One of the questions I get asked most often is “how can I improve my English in Business exams at IGCSE and A-level?” or “how can I improve my writing?” in English. Many English as a second language (ESL) students think their level of English is holding them back from success in Cambridge International Exams.
More importantly, many ESL students feel they can’t do much to improve their written English – WRONG!
We will find out the following practical strategies to improve your English in Business questions to you can start to improve straight away!
- Improve Business Vocabulary
- Use Sentence Starters
- Learn Key Concept Definitions
- Use the correct structure
- Use connective phrases
Even better these techniques for improving English in Business exams are not just relevant for Cambridge International but can be used in other IGCSE and A-level exam boards and applied to increase exam success in other subjects.
How important is my written English in Business A level and IGCSE exams?
Well on the face of it, it’s not important at all. Cambridge International examiners will not take away marks for grammatical errors or spelling mistakes AS LONG AS they can make sense out of your answers.
Examiners mark hundreds of scripts where they have to try your hardest to figure out what the student is trying to say, and find the marks. It’s extremely frustrating for the examiner, but the students don’t lose any marks for writing with barely comprehensible English.
But if the examiner has to hunt for the marks that means that most of what the student is writing isn’t being rewarded. This means most of their effort is being wasted. And that’s why having functional Business English written ability is of crucial importance.
The good news is, you don’t need to write a great work of literature to get top marks, or even worry about small mistakes. You just need to make sure your writing is clear, concise and focused on the question. Even small tweaks in your writing can mean the difference between a pass and progressing towards the highest A* scores.
So let’s find out the 5 key tips to improving English in Business exams, and one trap to avoid.
Improve Your Business Vocabulary
Most of you reading this article speak English as a 2nd language, so you already know the importance of learning vocabulary in another language. However, if you go one step further and learn the subject specific vocabulary in business it will dramatically improve your answers. For example you could say:
1. “He wants to get more money so he can grow and make more money”
2. “his objective is to raise capital for expansion to increase economies of scale.”
Option 1 does not use the correct business keywords and is vague. The examiner can’t award high marks as knowledge and understanding is not clear.
However, option 2 uses the correct vocabulary and shows clear understanding of the concepts so will score high marks.
To help you with the essentials and avoid the most common mistakes we have the business phrasebook, a free pdf to download.
The specific keywords and definitions required in at IGCSE, and AS are available on our flashcards page.
2. Use Sentence Starters
Students often get stuck thinking about how to begin longer questions, or add long introductions that aren’t rewarded with any marks. Use sentence starter that get straight to the point of answering the question and skip the introductions. For example: “yes because” or “no because” in IGCSE questions . In A-level questions start immediately with the knowledge point and then run through your chain of analysis. You can see further examples our question specific guides at IGCSE, AS and A2.
3.Learn Key Concept Definitions
This is certainly the boring but important tip. On the Cambridge International IGCSE and A-level syllabus any concept mentioned could be asked as a definition question on the exam. If you have a learned a brief definition you won’t even have to think about how to explain your answer and can quickly secure full marks. You can find all of the keywords at IGCSE and AS level with simple definitions on our flashcards page.
4.Use the Correct Structure
Each essay question will have it’s own unique recipe for Knowledge, Application, Analysis and Evaluation. For example an A2 20 mark question has just 3 Knowledge marks and 10 marks for Evaluation, but the opening 10 mark essay question has no evaluation at all. Some IGCSE questions require you to refer to the case study while Paper 2 questions don’t need any application at all.
If you know how to structure each type of question this will guide you through every type of question. Check out the question guides on this channel and in our online courses so you know exactly what to write in each question.
5. Use Connective Phrases
Within each paragraph connective phrases are a great way to keep you focused on the question and build a chain of analysis. This means you can quickly move from Knowledge and application to analysis, evaluation and secure all the marks.
You can score analysis marks by using phrases like: “this means that”, and “this will lead to”.
To give balance and take your analysis one step further use connectives like “however” and “on the other hand” to give another point view so your answer is more balanced.
Secure evaluation marks say “this is of crucial importance because” or “other factors to consider are“. Evaluation is the most challenging skill. With Evaluation you can also have prepared phrases for different types of question. you can find these in each of our IGCSE online course lessons.
Avoid Bullet points
Another common student questions is: “Are bullet points ok?”
They can be useful for finishing questions under time pressure. If you are nearly out of time and want to get a few final knowledge points you can quickly write down a few bullet points. However, they don’t allow the depth of answers needed to get higher level marks.
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