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Command Words: How to deal with Compare questions

Watch this for insights in how to compare Public and Public Limited companies for Higher Business (mine is a Café Latte with chocolate sprinkles)

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Did you know that Starbucks offers over 87,000 possible drinks options? You’d probably never guess that high because you only see what’s on the big menu board when you go in-store or drive thru.

The company’s core product is coffee which can be a love/hate item for many of us. But with so many possibilities on offer, Starbucks manages to attract even the most unwavering coffee haters with concoctions including the Christmas Cookie Frappuccino, the Raspberry Milk Tea, the Matcha Pink Drink, the Orange Creamsicle Frappuccino, and even a Harry Potter inspired Butterbeer Frappuccino. Wow, very Instagrammable if possibly quite calorific!

So how does a company like this compare to a very different type of business, more like an organization, actually, such as the NHS? Are they completely different or do they share some basic business principles? Do they both chase profit or do they have different objectives?

Well, grab a creamsicle frappuccino and let’s put Starbucks against the NHS to look at how to handle Compare questions in Higher Business.

It is crucial to understand the different types of command words you face. I want to look at those that require you to ‘compare’ two things from the world of business.

A comparison question is challenging. You won’t be able to get away with short responses or one-word answers. To structure an answer to compare two or more things, you need to talk about differences between those things, similarities, or both. You need to do this actively, rather than just describing two different things and hoping the reader works out the difference.

When highlighting differences, you should make an initial point, about Starbucks for example, then include a phrase like this [on screen text 1] then go on to make a point about the NHS. The phrase in the middle is essential here, that’s what actually makes it a comparison and scores you the mark.

Students sometimes overlook the similarities between things when trying to answer these questions. People lean more naturally towards differences. In fact, the similarities can be real time savers for you as they require less writing! Take this example [on screen text 2]. Instead of using whereas or however, terms like both, similarly, or ‘in common’ work well here.

You will appreciate that to be able to compare two things you need to know your stuff – without this knowledge you cannot compare anything. At Higher you’re expected to know about various types of business, all of which fall into one of three categories – the private sector, the public sector, or the third sector of economy.

I’ve used the example of Starbucks versus the NHS because it highlights a common confusion. Starbucks is a Public Limited Company, or PLC for short, which exists in the Private Sector of economy, whereas the NHS is a Public Sector organization. See how I used the word, whereas to highlight the difference? As both types of business incorporate the word ‘public’ this can cause a little confusion.

Whether you’re asked to compare a private sector business to the public sector like we have here, or a public sector organization to a third sector charity, exam questions at Higher will typically centre around these things – ownership, control, sources of finance and objectives.

A good revision strategy for you here may be to make a table using these four headings, with a list of the different types of business down the side of your page, then fill in the details. Revision flashcards also work well here.

One last thing, watch out for flips when answering compare questions. A flip looks something like this [on screen text 4]. While the first part of the answer is good, the part about the NHS shows no real depth of knowledge. It’s simply saying something is the opposite which doesn’t win you any marks.

So, remember with compare questions, it is your job to find the similarities and differences between two businesses you know about and then link them together. Don’t just describe each separately, as this is a different thing entirely.

And, next time you’re in Starbucks I’ll take a Chocolate Dalmatian Frappuccino and a creamsicle frappuccino and I will compare the two.

You pick the cake, surely there can’t be anything like 87,000 possible cake combinations to choose from! Good luck.