Summary of changes
The new specification is linear rather than modular. Much of the content is similar to the previous specification but there are also some changes, especially the shift in focus to decision making in the functional areas and strategic decision making in the second year of the A-level.
Some of these changes have resulted from modifications to the A-level Business Subject Criteria. Other changes have been made to reflect important developments in business that have taken place in recent years and also in response to feedback received from teachers.
There will be no pre-release materials for any papers in the specification.
AS and A-level
Understanding different business forms (Section 3.1.2)
- The role of shareholders and why they invest
- Influences on share price and the significance of share price changes
- The effects of ownership on mission, objectives, decisions and performance
This specification content introduces much earlier the importance of how market conditions can influence share price and shareholding within examining different types of business.
Understanding management, leadership and decision making (Section 3.2.1)
- Types of management and leadership styles and influences on these
Included here are recent theories of styles including the Tannenbaum Schmidt continuum and the Blake Mouton grid.
Understanding management decision making (Section 3.2.2)
- The value of decision making based on data
Included here is the use and value of decision trees in decision making.
Understanding the role and importance of stakeholders (Section 3.2.3)
- The need to consider stakeholders’ needs when making decisions
Included here is stakeholder mapping.
Understanding markets and customers (Section 3.3.2)
- The value of primary and secondary marketing research
- The interpretation of marketing data
Included here are the concepts of market mapping, confidence intervals and interpretation of income elasticity of demand.
Making marketing decisions: segmentation, targeting, positioning (Section 3.3.3)
- The process and value of segmentation, targeting and positioning
Included here are various segmentation methods: demographic, geographic, income, behavioural.
Making marketing decisions: using the marketing mix (Section 3.3.4)
- The elements of the marketing mix
- The influences on and effects of changes in the elements of the marketing mix
- Decisions about the promotional mix
- Understanding the value of digital marketing and e-commerce
Seven elements of the marketing mix are included here and types of consumer product including convenience, shopping and speciality products. Promotional decisions include value of branding and consideration of digital marketing is also introduced here.
Making operational decisions to improve performance: managing inventory and supply chains (Section 3.4.5)
- Ways and value of improving flexibility, speed of response and dependability
This section looks at aspects of supply chain management including the flexibility of mass customisation and inventory control charts.
Setting human resource objectives (Section 3.6.1)
- The value of setting human resource objectives
Objectives include: employee engagement, talent development, training diversity and alignment of values.
Analysing human resource performance (Section 3.6.2)
- Calculating and interpreting human resource data
Calculation and interpretation of employee costs as a percentage of turnover will be included.
Making human resource decisions: improving organisational design and managing the human resource flow (Section 3.6.3)
- Influences on job design
- The benefits of motivated and engaged employees
Included here will be Hackman and Oldham’s model of job design and the theories of motivation: Taylor, Maslow and Herzberg.
Mission, corporate objectives and strategy (Section 3.7.1)
- Influences on and the importance of competitive advantage
The value of SWOT analysis is included in the influences on competitive advantage.
Analysing the existing internal position of a business to assess strengths and weaknesses: overall performance (Section 3.7.3)
- The value of different measures of assessing business performance
Methods to assess overall performance include Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard model and Elkington’s Triple Bottom Line (Profit, People, Planet).
Analysing the external environment to assess opportunities and threats: social and technological (Section 3.7.6)
- The impact of the social and technological environment on strategic and functional decision making
Included here is Carroll’s Corporate Social Responsibility pyramid.
Analysing the external environment to assess opportunities and threats: the competitive environment (Section 3.7.7)
- Porter’s five forces
An understanding of the five forces to include: entry threat, buyer power, supplier power, rivalry and substitute threat.
Analysing strategic options: investment appraisal (Section 3.7.8)
- The value of sensitivity analysis
Strategic direction: choosing which markets to compete in and what products to offer (Section 3.8.1)
- Factors influencing which markets to compete in and which products to offer
The value of the Ansoff matrix is included here in the context of strategic direction.
Strategic positioning: choosing how to compete (Section 3.8.2)
- How to compete in terms of benefits and price
This includes Porter’s low cost, differentiation and focus strategies and Bowman’s strategic clock.
Assessing a change in scale (Section 3.9.1)
- How to manage and overcome the problems of growth or retrenchment
Issues of growth include: economies and diseconomies of scale and scope, the experience curve, synergy, Greiner’s model of growth and types of growth – horizontal, vertical, conglomerate.
Assessing innovation (Section 3.9.2)
- Managing The ways of becoming an innovative organisation to include intrapreneurship and benchmarking
Assessing internationalism (Section 3.9.3)
- Managing international business including pressures for local responsiveness and pressures for cost reduction
Managing international business includes Bartlett and Ghosal’s international, multi-domestic, transnational and global strategies.
Assessing greater use of digital technology (Section 3.9.4)
- The pressures to adopt digital technology
Digital technology includes e-commerce, big data, data mining, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the long tail.
Managing change (Section 3.10.1)
- Pressures for change
Managing change includes Lewin’s force field analysis and Kotter’s 4 reasons for resistance and 6 ways of overcoming resistance.
Managing organisational culture (Section 3.10.2)
- The importance of organisational culture
Cultural models include Handy’s task, role, power and person cultures and Hofstede’s national cultures.
Managing strategic implementation (Section 3.10.3)
- How to implement strategy effectively
Organisational structures include: functional, product based, regional and matrix structures.
Problems with strategy and why strategies fail (Section 3.10.4)
- Difficulties of strategic decision making and implementing strategy
Included here is planned v emergent strategy, reasons for strategic drift and corporate governance.
The following topics, included in the previous modular specification, have been removed from the new linear specification:
Starting a business
Enterprise and entrepreneurial aspects including generating and protecting business ideas, developing business plans, conducting start-up market research, partnerships, locating business and employing people using consultants.
Assessing business start-ups is not included.
People in business
The stages of the recruitment process are not included such as recruitment and selection. Workforce roles, methods of training, job enrichment and job enlargement are also not included.
TQM, quality standards and quality control and methods of meeting customer service have been removed.
Marketing and the competitive environment
Pricing leaders, takers and tactics have not been included. Some of the detail of the promotional mix has been removed.
Financial strategies and accounts
The following ratios have been removed: acid test, asset turnover, dividend per share and dividend yield. Depreciation, profit quality, profit utilisation and profit centres have been removed.
Moving averages have been removed and the components of marketing plans.
Lean production and assessment of multi-site locations have been removed.
Human resource strategies
Developing and implementing Workforce Plans and methods of avoiding and resolving industrial disputes have been removed.
Assessing changes in the Business Environment
Some of the detail of government policy, eg supply side, has been removed.
Project champions and groups are not included here. Corporate plans have been removed.
What’s the same
The new A-level specification incorporates topics from the previous AS and A2 specifications. The process of integrating AS and A2 into a single specification has provided the opportunity to make changes to way the content is presented. However, much of the content is essentially the same, although there has been some clarification by, for example, using bullet points to specify more precisely what students should understand and by including guidance notes.
The assessment of candidates will take place at the end of the course. Ofqual have stipulated that the assessment of quantitative skills will account for 10% of the marks available to candidates. Some changes have been made to the assessment structure; however the types of assessment will be very familiar to teachers of Business. Data response and essay questions have been retained; case studies have also been included and there is the introduction of multiple choice questions.
There are three assessment units at A-level and two units at AS.
Three question papers at A-level which incorporate all areas of the subject content in the specification. This means that each paper does not assess specific areas of content and teaching cannot be directed towards each individual paper.
A-level Business Paper 1
Fifteen multiple choice questions (15 marks) and short answer questions (35 marks) in two compulsory sections.
Two essays (25 marks each) with choice of 1 from 2.
A-level Business Paper 2
Three multi-part data response compulsory questions (approx. 33 marks each).
A-level Business Paper 3
Six compulsory questions based on one case study (100 marks).
AS Business Paper 1
Ten multiple choice questions (10 marks) and short answer questions (20 marks) in two compulsory sections.
Two 2-part data response compulsory questions (25 marks each).
AS Business Paper 2
Seven compulsory questions based on one case study (80 marks).