Course Outline


The A-Level Business Syllabus at GEMS Wesgreen International Secondary School aims to allow learners to take the first step towards a career in a private or public organisation or progress with confidence to a degree in business and management-related subjects.

Learning Outcomes

The aims are to enable students to:

  • understand and appreciate the nature and scope of the business, and the role of business in society, internationally and within each candidate’s own country
  • develop a critical understanding of organisations, the markets they serve and the process of adding value
  • evaluate business behaviour from the perspective of a range of stakeholders including owner/shareholder, manager, employee, customer, supplier, lender and government
  • develop an awareness of the political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental and ethical issues associated with business activity
  • develop quantitative, problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills.

Unit Overviews

Term 1

Unit 1 Business and its environment

Approximate length: 3 weeks

This topic area is concerned with understanding the nature and purpose of business activity and identifying the structures, functions, cultures and objectives of different business organisations. Central to an understanding of business and its internal and external environments is a recognition that the world in which businesses operate is in a constant state of change. The impact of political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental and ethical factors and how these might influence business activity is considered. The extent to which businesses can respond and adapt to such change is likely to determine their success

Specific Cambridge International Curriculum Objectives Covered:

  • Understand the main differences between local, national and multinational businesses and the growing importance of international trading links and their impact on business activity
  • Analyse the benefits and disadvantages that a multinational might bring to a country
  • Analyse possible relationships between multinationals and the state and advantages and disadvantages of privatization in a given situation
  • Understand the different types of merger and takeover: horizontal, vertical (backward and forward), conglomerate, friendly merger, hostile takeover
  • Analyse the impact of a merger/takeover on the various stakeholders
  • Explain why a merger/takeover may or may not achieve objectives, e.g. synergy
  • Explain the importance of joint ventures and strategic alliances as methods of external growth and how a government might use the law to seek to control: employment, conditions of work (including health and safety), minimum wage, marketing behaviour, competition, location decisions, particular goods and services
  • Understand how international agreements might have an impact on businesses
  • Understand how the state might intervene to help businesses (small and large)
  • Analyse how the state might deal with market failure
  • Explain the key macroeconomic objectives of governments: low unemployment, low inflation, stable exchange rates, growth, transfer of wealth
  • Understand how these macroeconomic objectives can have an impact on business activity
  • Explain how a government might place a different emphasis on
  • macroeconomic objectives from time to time
  • Explain the policy instruments used to achieve macroeconomic objectives, e.g. monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies
  • Explain how changes in macroeconomic performance and policies may affect business behaviour
  • Explain the impact of and issues associated with corporate social responsibility (CSR), e.g. accounting practices, paying
  • incentives for the award of contracts, social auditing
  • Explain why businesses need to consider the needs of the community including pressure groups
  • Identify problems of introducing technological change
  • Evaluate how enterprises are constrained by and rely on other businesses
  • Explain how a company might react to a given demographic change
  • Explain how (physical) environmental issues might influence business behaviour

Unit 2 People in organisations

Approximate length: 2 weeks

This topic area focuses on how businesses can develop and use policies, procedures, structures, systems and approaches to management and leadership that will harness the human potential within an organisation and achieve organisation goals. An understanding of the central role of effective management and leadership in achieving efficiency and competitiveness is required. Students will need to understand the distinct bodies of theory that underpin the concepts of business management and leadership. The importance of motivation techniques and theories in understanding employee needs will be considered. The contribution to business success made by human resource management through effective workforce planning and the recruitment, selection and training of workers will also be explored.

Specific Cambridge International Curriculum Objectives Covered:

  • Explain the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ HRM
  • Discuss flexibility e.g. advantages and disadvantages of temporary contracts or flexible contracts, e.g. zero-hours contracts and part-time against full-time workers
  • Explain the measurement, causes and consequences of poor employee performance
  • Explain strategies for improving employee performance
  • Analyse the Management by Objectives (MBO) – implementation and usefulness
  • Identify and explain the need for labour legislation and the broad principles that often underlie it
  • Analyse how cooperation between management and the workforce can be of benefit to both
  • Identify and explain the reasons for and role of a workforce plan
  • Explain the benefits to employers and employees of trade union and the involvement in the workplace including their role in collective bargaining
  • Discuss the purpose and attributes of an organisational structure such as flexibility, meet the needs of the business, permit growth and development
  • Analyse advantages and disadvantages of the different types of structure
  • Explain why some organisations are structured by product and others by function or geographical area
  • Explain the reasons and ways structures change e.g. with growth or delayering
  • Explain the features of a formal structure: levels of hierarchy, a chain of command, the span of control, responsibility, authority, delegation/accountability, centralised/decentralised
  • Discuss and analyse the relationship between delegation and accountability
  • Explain the processes of liability in a business
  • Analyse advantages and disadvantages of delegating and the impact of delegation on motivation
  • Link the relationship between span of control and levels of hierarchy, the difference between authority and responsibility, conflicts between control and trust that might arise when delegating
  • Analyse the advantages and disadvantages of centralisation for stakeholders
  • Give and discuss examples of and distinctions between line and staff
  • management; the conflict between them situations in which communication is essential
  • Explain standard methods of communication: interpersonal, general to and within groups; spoken, written, electronic, visual
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the different ways of
  • Communication and how communication works within an organisation mentioning the difference between one- and two-way communication;
  • Explain the difference between vertical and horizontal communication and problems associated with different channels of communication
  • Explain and discuss barriers to communication: attitudes, perceptions, noise, language, inappropriate medium, etc.
  • Explain the role of informal communications within a business, ways in which communication can influence the efficiency of a company and ways of improving communication in a given situation

Unit 3 Marketing

Approximate length: 2 weeks

This topic area develops an understanding of the importance of the marketing function for business competitiveness. The significance of marketing orientation – the process of aligning a business to its operating environment, customers, other stakeholders and markets – is emphasised. An understanding of the principles and practices of marketing and their application to commercial and not-for-profit organisations is considered. The relationship between marketing and other business functions such as operations management, finance and human resource management is also considered. The application of marketing concepts and methods to assist marketing and business decisions is explored. Central to the understanding of marketing is the objective of satisfying the needs and wants of customers through effective market research, applying an appropriate marketing mix and establishing an organisation with a strong customer focus.

Specific Cambridge International Curriculum Objectives Covered:

  • Understand and apply the detailed marketing plan; associated benefits
  • Explain income elasticity, promotional elasticity, cross elasticity; usefulness of the concept of elasticity in its various forms
  • Discuss product development as a process from original conception to launch and beyond and sources of new ideas for product development
  • Explain the importance of Research and Development
  • Explain the need to forecast marketing data
  • Calculation and use of moving average method to forecast sales
  • Analyse the need for and development of a coordinated marketing mix
  • Explain the development of marketing strategies that are focused on achieving specific marketing objectives economic globalization within the context of the broader concept of ‘globalization.’
  • Explain and evaluate the implications for marketing of increased globalization and economic collaboration, e.g. BRICS and the importance of international marketing for a specific situation
  • Explain international markets – identification, selection and entry
  • Discuss whether a business in a given situation should develop an international market through pan-global marketing or maintain local differences
  • Choose a strategy, in a given situation, to develop a global market and discuss factors influencing the method of entry into international Markets

Unit 4 Operations and project management

Approximate length: 2 weeks

Operations management is the discipline of how resources are managed to achieve the efficient production/provision of goods and services. Project management is the discipline of managing resources to successfully complete one-off projects. This topic area promotes understanding of operations and project decisions and how design, planning, quality and workforce issues interrelate to achieve operations and project objectives. Candidates should develop an understanding of the benefits and limitations of a variety of techniques and analytical frameworks used by operations and project managers. Central to the understanding of how successful operations and project management support effective manufacturing and service businesses is a recognition of the importance of innovation in product and service delivery in dynamic and volatile business environments.

Specific Cambridge International Curriculum Objectives Covered:

  • Explain the main features of an ERP programme and how ERP can improve a business’ efficiency in relation to inventory control, costing and pricing, capacity utilisation, responses to change, management information
  • Analyse how capacity utilisation can be measure and the implications of operating under or over maximum capacity
  • Describe choosing methods of improving capacity utilisation (e.g. through rationalisation, sub-contracting)
  • Discuss the benefits of outsourcing in a given situation
  • Explain the links between lean production and inventory control, quality, employees roles, capacity management and efficiency
  • Explain Kaizen (continuous improvement) in the context of lean production and JIT in the context of lean production
  • Analyse the implications and justification of adopting a JIT approach and meeting quality in terms of what the customer demands, the importance of quality assurance, methods of quality control: inspection, testing, random sampling, involving the workforce in quality control and the link between quality and training
  • Discuss the aims and effectiveness of TQM
  • Evaluate the potential of Kaizen in TQM and the importance of benchmarking in quality control in projects as a response to the need for change
  • Discuss the reasons and impact of project failure, including examples, the main elements of a network diagram: activities, dummy, activities, nodes, construction of a network from given data, finding the minimum project duration and the critical path
  • Calculation of total and free float and the interpretation of the results of the analysis of a network
  • Describe how minimum duration and floats might be used in the project management
  • Discuss CPA as a management tool

Unit 5 Finance and accounting

Approximate length: 4 weeks

This topic area introduces candidates to the importance of the management of finance, the keeping of and analysis of accounts, and the assessment of business financial performance. Candidates need to understand: the basic principles and techniques of financial management; the value of financial statements and some key accounting techniques used to promote profit, measure performance and exert control in business organisations; the use of financial management information in managerial decision making; the links between financial management and other management activity; the importance of identifying and interpreting management accounting information, recognising uses and limitations. Central to the role of finance and accounting is an understanding of how information can be used to create and measure the value

Specific Cambridge International Curriculum Objectives Covered:

  • Recognise situations in which the various ways of improving cash flow can be used
  • Differentiate between full and contribution costing and the uses and limitations of the full costing method
  • Explain the nature of the technique of contribution costing, including the difference between contribution and profit
  • Explain the limitations of contribution costings and situations in which contribution costing would be and would not be used
  • Find the solution of numerical problems involving costing methods using contribution costing to help with ‘accept/reject’ order decisions.
  • Explain the measuring of performance
  • Describe the benefits and drawbacks from the use of budgets and how budgets might be produced
  • Explain and justify the use of flexible budgets and zero budgeting and the purposes of budgets for allocating resources, controlling and
  • Explain the monitoring of a business
  • Discuss the role of budgets in appraising business
  • Explain and define the meaning of variances, including calculation and interpretation of variances [but not price/volume variances]
  • Show application of amendments of an income statement from given data
  • Evaluate the impact on the income statement of a given change and the amendment of a statement of financial position from given data
  • Find the relationships between items in the income statement and the statement of financial position
  • Discuss the impact on the statement of financial position of a given business
  • Describe the change in valuing non-current assets or inventories and the difficulties of valuing inventory
  • Calculate and apply the net realisable value method [Note: LIFO and FIFO will not be examined]
  • Explain the role of depreciation in the accounts and the impact of depreciation (straight-line method only) on the statement of financial position and the income statement
  • Calculate and apply the return on capital employed, inventory turnover, days’ sales in receivables, all the usual definitions of gearing are acceptable, e.g. Debt/ Equity and Debt/(Debt + Equity). It is the interpretation of the calculation that is important when selecting a source of finance
  • Use and explain the concepts of dividend yield, dividend cover, price/earnings ratio and show how each of these ratios is used
  • Evaluate the reasons for the results obtained and the strategies that businesses might adopt to improve the ratio results in comparison of ratios results between businesses
  • Discuss the limitations of these accounting ratios and the need for investment appraisal
  • Describe the significance of risk in investment decisions and the meaning, calculation and interpretation of payback and ARR
  • The meaning, calculation and interpretation of discounted payback and NPV.
  • The meaning and interpretation [but not the calculation] of IRR and qualitative factors that might influence an investment
  • Apply decision in a given situation in comparison of the investment appraisal methods, including their limitations

General teaching methodologies will include Online and Face to Face (Blended) learning, Face to face students will be in class while online learners will log in remotely and follow the instructor, who will have the laptop camera facing the smartboard. Teaching will be done using a combination of writing and illustrating on the smartboard and PowerPoint presentations. This should include a combination of oral and visual methods to differentiate instruction modes to cater to student preferences effectively.

Use of Phoenix to allocate differentiated activities catering to varying learning abilities of the students – these online activities will include quizzes, assignments, research-based projects, digital group activities and formative tests.

Feedback to students will be given through the Gems Phoenix platform. Feedback will include rubrics, teacher, and peer marking.

Questions from students – time allocated to allow students the opportunity to ask questions and give written and oral feedback through digital platforms.

Term 2

Programme of Study

Term 3

Programme of Study

Next Steps

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