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.

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.

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

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.

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.

In 5 mark questions you usually have to explain the importance 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. 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.

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.

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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