Writing AS Level essays (IGCSE students can pay attention too)

A general pattern with answers to (what should be treated as) essay and long answer questions is that AS Level students try to ‘compress’ their answers and provide just enough information. This usually ends up looking like one lengthy, messy paragraph that shows little skill of being able to organise thoughts in a logical way. Please avoid this – here’s how:

Essay questions generally require that you discuss (even analyse) the content of the question and whatever concepts are relevant to it. If you know your work well enough, a number of thoughts will probably come to mind quite quickly after reading the question. This is definitely a good thing, but it also means that you need to make sense of it all.

That’s why I recommend starting with a list of the main points you want to discuss in your answer. Writing up a quick list with very brief notes in point form means that you now at least have something to refer to throughout the rest of the essay. It also means your mind doesn’t have to constantly try and keep track of what you have said and haven’t said – very distracting half way through an essay!

Next, like all good essays, you need to start with an introduction in which you describe the problem or the question and how you will approach it. There are some variations here which will depend on the exact nature of your essay, but the main point is to bring the examiner to focus on what it is you will be discussing. I also highly recommend defining key points and concepts. For example, if your essay question is based on objectives, then you should explain what is meant by that term. If you need to discuss leadership styles, then consider a brief outline of them, from democratic to autocratic leaders.

Now we get to the substance of the discussion: this is where you should provide a body of paragraphs, each dealing with the main content of your essay. If you were to discuss the challenges and opportunities when switching from one method of production to another, for instance, then you would allow each challenge and each opportunity in its own paragraph; the only rule against this is where one is related to the other, in which case you may discuss them together in a single paragraph. Another example: if a question has to do with the pros and cons of market research, each pro and each con should be explored separately unless one could offset/arise with the other. Basically, each paragraph of the body should have its own topic which you discuss.

This part of your essay is, of course, the lengthiest. The number of paragraphs can vary, but as a general rule you should have at least 3 paragraphs. The total number might be more if you are dealing with quite a number of reasons/advantage/disadvantages. As for the length of each paragraph: normally, 3-5 sentences will be sufficient. This will all depend on how well you can get to the ‘heart’ of the matter – check whether what you are saying really does deal with what has been asked.

Examples are very helpful in showing the examiners that you have understood the question and the theory related to it. If you can provide a suitable, relevant example (hypothetical ones are often useful), the chances are that the he or she will be able to easily identify your abilities at this level.

Throughout the essay, please try to use business-related terminology (wording) as much as possible. Instead of saying, “they will make a lot of money”, consider “the firm could potentially earn greater profit”. Another example: “the owners could get rich” should be “shareholders might receive an increase in dividends”, and “treating the people badly” could read “unethical treatment of employees may have long-term consequences”.

Lastly, all good Business Studies essays end with a conclusion in which the main points are summed up or an evaluative comment is offered. This does not mean you have to repeat everything you have discussed, but rather that you briefly review the question and how you addressed it. Alternatively, an evaluative comment means that, for example, you briefly discuss other relevant points that need to considered before expansion. You could also evaluate by judging the usefulness of something, such as the market research a certain business uses.

An essay consisting of an introduction, paragraphs (body) and a conclusion shows the examiner your ability to order your thoughts and pay attention the important information. This is a chance to demonstrate sound logic and reasoning.

Here is a list of the questions you need to treat as essays in the assignments:

  • Assignment 1: Question 4 
  • Assignment 2: all questions. Note that questions 1 & 2 and questions 3 & 4 complement each other, i.e. question 1 relates to question 2 (they are part-questions). Offer more depth for the questions worth 12 marks
  • Assignment 3: Question 5
  • Assignment 4: all questions (as with assignment 2).
  • Assignment 5: Questions 1, 2 and 6.

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