GCSE Business: assessment support | Pearson qualifications

GCSE Business: assessment support

26 January 2024

The purpose of this page is to help you understand our assessment of GCSE Business.

The Support section includes a link to past papers and mark schemes, a link to recorded training, examWizard which allows you to create papers, and Results Plus which helps you to analyse results.

The section headed Examiners' Reports includes examiner feedback on how best to respond to each of the command verbs.

At the end you can find the grade boundaries and statistics  from all past exam series.

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There is also a sister page to support you in the delivery of this qualification.


The network events have covered different aspects of the assessment of the qualification.

Past question papers, mark schemes and examiners' reports are available on the qualification page.

These are kept locked for the first nine months after an examination series and you will require an Edexcel Online username and password to gain access.

From 2023, the paper timings have been updated for both Paper 1 and Paper 2 from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Also from 2023, the question papers will have a new 'look'.

The case studies will be provided in a separate source booklet to allow candidates to have each case study open in front of them while answering each question and to remove the need to keep flipping back and forth through the paper.

Examples of these reformatted question papers and source booklets have been provided so that they can be used for mocks.

This pre-recorded training is designed for teachers wishing to receive feedback on GCSE Business Papers 1 and 2 from the summer 2019 examination series.


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Our examWizard tool is an online resource containing a huge bank of past paper questions and support materials to help you create your own mock exams and assessments. It is available for a range of GCSE, International GCSE, A level subjects, BTEC and Functional Skills.

We are always looking to recruit examiners across our qualifications. This is an excellent opportunity to gain invaluable insight into assessment and to work with other examiners to get some fresh teaching and learning ideas and approaches for your subject. More information about our vacancies, the application criteria and which subjects are currently recruiting can be found on our Assessment Associates web page.


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ResultsPlus is an online results analysis tool that gives you a detailed breakdown of your students’ performance in Pearson Edexcel exams.

ResultsPlus provides detailed analysis of your learners' performance and will help you to identify potential topics, skills and types of questions where students may need to develop their learning further. Whilst there hasn’t been a typical examination series for a while, you may find it helpful to understand how your students’ performance compares with class and Pearson Edexcel national averages and to gather some insight data that may support effective teaching and learning approaches. Find out more about ResultsPlus.

Many centres will be focused on delivering mock exams this term and using those mock exam results to inform intervention and revision. The ResultsPlus Mock analysis service can help you get the most from that data.  

Examiners' reports

Examiners' reports are a useful way of understanding the standard that has been applied. You can see exemplar student answers to each question, with examiner comments and tips. Combining a reading of the examiners' reports with the mark schemes can provide useful insights.

There are extracts from the examiners' reports as they relate to the different command verbs below:

This question is the only question in Sections B and C that does not require evidence of the skill of 'Application' or 'AO2'. The question appears due to the fact there are an odd number of 'Knowledge' or 'AO1a' marks to be spread across the two examination papers. Therefore, we have an extra question that tests 'AO1a' in Paper 2.

Note, how a generic approach is fine for ‘Give...’ questions since no ‘AO2’ or ‘Application’ is involved. Hence, there is no specific name of an italicised business contained within the question root.

There is no need to frame the response in the form of a sentence.

'State' questions assess Application (AO2).  If the question refers to a specific business, context must be included in the answer - even for a one-mark question.

Centres need to focus on the fact that any question that includes the italicised name of the business from the case-study in the question requires an applied response. ‘State…’ questions test ‘Application’ or ‘AO2’. Therefore, a generic response will always score 0 marks.

'Identify' questions require candidates to read off a graph or interpret a table. They test the skill of 'Application' or 'AO2' and, as a result, allow each examination paper to make up the 10% (9 marks) requirement for quantitative skills (8 marks from 4 x 2 mark 'Calculate' and 1 x 1 mark 'Identify).

There will always be four 'Calculate' questions on the paper, so it is worth practising quantitative questions. A total of 16 marks on Papers 1 and 2 can have a significant effect on the final grade. Centres are advised to ensure that their students learn the formulae in Appendix 3 of the specification.

All 'Calculate' questions test application. There is no need to write the formula in 'Calculate' questions. No credit will be given for this.

If the answer is correct on the answer line, the examiner will automatically give 2 marks. The workings are only ever looked at if the answer on the answer line is incorrect. Thus, very few students ever get 1 mark. This only happens when the workings are right, but the answer on the answer line is wrong.

Candidates will not be given one mark for stating the formula or getting a part of the answer right.

'Calculate' questions will only ever be two marks in length, so any question on ARR is going to be simple in nature.

All questions in GCSE Business that use real-world figures will require you to give your answer to two decimal places. Just write down the first two numbers after the decimal point. All of the questions will be chosen to ensure that no rounding will be required.

Outline' questions are marked as follows – they require a point – to score 1 mark (e.g. a drawback). To score 2 marks, there has to be development of the point (e.g. drawback) and the existence of application somewhere within the response.

For a 2 mark ‘Outline…’ question the candidate should give an impact/drawback/advantage etc, a strand of development and evidence of ‘Application’ or ‘AO2’ somewhere within the response. Many candidates fail to do all three things which restricts their mark to one.

Practising this style of question is of paramount importance. Once the style has been mastered there is an easy route to 2 marks. More often than not, lack of practice results in only 1 mark being scored.

The three things that are needed to score two marks:

  • a correct factor or answer
  • a suitable development point
  • application/context.

If any are missing then it is only possible to score one mark at most.

To reach two marks in 'Outline' questions, you have to demonstrate 'Application' or 'AO2' somewhere within your answer. The most common issue is not using any context in an answer and therefore failing to gain the second ‘AO2’ mark.

To provide application, candidates could think about the market the business operates in, or the products that it sells, or simply just use a word or phrase from the case study.

Note that the name of the business does not count as application. This is because it is written in the wording of the question.

So, a valid reason needs to be given with a linked point of development and the answer also needs to be applied to the business.

'Explain' questions only appear in Section A of the paper, which is not based on any case-study material. There are no application marks to award since the questions in Section A are generic and test Knowledge and Analysis. Therefore, bringing in an applied example just wastes time.

Candidates should look to answer the question in the first sentence and then provide two developed strands of explanation. They should not repeat the first sentence using slightly different wording. The answer should state a drawback/advantage/benefit etc and provide two logical linked strands. It is often useful to write three separate sentences when doing this, rather than condensing an answer into two sentences.

There is no need to overelaborate when answering questions. 'Explain' questions for instance should only require three sentences to answer the question. Anything more is not required and wastes time. (please see the examiners' reports for examples).

Three lines of space per mark have now been included in the paper. This is to avoid the need for candidates to use additional paper when giving answers. It must be stressed that this extra space should not tempt candidates into writing longer answers when they are not needed. Candidates should avoid repeating the question in the first sentence. Doing this on every question would mean writing another two A4 sides of work which score zero marks - this is the main reason why candidates do not finish the paper. So, candidates should not repeat the question at the start of an answer. It does not score any marks and wastes valuable time.

Words such as 'thus', 'therefore', 'this leads to' and 'as a result' all help in structuring a good answer. The use of linking words like 'therefore' and 'consequently' allows examiners to easily count the linked strands that follow on from a stated advantage/drawback. Try and avoid the use of the words 'also' and 'or' on these type of questions. It suggests you are drifting away from focusing on one advantage/benefit/drawback etc.

Candidates sometimes provide answers that appear to be rehearsed around a generic rather than a specific benefit to a business relating to the question. Examiners are instructed to award such answers 1 mark. Centres need to be wary of advising candidates to adopt this approach. E.g., ‘Sales increase, therefore revenue increases. Therefore, profit increases’, irrespective of what the question is actually asking.

Candidates should be wary of using examples on questions that have no 'Application' or 'AO2'. They often add nothing to the scoring potential of the response.

Candidates need to watch out for subtle differences in questioning. Simply tagging on ‘leads to more sales and therefore more profit’ to the end of an answer will not work on certain types of question. Look out for 'explain' questions that require explanations of 'ways' or 'methods'. These require candidates to focus on 'how' something can be done in a business rather than 'why'.

'Explain one way...' or 'Explain one method...' questions ask candidates to explain a method or way and need a different technique than those that ask candidates to explain an advantage or disadvantage. The word 'way' is different to a 'benefit' or 'drawback' as candidates are being asked to explain a 'process'. When practising these questions, please steer candidates away from explaining the advantages and disadvantages to the business. Many candidates start to include terms such as 'this will increase revenue/profit/sales' as a default response. Such statements will not be awarded marks in this type of question.

‘Explain one method …’ questions require candidates to explain a process . Thus, those students who finish off their responses with ‘…this leads to an increase in revenue’, for example, get no credit for that part of their response because the question is not about a benefit to the business.

Another example is where the candidate is asked to explain the 'way' something could be achieved in a business. For example, a question which asks candidates to explain a way that a business could reduce its variable costs. Candidates should avoid the pitfall of failing to focus fully on explaining how this could be done and let answers drift into providing benefits of having reduced costs.

Practice different types of 'explain' question when preparing for the exam. Note that there are subtle differences in some of these questions and not all of them are looking for benefits and drawbacks. Falling into the 'this will increase revenue/profit' trap will not work on all questions.

This question tests 'AO1b' or 'Understanding' and 'AO3a' or 'Analysis'. Examiners are instructed to make a level judgement separately on each 'AO' or 'Assessment Objective' and then take a 'best-fit' approach to arrive at the final level and mark. The word 'Discuss' does not require any evaluation at all, as it does not test the 'AO3b' assessment objective of 'Evaluation'.

If a candidate shows a very limited understanding they will be awarded Level 1 for AO1b. If there is some clearer, implied understanding they will be awarded Level 2. If there is a robust and clear understanding they will be awarded Level 3 for this 'AO'. When examiners are unsure as to whether or not a candidate fully understands the concept rooted in the question, the result will be a lower level judgement for ‘AO1b’ or ‘Understanding’.

A separate judgement is then made regarding 'AO3a' or 'Analysis'. To reach Level 2 the candidate has to make one or two points with two linked strands of development. To reach Level 3 in AO3a (Analysis), an answer requires five logically linked strands spread out across either one or two points.

It is often easiesr to generate five linked strands over two impacts rather than one impact to reach a Level 3 judgement in 'Analysis' or 'AO3a'. Separating the two impacts into two paragraphs aids the readability of the answer.

Most students find it easier to develop two points, hence they often provide two paragraphs. They normally develop three linked strands on the first point and two linked strands on the second point. This is, perhaps, easier than trying to develop five linked strands from one, solitary point.

The linked strands do not start until a point has been stated. Examiners are then instructed to count the valid linked strands that emanate from this point/impact in order to make their judgement on 'AO3a' or 'Analysis'.

Once the examiner has made their decision regarding the level for AO1b and AO3a, a best-fit approach will be taken to arrive at the final judgement of level and mark.

An 'impact' can be either positive or negative. This gives candidates greater flexibility when creating an answer.  Although questions will often refer to 'the impact' or 'the benefit' in a singular sense, candidates can include up to two different impacts/benefits into their answer. By breaking the answer into two shorter paragraphs candidates may find it easier writing five development points in their answer rather than basing the entire answer on just one impact/benefit.  If the question asks to discuss or analyse an 'impact', then an answer can refer to either positive or negative impacts, or a mixture of both.

It is advisable to make two separate points as it prevents deviation from the question. If a third or fourth point is mentioned and developed, examiners will only mark the best two and it is these that will count toward the final judgement of levels.

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'Analyse' questions test two Assessment Objectives or 'AOs', namely 'AO2' or 'Application' and 'AO3a' or 'Analysis'. Thus, to be successful, candidates need to demonstrate both of these skills within their answer.

Examiners will make a separate judgement on 'AO2' looking for a range of different examples of context, spread throughout the response to reach level 3.

Note that a generic answer that has no context/application (AO2), whatsoever, cannot score above 3 marks so do not neglect Application. Writing an answer in context is vitally important in Sections B and C. Candidates will lose a lot of marks if they do not understand how to apply their answers. The case study is included to help candidates do this.

To score Level 3 on 'Application' or 'AO2' there must be a wide variety of different application/contextualised words used and they must be spread out across the response. If there is application throughout the answer, that is associated with valid analysis, then a candidate would score Level 3 for this Assessment Objective. If application is not present throughout the answer then Level 3 cannot be awarded.

Lack of ‘Application’ or ‘AO2’ in ‘Analyse…’ questions will result in a Level 0 for ‘AO2’ which limits a candidate’s response to 3/6. Centres should highlight to candidates the importance of using the extracts to ensure that their answers are contextualised.

Equally, examiners are also looking for 5 linked, accurate, strands of development emanating from the 1 or 2 points (for AO3). If they see this, then a level 3 judgement will be made for this Assessment Objective.

To reach their final mark, examiners will take a 'best-fit' approach across the two 'AO' levels.

Full marks can be achieved by analysing just one point (e.g. an impact), however candidates may find it easier to analyse two points (e.g. impacts) in order to make five development points. If a candidate decides to do this, they should make use of a paragraph structure to make the answer more readable. Any more than two points (impacts) will not be taken into consideration. Please note that the term ‘impact’ in the question allows both positive and negative factors to be included in the answer.

In the 2019 and 2023 examiners' reports there are examples of candidate answers scoring six marks in questions 4b and 5c of both Papers 1 and 2.

The 'Justify' question is marked in the same way as the 'Analyse' question but an additional judgement is now also made for 'Evaluation' or 'AO3b'. Thus, the final mark is derived from a best-fit approach to each of the three levels awarded for each of the three 'Assessment Objectives' the question is designed to test.

When assessing 'Justify' questions, three levelled judgements need to be made:
• the amount of application used in answering the question
• the level of analysis - remember 5 development points are needed
• the level of evaluation - how well has the candidate considered both sides of the argument and used this to arrive at a supported conclusion.

In this style of question, lack of Application (AO2) and/or Evaluation (AO3b) tend to be the main drag on student performance leading to a score of around 5-6 marks (assuming Analysis (AO3a) reaches Level 3).

On the question of options, whilst there can never been one preferred approach, the safest and easiest route for candidates is to pick an option, and consider the pros and cons of that option, and then come to a conclusion that adds extra evaluation, rather than a repeat of what has already been written elsewhere in the answer. If this is done with application throughout and there are 5 linked strands of development – then 9 marks should be accessible to the candidate.

There is no requirement for candidates to consider both options in their answer. Nine marks are achievable from the consideration of ONE option only.

Conclusions are very important in answering 'Justify' questions as they can consolidate analysis and make justifications that allow evaluation to be demonstrated. Learning how to write effective conclusions is a strong skill to develop when answering 'Justify' questions. It allows evidence to be included linked to AO3b - Evaluation. To generate some evidence of 'Evaluation' or 'AO3b' - the candidate could contrast the benefits and state which benefit is more important.

Candidates should make sure that the conclusion brings something new to the answer. The conclusion should do more than just repeat what has already been written elsewhere in the response. Examiners normally use the conclusion as a way of deciding whether or not to award Level 3 for Evaluation (AO3b). Simply mentioning ‘it depends’ in a conclusion does not automatically result in a high judgement for Evaluation (AO3b). There needs to be some development of the point. To reach Level 3 for ‘AO3b’ or ‘Evaluation’, the conclusion should endeavour to bring new evaluative content to the answer through e.g., the consideration of how the impacts may differ between time-periods or through the use of a developed ‘…it depends’ point.  

A number of students simply develop the benefits of both options within their answer. This approach does not naturally lead to any ‘Evaluation’ or ‘AO3b’, unless the candidate starts to contrast the magnitude of the importance of the two benefits. At GCSE level, this is a skill that is tricky to master, and it is seldom seen.

Candidates who consider the benefits of one option and then the drawbacks of the other, discarded, option are not demonstrating any ‘Evaluation’ or ‘AO3b’. The drawbacks of the discarded option simply provide further support for the chosen option.

Candidates who consider the drawbacks of one option and the drawbacks of the other, discarded, option are also deemed to only generate a one-sided response and will score Level 0 for ‘Evaluation’ or ‘AO3b’. This is unless the candidate starts to make some form of comparison as to the relative significance or magnitude of the two drawbacks. This is tricky for most candidates to do at GCSE level.

The 2019 Paper 2 Examiner's Report includes two exemplar 9-mark candidate answers which each take a different route to achieving 9 marks.

Candidates tend to have less understanding of service based businesses and this is usually reflected by the poor use of context. When preparing for the exam it is important to use a range of different business scenarios in classroom activities.

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Pre-recorded training: ways to approach the 9 mark questions.

In this short course dedicated to 9 mark questions only, our trainer will look at a number of different approaches that students can take with this question, and explain the marking that would be applied to each of them. This will involve a review of live answers from students produced solely for the purpose of this course.

Teachers will leave with clear and differentiated approaches to answering the 9 mark questions for GCSE Business, and will be able to share and practise these with students at their centre.

This question is marked in exactly the same way as the 'Justify' question. The only difference is that a fourth 'Assessment Objective' is now also considered, namely 'AO1b' or 'Understanding'. Thus, examiners have to make four separate judgements regarding each response and then take a best-fit approach to arrive at the final level and mark.

The 'Understanding' judgement is based upon how well the candidate understands the business demands of the question.

Ensure that the conclusion does something more than just repeat what has already been mentioned elsewhere in the answer. This is what examiners are looking for in order to award Level 3 for 'Evaluation' or 'AO3b'.

The best candidates brought new evaluation into their conclusion and made use of the ‘…it depends rule’.

It is worth pointing out that this question is designed to be testing, and alongside the ‘Justify’ questions, it provides an opportunity to help isolate Level 9 GCSE candidates.

The June 2022 Paper 1 Examiner's Report includes an example of a 12 mark answer.

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Grade boundaries and statistics

Grade boundaries

A grade boundary is the minimum mark at which a numbered grade (between 9 and 1) can be achieved.

GCSE (9-1) qualifications are linear and only the maximum mark and grade boundaries for the overall qualification are available in this table. These are given in raw marks.

Notional grade boundaries

GCSE Business is a linear, rather than a modular, qualification, which means that there is no longer a need for the UMS marks you will have been familiar with in the past.

Paper 1 and Paper 2 each have a raw mark out of 90. Grade boundaries are set at qualification level (adding together the raw marks for Papers 1 and 2) and not for each paper. However, for teachers, the notional component grade boundaries can be a useful indicator of performance when papers are used in the future for mocks.

Grade statistics

The grade statistics in the table below show:

• The total number of candidates
• The cumulative percentage of candidates at each grade boundary as a percentage of the total cohort

  Maximum mark 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
2019 180 135 125 115 102 89 77 57 37 17 0
Oct 2020 180 130 118 107 92 77 63 45 27 9 0
Oct 2021 180 126 114 103 89 75 62 44 26 9 0
2022 180 136 125 114 100 86 72 52 32 12 0
2023 180 143 132 122 108 95 82 60 38 16 0
  Paper 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
2019 90 68 63 58
Oct 2020 90 66 60 54 46 39 32 23 14 5 0
Oct 2021 90 64 58 52 45 38 31 22 13 5 0
2022 90 68 62 57 50 43 36 26 16 6 0
2023 90 70 65 60 53 46 40 29 18 7 0
  Paper 2 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
2019 90 67 62 57
Oct 2020 90 64 58 53 45 38 31 22 13 4 0
Oct 2021 90 62 56 51 44 37 31 22 13 4 0
2022 90 68 62 57 50 43 36 26 16 6 0
2023 90 73 67 62 55 48 42 31 20 9 0
  Number of candidates 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
2019 48,345 3.5% 9% 18% 33.7% 50.7% 65.2% 83.0%
93.5% 98.7% 100%



48,832 6.1% 14.7% 27.2% 44.8% 62.5% 79.5% 91.7% 97.4% 99.7% 100%
Oct 2020 242 11.6% 22.3% 33.5% 51.7% 66.5% 82.2% 94.6% 99.6% 100% 100%



50,679 8.6% 19.2% 32.7% 49.5% 65.8% 80.1% 90.9% 96.7% 99.3% 100%
Oct 2021 73 13.7% 26% 31.5% 52.1% 61.6% 71.2% 90.4% 98.6% 100% 100%
2022 53,196 7.5% 16.4% 28.7% 45.8% 61.9% 74.7% 87.5% 95.1% 99% 100%
2023 62,010 3.8% 10.5% 19.6% 36.1% 51.9% 66.4% 83.4% 93.3% 98.6% 100%

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