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Your last minute Business Studies study guide

By Lauren Condon on 23 September 2018HSIENSWblog

We have been hearing a lot about business studies from you guys recently which must mean that you’re not feeling super confident about the exam coming up 🤔 . And that’s totally understandable so let’s take a few minutes to dive into Business Studies and look at some ways we can prepare ourselves and really push for those band 5s and 6s.

Also, it’s super important to remember that these are extra tips for Business Studies on top of the usual suspects like using the syllabus, doing past papers and paying attention to the keyword in the question… Don’t forget to start with those classics 👀 .

1. Prepare to discuss interdependence

Here’s a fun little test to see whether you’ve actually read the Business Studies syllabus or not… Let’s talk interdependence.

See, in the each of the four topics, there is going to be a syllabus dot point that says ‘interdependence with other key business functions’. It looks like a pretty generic little point and it’s easy to overlook when you’re studying some of the more meaty dot points but this is where a lot of the extended responses will come from. See, 'interdependence with other key business functions' basically means that your four topics - operations, marketing, finance and human resources - all work together and affect each other. You shouldn’t study marketing and not even thinking about the way that marketing works with human resources, operations and finance.

Why is this so important? Well firstly, the interdependence of the different business functions is a great extended response question for NESA to throw at you because it will make you think about several different syllabus topics and dot points and connect them altogether. But even if that doesn’t happen, understanding the way that the different functions work together gives you much better context for the topic and all the different pieces will start to fall together and make more sense.

2. Have flexible and relevant case studies up your sleeve

Just like you want to be using examples in exam answers across your other subjects, case studies will save your life in Business Studies. Whether they ask for it or not, deep down NESA is hoping that the students will throw in a sneaky case study example of every short answer as well as every extended response question.

That can sound pretty daunting but it can even be a hypothetical business (as long as they work and make logical sense). It’s all about creating scenarios to demonstrate that you really understand all the theory and how it works in real life businesses. If you can, try and pull in some examples of actual businesses because it’s showing your marker that you’ve actually seen a bit of the news this year and are engaging with the business ideas. The markers are pretty keen on students who show they are actually interested in business beyond just the school subject.

Remember that a lot of the questions in Business Studies exams actually give you a little scenario in the question so make sure you actually use those specific names and details in your answer.

3. Know your financial ratios back to front (you need more than just the formulae)

So it’s not exactly a secret that you would need to know your financial ratios in Business Studies. The trick is knowing more than just the formula itself. You actually have to understand what the formula is representing in the real world of business, what those ratios actually indicate about the relationship between x and y and of course, how these ratios affect real life businesses.

Understanding the real life application of the financial ratios is actually a whole lot easier than trying to remember then out of context anyway so even though this sounds boring, get keen.

For example, let’s take the expense ratio (Total Expenses / Sales) which measures the amount of revenue that is used to pay for running expenses (e.g. wages, rent, admin, etc.).

And let’s take Atomi as our case study example. Atomi ran their financial ratios and realised that their expense ratio was extremely high, say 4:1. This means that they are spending 4x the amount that their making in revenue, reducing the amount of profit being made by the business (Rob and Tom would not be happy).

In order to fix this, management would have to reduce some expenses or increase their sales by at least 4x. For Atomi, it would be a quicker and easier fix to decrease the top of that ratio. For example reduce their rent by moving out of their offices in Ultimo to somewhere cheaper like Hornsby, or they could cut down on office snacks (like we would ever let that happen), saving money on their credit card statements. These methods would decrease expenses and hopefully change that ratio so the sales is bigger than the expenses in the company.

4. Always define key terms in your answer

Business Studies is definitely one of those subjects where you have to pretend whoever is reading your answer has just walked off the street with no knowledge of business terms. You still really need to pay attention to the keyword in the question that tells you what the marker is actually looking for but just make sure you give a definition as well.

Whether it’s market segmentation, supply chain management, liquidity, profitability or any of those fun words that probably haunt your dreams at night, start your answer by defining this term and then go on to explain how it is relevant to the question and how it is relevant to the case study. This just sets up your answer and lets the marker know that you aren’t just BSing your way through and honestly, it will probably help you give a clearer, more structured answer anyway.

5. Make sure your business report writing skills are up to scratch

Ahhh the business report. What fun. It’s going to make up 20 marks of your HSC exam which is pretty decent and it also isn’t something like an essay or short answer questions which you would have practiced in other subjects. That basically means that you really need to understand exactly how a business report is different and how to present your answer in the right way.

So, luckily your exam is going to give you some clues straightaway.

Let’s look at what this actually means…

  • So the first point is pretty easy, you just need to follow the instructions in the question. If they ask you evaluate a pricing strategy the business could use, make sure you suggest a pricing strategy and you consider how effective it would be, its strengths and limitations. Don’t just say 'the business has priced its product too highly'.

  • The second point means that you have to engage with the hypothetical business situation they gave. Instead of just saying ‘the business’ or ‘the owner’ use the actual name they gave you in the question like ‘Lee’s Catering’. This level of specificity is what you should be gunning for. If they ask you to make recommendations in the instructions then phrases like ‘it is recommended that the CEO, Mr Lee…’ or ‘the manager, Mr Lee, is advised to…’.

  • The third point isn’t so bad either. Just try to use the correct business terminology in your report so instead of saying ‘the business uses other people to complete some tasks’, say ‘the business outsources some tasks’.

  • The final point is letting you know that you can’t just write an essay here or a list of recommendations, it actually needs to look like a business report. There are actually different structures that work but try something like Title → Introduction → Executive summary → Body Paragraphs under Headings → Conclusion. You can pretty easily just base your body paragraphs on the dot points given to you in the question and you should be sweeeeet.

So yeah, get those report writing skills up to scratch.


If you struggle in Business Studies with some questions that crop up in other exams like how to answer multiple choice and short answers or writing essays then make you sure you follow those skills up too. Otherwise, focus on the specifics of Business Studies like interdependence, case studies, financial ratios, business terms and business reports. Get keen you, future CEOs...📈

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