The Business syllabus enables learners to understand and appreciate the nature and scope of business, and the role it plays in society. The syllabus covers economic, environmental, ethical, governmental, legal, social and technological issues, and encourages a critical understanding of organisations, the markets they serve and the process of adding value. Learners examine the management of organisations and, in particular, the process of decision-making in a dynamic external environment.
The AS and A Level syllabus content is divided into six main topic areas:
1. Business and its environment
This topic area is concerned with understanding the nature and purpose of business activity and identifying the structures, functions, cultures and objectives of different business organisations. Central to an understanding of business and its internal and external environments is a recognition that the world in which businesses operate is in a constant state of change. The impact of political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental and ethical factors and how these might influence business activity is considered. The extent to which businesses can respond and adapt to such change is likely to determine their success.
2. People in organisations
This topic area focuses on how businesses can develop and use policies, procedures, structures, systems and approaches to management and leadership that will harness the human potential within an organisation and achieve organisation goals. An understanding of the central role of effective management and leadership in achieving efficiency and competitiveness is required. Candidates will need to understand the distinct bodies of theory that underpin the concepts of business management and leadership. The importance of motivation techniques and theories in understanding employee needs will be considered. The contribution to business success made by human resource management through effective workforce planning and the recruitment, selection and training of workers will also be explored.
This topic area develops an understanding of the importance of the marketing function for business competitiveness. The significance of marketing orientation – the process of aligning a business to its operating environment, customers, other stakeholders and markets – is emphasised. An understanding of the principles and practices of marketing and their application to commercial and not-for-profit organisations is considered. The relationship between marketing and other business functions such as operations management, finance and human resource management is also considered. The application of marketing concepts and methods to assist marketing and business decisions is explored. Central to the understanding of marketing is the objective of satisfying the needs and wants of customers through effective market research, applying an appropriate marketing mix and establishing an organisation with a strong customer focus.
4. Operations and project management
Operations management is the discipline of how resources are managed to achieve the efficient production/provision of goods and services. Project management is the discipline of managing resources to successfully complete one-off projects. This topic area promotes understanding of operations and project decisions and how design, planning, quality and workforce issues interrelate to achieve operations objectives. Candidates should develop an understanding of the benefits and limitations of a variety of techniques and analytical frameworks used by operations and project managers. Central to the understanding of how successful operations and project management support effective manufacturing and service businesses is a recognition of the importance of innovation in product and service delivery in dynamic and volatile business environments.
5. Finance and accounting
This topic area introduces candidates to the importance of the management of finance, the keeping of and analysis of accounts, and the assessment of business financial performance. Candidates need to understand: the basic principles and techniques of financial management; the value of financial statements and some key accounting techniques used to promote profit, measure performance and exert control in business organisations; the use of financial management information in managerial decision making; the links between financial management and other management activity; the importance of identifying and interpreting management accounting information, recognising uses and limitations. Central to the role of finance and accounting is an understanding of how information can be used to create and measure value.
6. Strategic management (A Level only)
Introduced at A Level, this topic area explores the business concepts and theories that underpin strategic management and considers why strategy is practised in a range of business contexts from commercial and entrepreneurial to social and not-for-profit organisations. Strategy in business is concerned with the key decisions that are taken to ensure that businesses survive and succeed in the long term. Such decisions often involve initiating and managing major change policies and programmes.
The topic area investigates the strategic management process model of strategic analysis, strategic choice and strategic implementation. The associated strategic thinking and analysis tools that help to frame choices and put resulting strategies into action are also considered.
For Cambridge International AS and A Level Business, candidates:
• take Papers 1 and 2 only (for the Cambridge International AS Level qualification)
• follow a staged assessment route by taking Papers 1 and 2 (for Cambridge International AS Level qualification) in one series, then Paper 3 (for the Cambridge International A Level qualification) in a later series
• take Papers 1, 2 and 3 in the same examination series, leading to the full Cambridge International A Level.
All components are externally assessed.