Top Four Tips for Answering Essay Questions in Business Studies
By Anna Arreza, Business Studies Tutor, Dymocks Tutoring
Section III and Section IV of the HSC Business Studies paper account for nearly half of the total marks available for students in the final HSC exam. It’s therefore especially important that students spend time to develop their skills and confidence in responding to the essay section in Business. Here are some of my top four tips for acing the extended response section in your final exam:
Tip 1: Be familiar with NESA’s key glossary terms
Oftentimes, the questions provided in Section III and IV of the Business Studies paper commence with a key term, such as “discuss,” “analyse” or “recommend.”
Upon starting to plan your business reports, it is recommended for you to highlight these key terms. This is as these directive terms essentially establish:
- Structure: how the marker wants you to respond to the question.
- Timing: how much time you should spend writing on each subsection.
To familiarise yourself with these key terms, try making flashcards or a quizlet on these terms and its corresponding definition! A glossary of key terms provided by NESA can be found here.
Tip 2: Unpack the stimulus question
For Section III of the HSC Business paper, you will be given a hefty hypothetical business situation that you will then be required to write a response to. A common mistake students make is to start writing immediately after reading the question.
Don’t do this! Instead, when reading the question, students should make note of any important aspects of the question including:
- What type of business is it and how is it positioned?
- What stage of the business cycle is the business in?
- What are the directive terms in the business report?
- What specific dot points in the syllabus could I discuss?
Let’s have a look at the Section III of the 2019 HSC Business Studies exam paper:
From the stimulus we can identify:
- Green: The business is within the food industry and has a private company legal structure. This type of business will impact:
- How much working capital is required
- What sources of funds are available for Roo’s Outback Eatery.
- Purple: This business is just about to start the introduction phase of the business life cycle, which will impact how much working capital is required.
- Blue: These indicate the positioning of the Roo’s Outback Eatery as one of class and quality. This will indicate the type of staff specifications Roo’s Outback Eatery should aim to acquire.
- Yellow: The directive terms should also be noted as per Tip 1!
While you may spend a few more minutes unpacking the question, planning provides a direction for your essay and is crucial in ensuring that your response is clear and effective. Ensure you reference the stimulus throughout your report.
Tip 3: Use formatting to your advantage
Extended responses written in Business Studies are focused on providing succinct and direct answers to the question(s). A report allows students more flexibility to convey information in a coherent way through:
- Indents, underlining and highlighting
- Flowcharts and diagrams (e.g. business life cycle)
- Tables (e.g. a SWOT analysis, advantages vs disadvantages)
Formatting will allow you to categorise each section in your report, emphasise key points and ultimately present your arguments in a way that is strikingly clear to the reader.
Tip 4: Timing
When preparing for either Section III and Section IV, write a practice business report and time how long it will take you to complete each section. Knowing how long it will take for you to write each response will then allow you to make any necessary adjustments. This could include aiming to write a report under NESA’s recommended 35 minutes per section, or to delegate the time spent between MC, short answer and extended response according to your needs.
At the end of the day, at the crux of an excellent essay comes from consistent practice and openness to feedback. Consult with your teachers and peers about how you could improve your practice business reports and adjust accordingly. Good luck!