How to Get Full Marks in Business Questions

I teach IB Business and Management. It can be one of the hardest IB subjects to score a full 7 in. Actually doing that might be impossible if you don’t follow an appropriate method for answering the long-answer questions.

Every year I hear from students struggling with this aspect of IB Business.

My passion is making this kind of almost-impossible thing completely doable. My students deserve that. Developing and sharing these kinds of efficient and effective approaches is what The Method is all about. So far I’ve tackled the TOK presentations and essays, the the Economics essay questions and the IA’s, and in Business I’ve looked at the EE’s and IA’s. (For a complete list, see the Resources link at the top). But the Business long-answer questions are especially hard. There are just so many different types of questions you can be asked. Businesses have a lot of moving parts. They’re extremely complex.

In a business question you can be asked almost anything about a business. And you’re expected to apply the relevant concepts from a very long textbook. The one I use is 673 pages long! Not easy my friend.

But let’s break it down. In this situation you need to do 3 things quickly:

1. Effectively explain and use a range of course concepts and terminology to prove you’ve learned the course material.
2. Ensure you’re following a clear structure, to make a clear argument that the reader (marker) can follow, and
3. Repeatedly connect the course concepts to your specific case

The major ideas in IB Business and Management

First I identified the ‘major concepts’ of the business course. Then I put them into 3 categories. Then I developed (with a colleague) a step-by-step approach for how to get your ideas down on paper in a hurry.

You can make sure your answer is balanced (thorough) by addressing each of the three areas each time. If you need more marks, simply make several points in each. You can use several of these to build up a balanced answer to the longer answer questions.

The Triangle

When you get a question, look at it from these three perspectives (Cash, Customers and Staff) –what my students call the “Mr Woods Triangle”. Every answer should touch on all of the three areas at least once (or 2-3 times for a longer answer) and then come to a conclusion. This is harder to do near the beginning of the course, when you haven’t learned as many concepts, but do your best.

Note: this method will work for any long-answer business question where the teacher is looking for analysis. (Have a look at the IB Business and Management Command Terms). There are some questions where we’re simply looking for you to explain a list (i.e. explain 3 stakeholder conflicts) or where the question is actually a technical question (i.e. draw a break-even graph).

Here are the sub-concepts that go under each heading.

Part 2: The PEEL Structure

The Triangle will make sure you’ve covered the course concepts and made connections to your case. The PEEL structure will tell you exactly how to get this down on paper clearly, in a hurry.

Here’s the PEEL development structure:

P – Make a point. For example (cash), that “this would hurt the company’s liquidity.”
EExplain the point. Elaborate or clarify it.
EExample. Connect it to the case. Use a specific fact from the case that shows this is a valid issue for them. (Quotes aren’t necessary).
L – Linespace. Literally, just skip a line, so the marker can see that you’ve completed that development point and you’re moving on to another one.

So, if the question is asking you to analyse the effectiveness of democratic leadership in a business, you would come up with a thesis: “Democratic leadership is likely to increase company X’s success.” Then PEEL about their Cash, PEEL their Customers, PEEL about their Staff and come to a conclusion.

For a 9 Mark Question

For longer questions (i.e. 9 mark questions) you could argue two-points in favour of your thesis (+) and 1 point against it (-).

Thesis

Cash PEEL +
Cash PEEL +
Cash PEEL –

Customers PEEL +
Customers PEEL +
Customers PEEL –

Staff PEEL +
Staff PEEL +
Staff PEEL –

Conclusion

For a 4 mark question

For shorter questions (i.e. 4 marks) you might simply do a:

Cash PEEL (+ or -)
Customers PEEL (+ or -)
Staff PEEL (+ or -)

Conclusion

This might seem easier said than done, but it works if you work it. Make a habit of answering your questions this way. As it becomes second nature to you, you’ll see your business grades improve.

Hope that helps.

Big thanks to my colleague, Mr Neild (Business and Economics teacher at OFS) for giving me his ideas about the PEEL structure. Brilliant!

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7 Responses to How to Get Full Marks in Business Questions

  1. Meerle says:

    Hi, I am also an IB student and I will take my final exams next year but I am struggling with answering Section C concept questions (Ethics, Culture, Innovation, Change, Globalizations and Strategy) I have no idea what to do when a question comes up and I stress… On this site, http://www.businessmanagementib.com/geccis-concepts.html there are possible concept questions, if you have any sort of method to answering these type of questions (20 point questions) I would really appreciate it! 🙂

  2. Tim Woods says:

    Hi James. That’s a great question. Basically balanced here means that you’ve looked at both sides to a reasonable extent. Sometimes students focus much more on one side than the other and that’s not balanced. It’s a bit like ToK, where you need strong claims and strong counterclaims too.

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  4. Pwietypoe says:

    Hello, I am a Year 12 IB student about to give my IB B&M (HL) mock exams and I was wondering for analysis and evaluate questions, how to score maximum marks for questions that ask us to calculate for example NPV or PBP or Break Even and then evaluate and recommend the best option from a few options? How to go about tackling such questions? Pls. help!

    • Tim Woods says:

      Hi. There is quite a lot to say about this, but I would recommend starting by having a careful read of the rubric for a past paper question similar to the one you’re doing.

      One common weakness is that many students fail to come to a clear conclusion at the end of their answer. Another is that their answer doesn’t make much use of the case they are given.

      Would you like me to do a video, really explaining the rubric we use for this?

  5. Tim Woods says:

    Okay, I’ll work on that for a future post. All the best!

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