5 Vital Tips To Remember For The IB Business Paper 1 Exam

This post about the IB Business Paper 1 exam is quite lengthy.

This post is all about the IB Business Paper 1 exam. This is the paper that has a separate case study. I highly advise studying that case study very carefully. I’ll be talking about some things that you’re going to need to remember for this paper.

Now bear in mind, the IB Business Paper 1 exam is different for HL and SL students. It’s not like the IB Economics Paper 1 exam as the Business Paper 1 exam has an extra section for HL students to answer while SL students only need to answer two sections.

While I did SL myself, these tips should ideally be of use to both HL and SL students since they refer more to the methods and mindset of the exam itself.

Mark Allocation

IB Business Paper 1
IB Exams

Here, I’m basically going to give you the breakdown of how the marks work and what’s expected of you. It’s going to be a quick breakdown and you’ve probably already had this stuff explained to you anyway.

Typically, there are different sections in the IB Business Paper 1 exam. This is 2 mandatory sections for SL and 3 mandatory sections for HL students. The marks you usually come across in these papers range from 1 to as high as 12 as you’ll later see in this post.

This section will breakdown what you could see and how to approach answering them:

1-2 Markers

These are usually supposed to be quick to answer. They’re not that complex and they typically ask you to define a certain business term, especially the one markers.

2 mark questions might extend this a bit and ask you to describe a certain situation to the Business in question. 2 marks can be fully achieved if students remember to refer to the Case Study business. This is very important to nab those easy 2 marks.

3-4 sometimes even 5 Markers

These questions usually require you to provide advantages and disadvantages. To get full marks here, what you need to do is remember to explain the advantages/disadvantages with relation to the business (so how do these benefits and/or drawbacks affect the business?).

5, 6, possible 7 Markers

These are the types of questions that need full, balanced analyses of certain parts of the Case Study business. There’s a process to answering such questions.

You can usually identify these ones easily as the question might start with “Explain” or “Analyse”. Now keep in mind that it’s POSSIBLE that 7 markers are included in this bracket but more often than not, 7 markers are the longer questions which I’ll explain in a second.

7 Marks and higher

These questions are the motherload. The ones that will eat up most of your time in the exam. Higher weighted questions may show up more often in HL papers but the process to answering them is the same.

The process to answering these types of questions will be explained later on in this post. What you need to remember when aiming for maximizing your mark potential is that you need to add your conclusion or evaluation.

These questions usually begin with an “Evaluate” or even in some cases “To what extent…” which are clear indicators that you gotta up your game when answering. 7 markers are definitely usually settled in this bracket.

Anything higher than a 6 marker is typically one of these questions but I can’t guarantee that IB will keep this the same. This just happens to be the trend up until the 2016 IB exams that I took back when I was a student.

Remember. To get full marks, you need to constantly be referring back and citing your Case Study information. It’s essential that you keep this in mind.

Structure Of You IB Business Paper 1 Exam

IB Business Paper 1
We’ve all been there

No doubt by now most of you are sick of me mentioning this in virtually EVERY SINGLE POST I create. Sorry not sorry. This time however, I want you to refer to the screenshot I took below.

Now hopefully I don’t get an angry, scolding email from IB telling me that sharing this screenshot of the November 2015 Business Paper 1 exam is illegal. Pray for me folks.

I’ll spare you the comedy don’t worry. By now you must have noticed the crazy 12 marker there.

Also notice the 9 marker. Now luckily for SL students, this happens to be a HL paper and this is the third section, Section C, that HL Business and Management students are expected to complete.

When I talk about structure this time, I mean in particular with questions worth 6+ marks.

Anything lower mark questions are also important but they’re small fry and you can answer them easily without much attention for structure (this depends on how you write obviously).

However, much like my IB Economics posts regarding structure (I’ll link them here and here if you’re interested), these are the questions that you need to be extra focused on with how your response flows and actually answers the question.

Now do keep in mind, you can’t answer these questions using the Economics tips I wrote about related to DEED and DEEDE (go check out those posts if you don’t know these two acronyms. Master them if you’re an Econ student).

While there are similarities, I’m going to let you in on how you answer these questions effectively.

Getting on with it, we’re going to look at the 9 marker.

For 9 Marks

So for 9 marks you’ve got a question asking you to ANALYSE. Key word there. That’s an initial indicator to how you should form your response.

What you should be focusing on in this instance is how you examine the relationship between the “product life cycle, investment and profits”.

Notice I said ‘examine’ and not ‘evaluate’ which basically means you add your own conclusion at the end of your explaining.

I would highly recommend you define the terms “product life cycle, investment and profits” first and foremost. You need to tick as many check boxes as you can for an examiner and it never hurts to define what you know.

In this sense, it’s similar to the Economics Paper 1 exam in that you should define all relevant terms that you’ll be illustrating in your answer.

Definitions come first AND THEN you proceed to describing the theories associated with them and how “Lady A” is affected.

The theories you describe are your Explanation in this sense (the capitalized ‘e’ in ‘Explanation’ is a reference to my previous Economics post) and it needs to be closely linked to ‘Lady A’ i.e. what exactly is the product life cycle, how is it important to a business, why it’s important, and why it links to the other two aspects of the business you’re looking at.

REMEMBER. You MUST, I repeat, MUST refer to the text at ALL times. Try to do this for EVERY question.

You get marked on relating back to the business in the text. So let’s say if “Lady A” has a relatively short product life cycle like a smartphone perhaps since those are replaced like every year these days. You would need to physically STATE that in your answer.

For example, after defining and describing the importance of the product life cycle to businesses in general, you NEED to make sure you acknowledge the product life cycle of ‘Lady A’. So you would say something like this:

“….so in this regard, the product life cycle is extremely beneficial to businesses. In the case of Lady A, the product life cycle is quite short which would mean that the business is likely to…..”

See what I mean? By making that short reference to the case study itself, you’ve just made it possible for the examiner to mark you higher in the marking criteria boundaries (maybe in the 5-7, 8-9 mark boundaries for example).

In case you couldn’t be bothered to read all that, let me recap. Remember the key elements. Definitions, Explanations of theories and concepts, and then references to Case Study itself.

Now, the quality of your writing comes with practice so you’ll have to really revise over how you make sure your analysis about the relationship between all the mentioned aspects of ‘Lady A’ isn’t one or two sided. Ask yourself these questions:

“How does each aspect affect Lady A?”
“How significant are they relative to Lady A?”

(Don’t go comparing product life cycle, investment, and profit. Instead try to describe how uniquely important each one of these aspects is to Lady A and the effects they have on each other as well as Lady A)

“How closely interlinked are all these concepts? Are they co-dependent or independent of each other?” (They’re quite dependent on each other if that wasn’t obvious already by the way…)

So that’s the 9 marker. On to the BIG ONE.

For 12 Marks

Now. I’ll simplify the reading here and just say that everything I wrote up there is applicable here. So definitions, explanations to theory, concepts, and other course material content as well as explicit references to the Case Study itself.

Where the higher mark questions distinguish themselves however is that not only do you need to analyse/examine what the question asks of you, you also need to provide your own conclusions. So in essence it’s quite similar to Economics 15 markers.

Now that you know about 75% of what you need to do for this part, let’s touch on the rest.

The other 25% of what you need to is actually a lot. For example, to get those higher grade boundaries, you’re looking at a very tightly knit conclusion/evaluation which combines proof or citations from the case study with your explanations. This is integral to maximizing your marks. Let me break it down for you so you understand the extra mile you’ve got to go:

  • Do exactly what you did for the 9 marker
  • Make sure you’re extensively referring back to the case study since this question has more marks at stake. This also makes your conclusion for sound and reasonable if you’re constantly using the case study to support your claims. It would be good practice this in your 7, 8, or 9 markers too.
  • In your conclusion, which you need to have if you even want to bump up to higher grade boundaries, not only are you summarizing your argument but you’re also going to heavily refer to the Case Study for support.
  • The references you make back to the Case Study don’t need to be paragraphs long. You only need to write a phrase or short sentence when you refer back. Do make sure it’s very explicit though otherwise the examiner might not pick up on your references.

So that’s basically what you need to do. The most important thing to do is refer back to the information given to you. You can also refer to additional information you get on your paper. I know I’ve repeated the whole citation process numerous times but you won’t believe how many students can forget this step and as a result juuuust miss out on getting into higher mark boundaries.

Phew. Wow that’s almost 1500 words of writing right there. Apologies if you’re waiting for this torture end but I’m only trying to help ya. Next part.

Time Management in IB Business Paper 1

IB Business Paper 1
Said no IB student ever

Alright this is another thing to remember. I’m going to keep mentioning this no matter how well you already know this tip. Time management is key to everything when it comes to exams in general. I only mention it multiple times because IB has a way of asking you questions in exams that will shave off tens of minutes off your time

This is no less true for the IB Business Paper 1 and 2 exams. You need to be very well aware of how much time you spend on each of the questions you do.

HL, you folks have 2 hours and 15 minutes to do your Paper 1 and Paper 2 exams while SL, you lot only have 1 hour and 45 for your Paper 1’s while your time for Paper 2 is a nail biting 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Panicked yet? Don’t be.

Just remember to prioritize. Spend the majority of your time on questions that weight more heavily on your grade rather than small time 1-2 markers.

What would you rather do? Spend 30 minutes on a 2 mark question or a 10 mark question? You’d need to answer five 2 mark questions perfectly to match up with the 10 marker. Clearly there needs to be an obvious distinction.

Let’s think of it this way. HL, you’ve got 2 hours and 15 minutes. You can divide that into three sets of 45 minutes to spend on each section in your Paper 1 exam. Make sure you allocate at least 25 to 30 minutes just for the heavier weighted questions. Bring in a stopwatch, hourglass, or keep an eye on the clock in your exam hall for reference.

When you’ve got a general idea of how to manage your time, stick to it no matter what. Cut your losses if you can’t answer any questions on time and move on. It will come to you later or in the very least, if you have spare time, you can go back to those questions.

You’ve probably had enough practice by now and plenty of mocks to know the importance of Time Management. This is going to be a constant theme in my posts from now on so make sure you actually commit to it.

Case Study Notes and Familiarity

IB Business Paper 1
“Welp. Guess I’ll do the resits” – Anonymous IB student

The case study is your savior for the Paper 1 exam. You want to make as many notes and familiarize yourself with it as much as possible. I do want to mention that you’ll be given a copy of the case study in the exam itself but the whole point of you being given it months ahead of the exam is literally so you don’t really need to look at it too much.

Why? Because you’ll chew up time looking for references or reading through it again, or for the first time if you’re really that much of a procrastinator.

At least read the case study once a day. That’s my advice. Highlight some things on the copy you’re given before the start of exams and jot down some notes. Remember some key business terminology/concepts and know their definitions so that when the Paper 1 makes it’s way into your fearful, shivering hands, there’ll at least be a chance you could find yourself whizzing through the first few questions related to definitions or benefits and drawback questions.

Discuss with your teacher if you like. Anything you do regarding getting to grips with the case study paper will help on exam day. So hopefully you ladies and gents in your second IB year doing Business have already been hard at work revising the case study.

HL vs. SL

IB Business Paper 1

I feel like this is quite an important aspect to highlight because you need to make sure you understand the differences so that, for some unforeseen reason, an SL student walks into an exam with the mindset of a HL student and vice versa.

The main differences between the two levels is obviously mainly going to be content but you’re also going to need to understand that the requirements of your IB Business Paper 1 exams are going to be different too.

HL has far more sections to cover while SL students, not so much.

There are also huge time differences in the exam too. In my opinion, it’s important to direct this more at SL students. If you’re an SL student you get an hour and 45 minutes for Paper 1 and an hour and 15 minutes for Paper 2. Your time management must factor in these shorter time periods.

Also, know your syllabus. I made a similar comment in an Economics post which I’ll link here. You need to know what parts of the syllabus are ones required for you.

One thing that definitely is the same for both levels is the techniques you use to approach your writing in the Paper 1 and 2 exams. The structural aspect outlined above can be used for both SL and HL papers. That doesn’t change. It’s the quality of your responses that will need work on and that can only come from your own hard work and dedication.

Again, SL this is a special piece of advice for all of you. Just because you’re not as stressed as the HL students are doesn’t mean you can afford to take it easy.

There might be a large difference in what you need to know for the exam, I think HL has like a whole chapter in the Oxford Business and Management textbook that’s purely HL, but you’ve still got to get your stuff together.

Getting high marks in Business is generally quite difficult. The grade boundaries are relatively low but that’s because the examiners don’t mess around or get nice with marking their papers.

In this regard, HL and SL are about in the same boat. Higher marks are hard to achieve for both BUT it’s not IMPOSSIBLE to do. You can definitely ace your papers if you’re serious about it.

Comments? Questions? 💖 letters?