A Level Business


What is it about at sixth form level?

Business is possibly one of the most practical and topical A level subjects. It demonstrates the interrelated nature of business using business models, theories and techniques to support analysis of contemporary business issues and situations. The content is designed to engage students through topics and issues that are relevant in today’s society. In addition to the classic business functions you will study key contemporary developments such as digital technology and business ethics, while the impact of globalisation is covered throughout the topics.

When Microsoft released their Tablet PCs in 2002, it was yet another example of a hand-held touch-screen device that did not succeed. It confirmed for many the view that such devices were not worth pursuing. A little over ten years later and Apple have made iPhones and iPads items no one wants to be without. Apparently rational adults have been found not so much queuing as camping outside of Apple stories for days to be first in line for their latest products. What makes Apple so successful a company? Can it continue in this vein? When a business fails, to what extent was its downfall foreseeable and avoidable? These are the sorts of questions that you will be thinking about.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study six different topic areas. Topic 1 (What is Business?) will introduce you to what businesses are and their objectives, different types of business and how the external environment can affect costs and demand. Topic 2 (Managers, Leadership and Decision-Making) will look at management styles, how decisions are made and the role and importance of stakeholders. Topic 3 (Decision Making to Improve Marketing Performance) looks at marketing objectives, accumulating and interpreting data, and how to use it to make decisions. Topic 4 (Decision Making to Improve Operational Performance) examines how to improve efficiency, productivity and quality. Topic 5 (Decision Making to Improve Financial Performance) looks at how to analyse financial performance and make financial decisions. Finally, Topic 6 (Decision Making to Improve Human Resource Potential) looks at how at different organisational structures and the employer-employee relation.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study four more topic areas. Topic 7 (Analysing the Strategic Position of a Business) looks at how to analyse internal position of a business and the external environment to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a business. Topic 8 (Choosing Strategic Direction) looks at how to choose markets and strategic positioning. Topic 9 (Strategic Methods) looks at changes in scale, innovation and internalisation. Finally, Topic 10 (Managing Strategic Change) looks at organisational cultures and how to implement strategies effectively.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Business Studies is an accessible introduction to the key external and internal issues common to all businesses, which are then applied to a wide variety of businesses in different industries. It aims to develop skills similar to those required by a business analyst; these skills will be useful for further study but will also enable A level graduates to look objectively and analytically at their own or other businesses.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

No prior knowledge of business is required or needed, just curiosity about why, for example, Apple is one of the most successful firms in the world, how the independent café near you survives alongside Starbucks or why cigarette manufacturing has left the UK but BMW has not. GCSE level Maths is preferred.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

Students sitting the AS will sit two exams at the end of the first year. Paper 1 (Business 1) covers Topics 1-6 and contains multiple choice questions, short answer questions and two data response stimuli with questions. Paper 2 (Business 2) also covers Topics 1-6 and contains one compulsory case study consisting of approximately seven questions. Each paper is worth 50% of the AS and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes.

A level

Students sitting the A level will sit three synoptic papers at the end of the second year covering all ten topics. Paper 1 (Business 1) contains multiple choice questions, short answer questions and two essay questions. Paper 2 (Business 2) contains three compulsory data response questions each made up of three or four parts. Paper 3 (Business 3) contains one compulsory case study followed by approximately six questions. Each paper is worth 33% of the A level and lasts 2 hours.


AQA Business for A Level 1
By A. Gillespie, M. Surridge
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1471836138 

AQA Business for A level 2
By A. Gillespie, M. Surridge
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1471835827

Access to business websites such as BBC Business news, tutor2u, Financial Times.

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 2016, A level: AQA 2017 

Sarah Ratcliffe
Head of Department


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