For many Business Studies’ students, a major obstacle to achieving outstanding results can be how they construct and format their answers, particularly in essay-style questions.
Quite often this can be improved greatly by relying on an adaptable format and structure that can be utilised to help in addressing exactly what the question is asking, as well as maximising students’ attainment. A majority of my AS and A Level students have utilised what became known as the ‘PANEL’ structure in order to complete well-rounded and fully evaluated essays.
The PANEL structure can be seen below, along with a sample paragraph to demonstrate how the system is utilised:
- P= Point
‘Point’ is how each paragraph should begin and is vital in ensuring that the paragraph being written is fully addressing the essay title or question. The most effective way to ensure you are fully addressing the question is rewording the question to include your Point. This is normally completed within the first sentence of the paragraph and summarises what you will discuss, almost like a paragraph preview.
- A= Application
‘Application’ is vital to attaining high marks and is quite often the assessment criterion that students often overlook or forget. Many students and teachers will refer to this as context, and it is vitally important that each and every paragraph relates to whatever case study the question has posed. Students make common errors, using terms like ‘you’, utilising examples from lessons or creating their own examples rather than discussing the business situation at hand. It is also worth pointing out that context should be synoptic throughout your paragraphs, not simply a singular line.
- N= aNalysis
Without a doubt I am cheating her, using the ‘n’ rather than ‘a’ to complete an acronym, but quite frankly ‘PAAEL’ failed to catch on with students in comparison to ‘PANEL’. Regardless, ‘Analysis’ is vitally important and often the assessment criterion that carries the most marks throughout an exam. When analysing, it is important to fully develop the impact, effect or cause of what you are discussing. Similarly, your analysis needs to have layers and cannot be a singular impact or effect.
- E= Evaluation
‘Evaluation’ is not the same as writing a negative or disadvantage to what you have written as your analysis. Instead, your evaluation should question or discuss the validity or foundation of what your analysis has presented. Evaluation should connect with your analysis and present a counterpoint or alternative. This should be contained within a mini paragraph and often uses terms such as ‘however’ or ‘depends on’.
- L= Link
Finally a ‘link’ is important to bring your paragraph to a close and summarise the points or arguments that you have discussed during your paragraph. As your evaluation is quite often a counterpoint or alternative argument to your analysis, it is important to summarise and ensure a fully rounded argument.
Have a read of the following paragraph to see the PANEL system in place:
- Question: Evaluate the impact of economic changes on the competitiveness of Nissan UK. (20 Marks)
Interest rates are likely to have a large impact on the competitiveness of Nissan. As they sell durable goods, the cost of borrowing will greatly affect the demand for their new cars. Interest rates have remained low (0.5%) since 2009, and this encourages consumers to save less and consume more.
Low interest rates will create a high level of demand for Nissan’s cars which will generate a high level of revenue for the company. However, this will be a market-wide benefit and other factors such as product quality and brand strength will determine whether Nissan enjoy a greater effect than their competitors. Unless Nissan can generate a competitive advantage or differentiate it is unlikely they will achieve a greater level of competitiveness despite this change.
As you can see, the opening line fully addresses the question and also outlines what I will discuss during the paragraph; interest rates. Throughout, context is maintained by discussing Nissan’s products as well as the economic climate. Similarly, the analysis has depth, outlining that there will be more consumption, higher demand and more revenue.
My evaluation then outlines that the whole car market will benefit from this impact, not just Nissan, thus fully addressing the fact that the question has mentioned ‘competitiveness’. Finally, my link outlines whether interest rates will, in fact, help their competitiveness or not.
See the full essay below to:
- Question: Evaluate the impact of economic changes on the competitiveness of Nissan UK. (20 Marks)
Interest rates are likely to have a large impact on the competitiveness of Nissan. As they sell durable goods, the cost of borrowing will greatly affect the demand for their new cars. Interest rates have remained low (0.5%) since 2009, and this encourages consumers to save less and consume more. Low interest rates will create a high level of demand for Nissan’s cars which will generate a high level of revenue for the company. However, this will be a market-wide benefit and other factors such as product quality and brand strength will determine whether Nissan enjoy a greater effect than their competitors. Unless Nissan can generate a competitive advantage or differentiate it is unlikely they will achieve a greater level of competitiveness despite this change.
Exchange rates will have a large influence on the competitiveness of Nissan UK as the Eurozone countries are the company’s main trading partner. The strong pound is worrying directors as it encourages UK consumers to purchase from abroad due to cheap imports, while also making it more expensive for foreign consumers to purchase Nissan UK’s products. This will clearly have a negative effect on the competitiveness of Nissan UK as companies that rely less on foreign sales (exports) will not be affected as much. They will likely maintain most of their income while Nissan will experience a fall in demand for their products, resulting in a loss of revenue and profit.
This will leave Nissan less retained profits to invest in the future, limiting their ability to innovate and damaging their long-term competitiveness. However, a lot of this could depend on where Nissan sources their production materials from. If they were able to import these at a cheaper cost due to a strong pound, then their cost of sales would decrease. Nissan could then lower their selling price to offset the effect of a strong pound, encouraging foreign and domestic sales to continue at a steady rate. This could limit the effect exchange rates have on competitiveness.
Inflation will also affect their competitiveness. An increase in price levels leads to a decrease in demand and this would clearly affect Nissan’s sales in a negative manner. However, the cause of inflation is important. If Nissan were to experience excess demand then demand pull inflation would incur. This would mean that Nissan would still experience a high level of sales while enjoying a greater profit margin as the price increase was demand driven, not cost based. It is also likely that due to their brand strength and the Leaf’s USP that demand for their products relatively prices inelastic, meaning a price increase would not have a large effect on their competitiveness, depending on the rate of increase.
Overall, it is clear that economic changes, along with other contributing factors influence Nissan’s competitiveness. Interest rates, exchange rates and inflation will all affect demand, a large indicator of a company’s competitiveness. Personally, I feel that exchange rates have the largest influence on Nissan’s competitiveness and it greatly affects their ability to sell to their customers. The case study states how Nissan UK rely on Eurozone countries to sell their cars. If it becomes difficult for Nissan to sell their cars in this market then their revenue and profits will be greatly affected. While inflation and interest rates are also important influences, these tend to be changes that have a similar effect on the market as a whole, or ones Nissan can offset with internal strengths like their brand strength. If the pound remains strong Nissan could suffer a competitive disadvantage in the long run and may struggle to sell cars both domestically and abroad, damaging their market share significantly.
Finally, one of my favourite elements of this system is the PANEL sheet, that students utilise to quickly and effectively practice essay questions. Rather than writing a full essay, students can fill in the grids and then use these for last minute revision while also increasing their chances of covering more topics.
Use this template to plan your paragraph points (lines of analysis, supporting evidence and initial evaluation) and your essay conclusion (final evaluation).
By Carl D, Business Studies Tutor in London. Are you looking for a business tutor in London? Contact us today to arrange a 1 to 1 private business studies tutor.
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Business and management studies degrees are among the most oversubscribed subjects at university. The highest ranking universities demand three As at A-level to be considered for a place. For these programmes, the personal statement is your chance to show admission tutors your potential beyond your grades.
In your personal statement you should talk about what you have learnt through your A-level studies. Courses with a specialist focus on accountancy or finance will ask for maths A-level, so if you studied maths do mention the skills you gained.
Peter Corvi, associate dean at the University of Warwicks' business school, says: "We're looking for strong quantitative skills."
Critically reflective essay writing skills are also important for a business studies student, says Corvi, so if you studied an essay based subject like English, history or economics, do mention your knowledge in this area.
The University of Warwick wants to see that students are able to formulate a rational argument and write it to length. Corvi says: "Some of our strong applicants are missing this skill."
So make sure that your personal statement is fluent, articulate and well structured.
Corvi says that each year he has more qualified applicants than he has places. One way for candidates to distinguish themselves is through their extra curricular work. But Corvi says he doesn't want to see descriptions of these skills without examples – make sure you explain why your extra curriculur activities are relevant, and give concrete examples of what you did and how this makes you a suitable candidate.
This sentiment is echoed at the University of Bath's school of management. Nick Kinnie, associate dean of undergraduate taught studies, advises students not to underestimate the importance of activities such as Young Enterprise, Duke of Edinburgh and sporting positions, but to explain why you undertook them.
Kinnie says: "We want to see why they did it, what they learned and why it's relevant."
Intellectual curiosity and a strong work ethic are the core skills the London School of Economics (LSE) are looking for on their management programme. Will Breare-Hall, student recruitment and study abroad manager, says the LSE is looking for "the abilities to think and work independently, follow complex lines of reasoning, demonstrate logical thought processes, solve problems and communicate accurately and succinctly".
At Bath, the business programmes are concerned with linking theory to practice, so candidates need to demonstrate their ability to reflect on their experiences and explain how the skills they learned are applicable to higher education.
Once the admissions tutors have looked at grades to determine if an applicant meets its minimum requirements they turn their attention to the personal statement.
It's important to try and stand out, but extravagant stories won't impress an admissions team.
"It's an extreme example, but one year I had an application from someone who said that their mother knew when she was carrying the child that they were going to be an accountant," says Corvi.
Corvi recommends applicants have their statements read back to them, so they can hear how they sound to others reading it.
He says: "Describe yourself in a positive light without going overboard."
Bath's programmes, like many other institutions offering similar courses, have a strong emphasis on the global nature of business and management. Kinnie says he wants to see applicants not only express an interest in working in multinational environments, but also an awareness that they will be working with students from various cultures and backgrounds.
Although it's advisable for students to seek advice from their school when writing their statements, admission tutors want to hear the students' voice in their application.
Kinnie says: "The clue is in the title. The personal statement should read in an authentic and real way and in their own language.
"This is the first step in university life: taking responsibility for your own learning and development."