreed to pass on feedback about his/her experience of marking BUSS4 this summer. For obvious reasons, the examiner has asked to remain anonymous.

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Plan your BUSS4 Essay!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How and why to plan your essays in BUSS4

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Four ways to make your BUSS3 exam answers stand out

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Every student sitting BUSS3 gets to answer the same four questions based on the same case study.  Everyone gets the same time allocation.  When the examiner starts marking scripts many answers will be similar; relatively few will stand out in terms of the quality of analysis and evaluation.  So how can you make yours one of the stand-out scripts?

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AQA A3 Business BUSS3 Online Revision Clinic - 12 June 2012

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The tutor2u Business Studies team will be available on Tuesday 12 June 2012 to provide personalised revision support for students taking the AQA BUSS3 exam on 14 June. Our free online revision clinic will start at 9 p.m. and last for an hour.  Students who wish to add their questions during the clinic need to login using their FB, Twitter or OpenID account.

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A2 Evaluation - Read the Question!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Along with ‘show your working’, I vividly remember my own teachers writing ‘RTQ’ or ‘Read the question!’ on my work in red ink.

This simple and important advice is often overlooked of course. It is more important than ever in A2 essay questions in Economics and in Business Studies.

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BUSS4 Exam Technique - Sniper or Machine Gunner?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One of the major difficulties with the BUSS4 paper is managing time effectively.  Students- understandably under pressure- regularly neglect to take the time to understand the question before they start writing.  They are unsure how best to address the essay and so try to reproduce their text book, hoping that some of their knowledge will hit the target.  Another error from those who have learned the syllabus, and/or built up a vast portfolio of information on the research theme, often feel obliged to ‘show off’ in the exam room.  Rather than scoring highly, however, their essays tend to read like a list of bullet points, interspersed with ‘stories’ about businesses they have studied.

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BUSS4 - Keep Calm and Carry On…

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Preparing for the BUSS4 exam involves getting yourself right mentally.  Many students underestimate the influence that attitude has in determining how well they perform.  They focus on learning terminology and concepts and on building a research file but don’t spend enough time getting their psychological approach right. Here are some thoughts on how you can into the right frame of mind to do your best in BUSS4.

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BUSS4 Exam Technique: Decisions, Decisions…How to Choose an Essay

Thursday, May 03, 2012

BUSS4 students have a difficult decision when choosing which essay to answer from the two options in Section A (research theme) and the three in Section B. I have devised a list of questions that students can use to help with this difficult decision:

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BUSS2 Exam Technique: Analysis – Limited, Reasonable or Good?

Having marked quite a few BUSS2 responses, it seems students have begun to get the message about application but are falling short on analysis. Frequently, they identify a relevant point but just describe it, failing to explain how or why their point is addressing the question.  In the majority of questions, it is essential to explain how the course of action being described might affect business results.

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Exam technique: Adding context to exam answers

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A selection of headlines in the last 24 hours of this blog entry helps make this simple point - use real life business examples to help develop the strength and depth of business exam answers….

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Exam technique: Can you compete under pressure?

The BBC has a study under way to analyse the psychology of pressure, which will offer “...a new look at why some people are particularly prone to pressure, while others cope rather well.” Not surprisingly, with a launch at this time of year, the introduction to it focuses on exam pressure, and relates it to the pressure faced by athletes and others who have to perform to their best at a set time and under set conditions. The comparison is a good one; facing your A level exams means that all of the work you have done in the last two years comes down to how well you can perform in just two hours or so in the exam room.

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Evaluation - Making a ‘judge’ment

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Here is a little exercise I have done with my AS Business groups this week. When trying to help with the longer essay questions, split the class into groups and and have them practice how to make a judgement for each essay question. I am using this for the OCR F292 Case Study of TSL. You can have one person in each group as the prosecution stating why they have made one certain judgement and then have another person acting as the defence stating why they think it should be a different outcome. The teacher can role play as ‘The Judge’ for the first exercise show the class what is expected.

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Developing Exam Skills: AQA GCSE Business: Kingfisher Caravan Parks Ltd

This is the first in a series of practice 9-mark questions for AQA GCSE Business Studies Unit 2. This one is on Kingfisher Caravan Parks Ltd.

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Support for Teachers Delivering AQA GCSE Business Studies: The 9 Mark Question

Monday, April 30, 2012

One of the key themes that teachers mentioned at the recent AQA GCSE Revision Conference in Stratford last week was the 9 mark question(s) and how students really feared them.

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Developing Exam Skills: AQA GCSE Business Studies: Definitions and Accessing the Higher Marks

I wrote a blog recently based on ways for students to tackle the 9 mark questions in the AQA GCSE Business Exam. My blog was based around information from the Unit 1 Examiners report.

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Developing Exam Skills: AQA GCSE Business Studies: Application

One area that students struggle with time and time again is the key skill of application and this was highlighted in the examiners report from the last Unit 2 exam sat in June.

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Developing Exam Skills: BUSS2: Lessons Learnt from January

Sunday, April 29, 2012

As BUSS2 approaches fast, what can we learn from Januarys exam?

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BUSS4: The Seven Point Scale for Perfect Paragraphs

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This is an idea I’ve developed following the recent tutor2u BUSS4 revision workshops for marking and feeding back to students when building essay skills. Like many of my A2 Business-teaching counterparts, I spent a large proportion of the Easter break marking BUSS4 mock essays. In a bid to help my students develop their paragraph writing skills, I made a note of the common areas for improvement and summarised them into seven key points for writing the ‘perfect’ paragraph:

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Developing Exam Skills: Analysis: The Snoozatron

This is a ‘cracking’ little video that I used with my students to talk about analysis.

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Effective evaluation for A2 business: the “halo effect”

Saturday, April 21, 2012


The most important skill that candidates need to show off in their AS/A2 exams is an ability to effectively evaluate.  Evaluation statements put candidates in the top mark band on most of the bigger questions.

For this reason, I’m always on the lookout for ways in which the quality of evaluation in student responses can be improved.  When I was reading at the weekend I came across a new term (for me, anyway) that I thought would be worth adding to my list of tips – a so-called ‘halo effect’.

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Developing Exam Skills: It depends on how you use “it depends”

“It depends on”. Three little words that allow students to reach higher levels of evaluation. However, the extent to which the use of these 3 words allows a student to achieve higher levels of evaluation really depends on how they use it.

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Developing Exam Skills: Answer what you are asked!

I’ve blogged about this before but it is worth mentioning again as we approach what I like to call, the ‘business end’ of the academic year - exam season.

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Evaluation in business essays?  Its just like going on a date…

Monday, August 22, 2011


Maybe Paul McKenna should park his recent focus on helping people using neuro-linguistic programming and turn his hand instead to being a business studies teacher?

In a recent interview on the Steve Wright Show (BBC Radio 2) McKenna explained the concept of evaluation, first making reference to some well known entrepreneurs and then using the example of being asked out on a date…

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