As students prepare for their exams, questions that only assessors can answer often pop into mind. Unfortunately, most students don’t have access to assessors in most of their subjects, so we took your questions and presented them to a senior VCAA assessor who has extensive experience in marking the VCE exams that you will soon sit. Here are his/her answers.

We hope that your exam preparations are going well.


When is it necessary to reference contemporary businesses in our answers?

When the question asks for it. In the 2018 exam there was a specific 6-mark question that required the student to refer to a business. There was no such question in the exam in 2017. The question is listed below and needed the student to explain the importance of leadership for 2 marks and then use a business to support their answer for the additional 4 marks. The student had to show how leadership helped the business achieve change. Many students wrote about the ban of single use plastic bags in 2018 – but had to word it from management’s point of view.

Question 2 (6 marks) Explain the importance of leadership in change management. In your response, refer to a contemporary business case study.

It is not necessary to refer to a contemporary business unless the question asks for it. You should prepare a brief outline of an example and the plastic bag scenario is fine as it is within the four-year limit. Be able to write about it from the point of view of change, operations and managing employees.

What recommendations do you give in preparation for the exam?

Firstly, you need to have prepared your own summary notes. This is a must and should have been completed by now. Then play some baroque music to prepare your brain for study. Sit in a quiet area with water and extra paper. Study an area of the course e.g. area study 1 of Unit 3 then create mind maps of what you have learned. Continue this with each of the areas of study. Once you have covered the course attempt a practice exam.  Get feedback from your teacher on the exam. By now you should have done at least 3- 4 practice exams – there are 3 on the VCAA website – sample, 2017, 2018 and then your teacher should have given you some to do over the holidays.

 What differentiates a B student from an A+ student?

The difference between a B and A+ student is their positioning in the sac marks during the year and their exam result. If you got a B or B+ during the year and then you get an A+ in the exam you will end up with a result of high 30’s. To get the 40+ score you need to be sitting on A+ scores all year.

What is a common error that students make in business management?

The most common mistake made by students in the exam is that they fail to read the question probably and do not address the task word. If it says discuss then the student needs to provide advantages and disadvantages, if the task word is ‘compare’ then it is similarities and differences. The other common mistake is that the student does not look at the mark allocation which really tells them how much detail they need to provide. Also where here are options there is always a best fit answer which will allow the student to obtain maximum marks. Students also tend to confuse the 13 different strategies or concepts in the course – motivational strategies are not corporate culture strategies nor are they performance management strategies. This is why you need to do lots of practice exams to be able to familiarise yourself with the different range of questions that may come up on the exam.

What makes a high scoring student set apart from the rest?

The high scoring student has prepared their own summary notes, started revising and has done 5 practice exams by now. They will do at least another 5 before the exam and go over at least one with their teacher to find out where they can improve. They would have attended a revision lecture hopefully at TSFX and are so confident about their preparation they are ready for the exam. The other thing is they read the questions carefully and answer them with detailed, specific and relevant answers not going off on tangents but focusing on what the question is asking.

What structure do you give for answering questions, especially those worth 5+ marks?

Higher scoring answers – 7, 8 and 10-mark questions need a quick plan to ensure that all points are covered. Not a detailed outline but a few key words to ensure that the student covers everything the question is asking. They are usually the high order thinking questions that differentiate students and would have task words like analyse, examine, evaluate – challenging the student to think more deeply about the question. Use paragraphs and be clear about what you are trying to say in these big mark questions.

Can you exceed the amount of lines when you’re writing a question?

Yes you can – write below the lines not on the sides and ask for an extra script book if you need it. Be clear if you have written an answer in another part of the booklet then indicate this on the question and answer booklet so that it can be found.

A question was “compare why would a private limited company be more suitable than a partnership?” How would you answer that if you’re supposed to compare, because you’re supposed to list advantages, similarities, and differences at the same time.

You begin with similarities – both are types of businesses, both are driven by profit, both have a limited number of owners or shareholders that need the approval of the rest of the shareholders or partners.

Then you go for the differences – partnership 2-20 partners, unlimited liability whereas, private company 1- 50 shareholders with limited liability.

In a compare type question you never refer to advantages and disadvantages only similarities and differences and always start with similarities as you tend to forget them in your answer. For 4-mark questions one of each is fine, for 6-mark questions then I would go for two of each with more detail.

How should students approach the 10 marker questions that require them to evaluate a statement?

Firstly, plan the answer – just a few dot points to ensure that you have got your thoughts together. With evaluate you need to explain the business concept – like what is on the job training then go into at least two strengths two weaknesses and an overall conclusion. You are looking at one and half pages of writing that showcase your knowledge and understanding of the key knowledge in the question. As long as you have strengths and weaknesses and a good conclusion then you will earn the marks.

Should you define every term when it says to explain, describe or evaluate??

No certainly not. But if you a writing about management skills – then define these first – they need that explanation to make sense, elements of an OM system – you need to define each of them – inputs all resources required in the production process. You can weave a definition into your answer if you are worried but if the question does not ask for it then no marks will be allocated. Having said that it is hard to discuss if you don’t say what the concept or strategy is first. If you have a CSR question you do not have to get bogged down with what CSR is unless it is asked for. Read the question carefully, use your judgement and if in doubt use a definition. But remember if you spend your time defining every single concept or term then you may run out of time to finish the paper. This is why you need to do lots of practice exams – you will get the feel for the questions.

In the 2018 exam Q1a needed a definition, Q1b you would have explained the business objective so there is a bit of defining happening there, Q3a definition of KPI’s, then Q3b redeployment of resources – you have to say what it means before you can explain it in the context of the question otherwise it won’t make sense, Q5a – need to describe both so you would include what they were in your answer – weave in what forecasting is and web development. In Part B look at Question 2 – Describe the key elements of an OM system – you need to start your answer by writing about each element and then applying it to the scenario.

Look at the marks, look at the task word and decide if you think it needs a definition include it.

For Lean Management, what principles of lean management would you recommend to use in responses?

You can write about TIMWOOD, pull demand – zero defects – you need to be able to explain the principle and then apply it to the scenario – have a look at the 2017 exam paper and the report – I tend to favour the pull demand because it is easy to remember then you can include JIT to only order materials for products that customers are willing to buy.

I have been told I have terrible handwriting. Will this cause me to lose marks?

No, but if it is hard to read then it will be read by hard copy. Use a black pen and try to make your handwriting clear. If it can’t be read, then marks will be hard to allocate but rest assured that markers are experienced and will do everything they can to read the paper and ensure you get the marks you deserve.

What should I concentrate on when responding to questions? What will give me full marks?

Answering all elements of the question. Look at the task word – have you addressed it in your answer. Have you looked at the marks – this tells you the detail required. A good answer that addresses the question and is confidently written will get the marks. If you can convince the assessor you know your business concepts, strategies etc. then you will get the marks If you have a definition question and its 2 marks then 2 clear points are required. If you have a four-mark question on two management skills – then 1 mark for the description or definition of each skill and 1 mark for the application to the scenario.  Answer exactly what is asked and you will get the marks. Do lots of practice questions to gain experience in what is expected and get teacher feedback.

How do I receive full marks on evaluate questions? Can I give weighted advantages/disadvantages? e.g. say 3 advantages and 2 disadvantages and then give a concluding statement weighing with the advantages?

If you answer addresses all the elements of the question in a clear, detailed and specific way then you will get the marks. You do not have to have the same no of advantages and disadvantages as long as they are well explained. It is fine to decide one way rather than the other as long as you back it up with reasons for your choice.

What is the best business that I should study?

I would still go with Woolworths and the single plastic ban in June of 2018. Covers CSR – as it was being more environmentally friendly that drove that change. It had repercussions for management employees and customers – they all had to change the way they operate or shop. It was a cost saving measure as Woolworths was sending 3.2 million dollars a year on plastic bags. It is easy to write about and still relevant this year.