How to answer AS Business Paper 1 Questions (CAIE 9609)

Survival guide to AS Business Paper 1 to maximise your marks and achieve your full potential in Cambridge International Business A-level.

AS Business Paper 1 Overview

AS Business Paper 1 is the junior partner with only 40% of marks for your AS compared to senior partner, Paper 2. But in many ways it’s more challenging than Paper 2. You must be strategic in your questions choices and there are much longer essays, so greater danger of going off in the wrong direction and losing marks.

Many higher ability students come unstuck by bad exam technique, but also students with more limited ability, achieve top grades because of smart exam strategy.

The good news is that paper 1 always has the same structure and types of questions, if you master the correct exam technique and prepare thoroughly you can walk into the exam confident and ready for anything the examiner will throw at you.

You are advised to spend no more than 35 mins on the short answer questions in section A, so that leaves 40 mins for the essay questions section B.

Relatively, that’s a lot of time. When you take out reading time, you are given the same time to do your essay question in section B of paper 1 as you will have to get through all of the questions in one case study on paper.

However, time can still get away from you – so stick to a maximum of 2 minutes per mark, and try to get through the short answer questions quickly so you aren’t short of time in the section B essay questions.

How to answer (A) questions

 (a) 2 mark Short Answer Questions

Part A questions are short definition questions. For example product life cycle. We need two knowledge points to secure both marks. An example of this is pattern of sales and steps from launch to withdrawal but you could use any of these knowledge points.

1 (a) Define the term ‘Product Life Cycle’. [2]

The pattern of sales recorded by a product. Steps from launch to withdrawal from the market

The key is to have two clear different points to avoid repetition. It helps to have a definition for each key concept. 

(b) 3 mark Short Answer Questions

For questions in part B, you need two sound explanations, in this case of how to extend product life cycle. So give your first point and then add a relevant example to show clear understanding and secure the points.

1 (b) Explain two ways a business could extend a product’s life cycle. [3]

relaunching the product with a promotional campaign
e.g Old Spice relaunching with a humorous marketing campaign to attract younger consumers

adding value by including more features, e.g. adding extra
memory to the specificatioin of a smartphone.

For your first clearly explained extension strategy we get two points, but to secure all 3 points you need another relevant knowledge point. Again, make sure you avoid repetition and choose two points which are clearly different.

This combination of 2 and 3 mark questions is repeated 3 times, but you will also get one 5 mark knowledge question.

5 mark Short Answer Questions

In 5 mark questions you usually have to explain the importance of a business concept, often in a specific context.

Explain how better management of trade receivables and trade payables can improve cash flow. [5]

Trade receivables are debts a business is waiting to receive from customers who have bought goods on credit
Better management of credit control encourages customers to pay for their goods and services more promptly this will bring money into the business more quickly and so improve cash inflow, therefore improving overall cash flow.

Trade payables are amounts owed to a supplier for goods or services bought on credit and who have not yet been paid.

Better management of trade payables means a business can delay the payment of its trade payables so will keep money in the business for longer, reducing cash outflow, therefore improving overall cash flow.

For example, you may need to explain how the better management of both trade payables and trade receivables can improve cash flow. In order to secure all 5 marks, you must effectively explain both factors.

So we start by defining trade receivables, and then explain how better management of trade receivables can lead to improved cash flow.

Then trade payables, and then explain how better management of trade payables can lead to improved cash flow.

It’s important to stay focused on the question, so you can repeat the question stem, to make sure your answer precisely gives the examiner what they are looking for, and you get all of the marks.

That is the short answer questions done, now it’s time for some exam strategy when choosing essay questions in section B.

Section B Exam Strategy

In Section B you have a choice of three possible questions. Take your time, read ALL of the questions and both parts A) and B).

Don’t dive in without checking! If you don’t look, part B might give you a nasty surprise.

You might be an expert on measuring business size, but have no clue about what an accountancy business is.

I generally advise against 20 mark questions unless you are really confident writing long essays. It takes a lot of skill to write an extended essay and keep every paragraph focused on the question. You are also not diversifying the risk or “putting all your eggs in one basket” to borrow the cliché.

Many students have a short attention span, so unless the essay question is something you are really passionate about, it’s easier to go for the 2 part question option. Remember you are going to be writing this answer for 40 mins!

There are always students who try to answer all of the questions, believe it or not. Please don’t do this. It’s not good for anybody! In this situation, the examiner has to mark all three and credit the student with the answer with the most marks. And more importantly, as students will only have spent a third of the time on each question their scores will be considerably lower than just picking one question.

8 Mark Analysis Questions

Unlike paper 2 it’s not specified how many paragraphs you must complete, but from the exemplars provided by Cambridge we can see for A) questions you should be aiming for 3 paragraphs with chains of analysis.

If you need to develop your chain of analysis skills, we’ve got a blog that would help you with this.

Let’s look at an example for the benefits of motivating employees. Start with the knowledge point, then explain and apply to the business. Although it’s not strictly necessary as this question doesn’t mention a specific business, I like to put in an example as it shows the examiner your understanding and makes it easier to explain your point. Finish by taking the analysis one step further.

Remember to include connectives – because, leads to, therefore, so that, as a result, consequently. It shows the examiner you are using analysis or taking analysis one step further.

No need for evaluation in this question – that’s coming up next in the b 12 mark question guide.

12 Mark Evaluation Questions

The b 12 mark question is an analysis question plus evaluation. Or to put it simply it’s important but it depends questions.

Plan your answer before you begin. The question points you to including two points of view, so make sure you include both for a balanced answer. Aim for two chains of analysis for and against. It’s important to have balance, and show you understand both sides of the discussion.

An easier structure to remember might be: It’s important because, and because of this but it depends on this and on this, then finish with an evaluative Comment on what is most important.

In this question we will aim for two points on why salary is  the best payment method for motivating employees of a shoe retailer.
Then two reasons why a salary is may not be the most effective payment method for motivating employees of a shoe retailer. Work through the chain of analysis in each paragraph.

To secure the evaluation marks you need a reasoned recommendation in context. Check out this blog on evaluation. It is the most challenging skill, so I won’t go into it too much detail here.

The key is to move beyond analysis and make substantiated judgements or recommendations. Remember to focus on the question to ensure you answer is in context, but you can also evaluate by explaining how your judgement will depend on other important factors.

In this example, I have evaluated by explaining the most important factor in motivating employees will depend on the individual, as all employees have individual needs. Salary is important but must be part of a package of different financial rewards to ensure all employees are motivated and perform to their full potential.

Commons traps to avoid in evaluation are writing a summary of what you have written earlier in the essay, or basing your answer on opinions rather than reasoned argument or evidence.

20 Mark Question Tips

20 mark questions need an individual tutorial, remember you are going to be writing this essay for 40 minutes! But some quick tips:
– Introduction outlining the parameters of the essay
– Paragraphs for each point building chains of analysis
– Balance – arguments for and against
– Keep every paragraph focused on the question
– Stick to the context of the question in this case a large furniture manufacturer.
– Strong evaluation in conclusion reasoned recommendation in context for the business


How much time should I spend on each section of the CAIE Business Paper 1?

You should spend 35 minutes on the short questions in section A and spend 40 minutes on the essay questions in section B

What percentage of my final CAIE Business grade is Paper 1 worth?

Paper 1 is worth 40% of you final CAIE Business grade

How do I answer a 5 mark knowledge question in the CAIE Business Paper 1?

In 5 mark questions you usually have to explain the improtance of a business concept, often in a specific context.
For example, you may need to explain how the better management of both trade payables and trade receivables can improve cash flow. To secure all 5 marks you will need to effectively explain both factors.


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