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How to Answer IB Business Management Questions

For some reason students find the longer IB Business Management questions very hard to master.

Actually I know why this is.

Just have a look at the list of things you have to do to get full marks in a 10-mark Business Management question.

Or don't. It's a bit overwhelming!

You don't need to read this paragraph, but... (For a 9 or 10, you need to show: "Good understanding of the demands of the question, including implications, where relevant. • Relevant business management tools (where applicable), techniques and theories are explained clearly and applied purposefully, and appropriate terminology is used throughout the response. • Effective use of the stimulus material in a way that significantly strengthens the response. • Evidence of balance is consistent throughout the response. • The judgments are relevant and well substantiated.")

Do all of those things, while also answering the question. How are you supposed to remember to do all of that? 


I’m going to reduce this down to something manageable for you. 


I develop models or methods that are easy to follow, so students can score well on tests and assignments and not have to fail so many times trying to figure it out for themselves. (I’ve done this for the ToK Essay andPresentation, the Business IA and the Econ IA, and a lot more things.

A perfect method is

  1. Easy to remember and
  2. It will get you at least 80% of the marks.

And the other 20%? 

Scoring a high Level 7 requires you being really interesting and insightful. A good method can help with that, but you also need to have had a lot of great conversations about the theory, its limitations and its interactions with other theory.

The method for longer Business exam questions took a long time. 8 years! But I’ve got it now.

This model is so simple you’ll think it doesn’t work, but it does.

Here is the quick overview:

Course Theory → Case Link → “So What?”

 Or as I normally write it: CT’s, CL’s and SW’s

You don’t need to worry too much about the order here. The main thing is that you include a lot of these 3 things, over and over again as you answer the question.  

Course Theory 

Course theories basically means key words from the course. Find a keyword from the course which relates to the question somehow. Use it in a sentence. If you can use two keywords form the course (or more) in this sentence, that’s even better. Go crazy.

Case Link

A case link is connecting the theory to what’s actually going on in the case. Most people struggle with this with this part. Students do read the case, but then they forget to use it in their answer. They think it’s all about the key words. But actually these connections are hugely valuable.

So What?

“So what?” pulls your insights together and has you show the reader the value of the points you’ve just made. So What is where you make sure the reader gets your point and understands its value (both in answering the question, but also for the business in other respects).

You’ll see if you read the 9-10 mark band at the top of this page, that these 3 things do everything you need to do.

I’ll show you an example.

“Should fancy restaurant Woods lower it’s prices? (Assume that I’ve also given you a big case to read about this restaurant.) 

You could write:

CTs: Price is one of the elements of the marketing mix, along with place, promotion and product. Pricing effects sales volume, but also branding. (See all those beautiful key words?)

CL's: In this case, the restaurant is struggling to increase its efficiency. It wants to lower it’s costs, so it can lower its prices because Tim (the manager) worries he’s losing customers to their new low-price competitors.

SWs: However, by lowering its prices Woods could negatively affect its customer’s perception of it’s quality. It’s customers might value its products less and therefore buy less of it. So by lowering its prices, Woods could end up with less profit.

That might seem hard, but as I said, really you’re just trying to tie together key words, with a link to the case and then make sure you’ve linked it back to the question. CT + CL + SW 

You don’t need to do this in order every time for it to work, just keep ticking those three boxes as you answer your question.

Just a few more quick things

Also useful to remember when answering business question is that: 

  1. It's always helpful to start out with a definition of the key words in the question. This shows the marker that you're going to know what you're talking about. (i.e. you know what profit is). 
  2. Most business questions lean toward a pros vs cons type of question. The example above is one of these. If you can, try to make sure you're talking about as many reasons TO DO the thing as reasons TO NOT do the thing --all while doing your CTs, CLs and SWs.
  3. If the question says "evaluate" make sure to come to a conclusion at the end of your answer. 

Wait. Don't leave me! 

One more thing. You can use this model in the "real world" too. A big part of being an expert is having the ability to EXPLAIN THE VALUE of your insights

The business world is full of people who think that theory isn’t worth much. They think that common sense is all you need. Just using fancy words doesn’t impress people. People are impressed when you've helped them, so make it clear how you're actually helping them. You need to connect the dots for people. Then, they'll really understand your point and they'll see you've helped them. And they'll love you forever. 


Tim Woods teaches in Singapore and helps IB Students around the world through