IAL Business: assessment support

3 December 2021

IAL Business: support for assessment

This page will help you understand the assessment of the qualification.

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There is a sister page to help you in the delivery of this 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 be able to gain access.

This pre-recorded training is designed for teachers wishing to receive feedback on the performance of candidates on 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.

These booklets of exemplar answers from the May 2019 Unit 1 and 2 papers show how examiners have applied the mark scheme to candidate responses:

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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:

Do not spend too much time on a two-mark question, and ensure you don't simply repeat the term given.

This question will always have two marks available for a definition so ensure that your response is fully developed and is not a vague attempt at explaining the term.

There are no marks available for using an example, so do not rely on an example to lift an imprecise definition.

Tip: Unlike with higher mark tariff questions, reference to information in the extract(s) is not required for define questions.

Quantitative skills are an important part of the specification. Candidates will be expected to be able to apply a range of quantitative skills.

Knowledge – one mark for the correct formula; Application - two marks for selecting the correct data; Analysis – one mark for the calculation.

Although full marks can be achieved by just stating a correct answer, it is strongly advised to show full workings. It may be possible to pick up marks if an incorrect final answer is given. Full marks can only be achieved by using the correct units.

If the question asks for a percentage or an answer to two decimal places, then full marks can only be achieved by using a percentage and to two decimal places! Make sure you know how to round up or down correctly. Ensure percentage calculations show a percentage sign to gain full marks

PED is always a minus figure as price and demand for goods/services have a negative correlation. It is important that centres teach their students to include this in the workings and the final answer.

Tip: In many cases the answer requires units, for example a ‘$’, meaning that full marks can only be achieved by using the correct units.

Explain one

Knowledge – one mark for identifying a reason/factor (a definition is not rewarded)
Application - two marks for a contextualised answer (using the information from the extracts)
Analysis – one mark for reason/causes/consequences

'Explain' questions require two points of application.

Do not define the key term in the ‘Explain’ questions. The Knowledge mark is for the reason, the impact or the aim.

Knowledge – definition or identification of factors. Although a definition is acceptable for the knowledge marks, it is better to give advantages/reasons/disadvantages as required by the question.

Application – contextualised answers. Some candidates miss marks for not applying their knowledge to the business.

Analysis – reasons/causes/consequences. There are always 2 marks for analysis on the ‘analyse’ questions so make sure you provide the examiner with a developed reason/benefit/problem/way etc. to achieve these marks.

For six-mark questions, it is a good idea to briefly plan a response. Think about how the marks can be achieved and what is required before starting to write the response. This helps to make sure that the question set is being answered and that you are making two distinct points before developing them.

The analysis question requires two factors and so giving only one will not allow access to all the marks.

Tip: There are 2 knowledge marks, 2 application marks and 2 analysis marks for analyse questions. Although the knowledge marks can be given for an appropriate definition instead of stating ways/advantages/reasons etc., it is not possible to apply or analyse this and so marks would be limited with this approach.

Examples of full mark answers in examiners' reports:

  • May 2019 Unit 2 Q1c
  • May 2019 Unit 2 Q2c
  • October 2020 Unit 2 Q1c
  • October 2020 Unit 2 Q2c
  • January 2021 Unit 2 Q2c

Examiners read the whole response and decide which level is the best match. There are three levels in an eight-mark question. If a response is lacking certain characteristics, examiners move towards the bottom of the level. If it is a strong match, they will move towards the top and this approach is used for all levels of response questions on the paper.

The command word 'discuss' requires a two-sided argument. If a candidate doesn't provide a two-sided argument or presents a generic answer, they would restrict their marks.

A conclusion is not required for an eight-mark 'discuss' question but a balanced response is required.

Examples of Level 3 responses in examiners' reports:

  • May 2019 Unit 1 Q1d and Q2d
  • May 2019 Unit 2 Q1d and Q2d
  • October 2020 Unit 4 Q1c (7/8)
  • January 2021 Unit 2 Q1d (8/8)
  • January 2021 Unit 3 Q1c (7/8)

This is a 10-mark question with four levels of response.

The command word 'assess' will always require a more in-depth development and some evaluation of the arguments compared to the command word 'discuss'.

To gain the top-level marks, students need to show thorough knowledge and logical chains of reasoning. There should also be a balanced and contextualised answer which leads to a supported judgement. Remember, the 'assess' command word requires a full and balanced awareness of the validity and significance of competing arguments.

Candidates are encouraged to use a range of relevant evidence throughout their response to highlight their chains of reasoning. A supported judgement is also required.  

For a high Level 4 response, examiners need to see evaluation as well as a balanced awareness of competing arguments, leading to a supported judgement.

With the level of response questions, it is a good idea to read through your response and try and decide if the examiner could determine the question set from reading the essay. If this is not the case, then it is unlikely that the question has been fully answered. Generic answers are not going to score high marks!

Examples of Level 4 responses in examiners' reports:

  • May 2019 Unit 1 Q2e
  • May 2019 Unit 2 Q1e and Q2e
  • January 2021 Unit 2 Q1e (8/10) and Q2e (10/10)

The command word 'assess' will always require a more in-depth development and some evaluation of the arguments compared to the command word 'discuss'.

A conclusion/judgement is required for 12-mark question. Evaluation must provide a balanced assessment and an awareness of competing arguments to access the higher levels. 

Examples of Level 4 responses in examiners' reports:

  • October 2020 Unit 4 Q1e (10/12)
  • January 2021 Unit 3 Q1d (10/12) and Q1e (10/12)

This is the highest mark question on the paper, worth 20 marks and with  four levels.

This question is worth 25% of the marks, so it is essential to ensure enough time is spent on it.
It is important for candidates to remember that examiners are looking for an awareness of how significant competing arguments are. It is advisable to look at the descriptor table in the mark scheme when practising essays.

In an 'evaluate' question, ideas need to be developed and presented with an understanding of the significance of competing arguments rather than simply stated as separate points and a generic list.

It is always worthwhile creating a brief plan for the essay before starting to write the response. Your essay needs to be balanced to achieve the top level.

The quality of the evaluation is key to accessing the higher levels on the 20 mark questions. Some of the better responses are much more selective in their approach, focusing on the depth of evaluation rather than breadth. Better candidates use the information in the Extracts to help contextualise responses rather than copy out large chunks. Responses in level 4 are able to provide an effective conclusion that suggests a solution and/or recommendation.

Examples of Level 4 answers in examiners' reports:

  • May 2019 Unit 1 Q3
  • May 2019 Unit 2 Q3
  • October 2020 Unit 2 Q3 (16/20)
  • January 2021 Unit 2 Q3 (16/20)
  • January 2021 Unit 3 Q2 (18/20) and Q3 (20/20)


Grade boundaries

A grade boundary is the minimum mark at which a letter grade can be achieved. For example, if the grade boundary for a B is 60 marks, then 60 is the minimum mark at which a B can be achieved. A mark of 59 would therefore be a C grade.

For modular qualifications, assessments can be taken in various exam sessions throughout the duration of the course.

A raw mark is the actual mark awarded by the examiner for an assessment.  

Raw marks are converted to UMS marks for all modular qualifications. This is because raw mark grade boundaries may change from exam session to exam session to take into account variations in the difficulty of assessments.  

Unit 1 WBS11 Marketing and people   Max Mark a b c d e u
  UMS 100 80 70 60 50 40 0
January 2019 Raw 80 56 50 44 38 33 0
May/June 2019 Raw 80 57 52 47 42 37 0
October 2019 Raw 80 56 51 46 41 36 0
January 2020 Raw 80 54 48 43 38 33 0
October 2020 Raw 80 47 38 29 21 13 0
January 2021 Raw 80 47 38 29 21 13 0
October 2021 Raw 80 43 36 29 22 15 0
Unit 2 WBS12 Managing business activities   Max Mark a b c d e u
  UMS 100 80 70 60 50 40 0
May/June 2019 Raw 80 52 47
43 39
35 0
October 2019 Raw 80 51 46 42 38 34 0
January 2020 Raw 80 51 45 40 35 30 0
October 2020 Raw 80 48 39 30 21 13 0
January 2021 Raw 80 48 39 30 21 13 0
October 2021 Raw 80 46 38 30 23 16 0
Unit 3 WBS13 Business decisions and strategy   Max Mark a* a b c d e u
  UMS 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 0
January 2020 Raw 80 54 49 44
39 34
October 2020 Raw 80 61 56 45 34 23 13 0
January 2021 Raw 80 61 55 44 34 24 14 0
October 2021 Raw 80 61 55 46 37 28 19 0
Unit 4 WBS14 Global Business     Max Mark a* a b c d e u
  UMS 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 0
October 2020 Raw 80 62
January 2021 Raw 80 62 55 45 36 27 18 0
October 2021 Raw 80 63 56 47 39 31 23 0
Cash-in grade boundaries   Max Mark A
XBS11 International AS Business UMS 200 160 140 120 100 80 0
Cash-in grade boundaries   Max Mark A
YBS11 International AL Business UMS 400 320 280 240 200 160 0

Grade statistics

The grade statistics show:

  • the total number of candidates
  • the cumulative percentage of candidates at each grade boundary as a percentage of the total cohort
XBS11 International AS Business Number of candidates A B C D E U
May/June 2019 1267 12.0% 26.0% 41.2% 57.9% 71.3% 100%
October 2019 143 11.2% 28% 46.9% 64.3% 78.3% 100%
January 2020 346 13% 32.1% 54.3% 68.5% 78.6% 100%
May/June 2020 1616 29.6% 53.1% 74.5% 88.4% 96.6% 100%
October 2020 468 26.9% 58.8% 83.3% 93.2% 96.6% 100%
January 2021 181 7.2% 24.9% 54.7% 72.4% 84.5% 100%
June 2021 2378 36.3% 60.7% 79.7% 89.8% 95.1% 100%
October 2021 534 37.8% 61.2% 78.3% 88.4% 94.4% 100%
YBS11 International AL Business Number of candidates A* A B C D E U
May/June 2020 1087 13% 32.1% 59% 82% 93.8% 97.9% 100%
October 2020 133 0.8% 6.8% 21.8% 47.4% 71.4% 90.2% 100%
January 2021 126 0% 4% 18.3% 51.6% 81% 91.3% 100%
June 2021 2313 12.1% 38.5% 70.8% 89.7% 96.2% 98.5% 100%
October 2021 612 0% 10.3% 37.6% 67.6% 86.9% 93.1% 100%

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