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Cultivating Critical Thinkers: Edexcel A Level Business Paper 3

Strategies for Excelling in Clothing Industry Research Tasks

First: What is a critical thinker?

A critical thinker (in this context) is a student who possesses the ability to research, analyse and evaluate information effectively. Critical thinkers are skilled at examining evidence, and using logical reasoning to reach sound conclusions or solutions.

ChatGPT says critical thinkers are:

Open-minded, curious, and capable of considering multiple perspectives before forming judgments or making decisions.


What did I learn about paper 3 and critical thinking from doing expert days in schools?

Recently I have been giving a series of in-person Edexcel A level Business Paper 3 Expert days to local schools. I have had the pleasure of working along side Andre Briggs who is the inspirational The Biz Teach

I have had the joy of working with year 13s who are just starting out on their paper 3 research journey, having completed all the theory for all 4 themes, so for them this is the last hurdle.

I always start by giving students a copy of W75858A and working through the bullet points with them.   We brainstorm a few ideas for some research activities and discuss what they know already. This is what I found out, that there are challenges and there are solutions:

Research challenges for the 2024 topic:

This year the topic is the clothing retail and manufacturing industries.  This presents a few challenges:

1)      Students already have some knowledge from their own experience but this is all as a consumer (and possibly as part-time Saturday staff) so they will need a perspective change to speak from the point of view of the business.  For example; “what is the advantage of  ASOS having a retail only business”.  Students might conclude that they can be open 24/7, or offer promotions and flash deals etc.  These are advantages for the customer, and will need reframing to be an advantage for the business; less staff (cost advantage) no premises (easer to expand and cost advantage again).

2)     The second challenge is that students who are studying for other A levels may feel now that the theory has been covered that they can ease back and focus on their other subjects. A mindset not helped because they may feel that they already know the clothing industry as they go shopping and have read about Sports Direct in the news.

3)     Americanisation: In the schools I have worked with students can name American MNCs e.g. Nike, North Face, Gap, Levis BUT Edexcel wants students to research:

• Forms of businesses in the UK clothing markets: independents and multinationals

Harder for students to name UK multinationals. (Burberry, NEXT, M&S, JD, Primark. ASOS, Superdry). Can students discuss the industry with confidence, the barriers to entry, the plethora of SMEs and sole traders in the market?   They may need careful steering to make sure they are ready for Paper3.

4)     Can students apply current and relevant examples of the clothing industry to the theory?  Do they have enough knowledge to discuss China, India and the BRICs in terms of garment manufacturing for UK clothing retailers? Can they name at least 5 UK clothing entrepreneurs e.g. Tom Singh (OBE) of New Look



Top 4 research methods to try:


1)     Send the students out shopping. Imagine learning to swim from a book. Let them find out first hand why independent boutiques are able to compete on the same high street as the UK retail multiples. (Distinctive brand identity, customer service, customer experience, expert advice, knowledgeable staff etc.)  It is not enough to write down these lists they need to go in and try on clothes and experience the difference (even if they do not buy anything).  I also suggest students go down to Covent Garden in London to see all the sole traders in the markets, so they can write articulately about low barriers to entry and niche vs mass products.

2)     Read market reports e.g. Deloitte which provide free industry analysis. Also company annual reports e.g. Superdry  for industry insight and trends.  

3)     For ethics suggest students start with the pressure group War on Want reading their excellent free back catalogue of PDF reports into the global garment manufacturing industry.

4)     Start social media monitoring of key company sites e.g. Burberry stories  What promotional activities do they have? How do they engage with customers? How does it strengthen the brand? What are viral trends? Which influencers / celebs are working with the major UK clothing brands?  E.g. Rita Ora at Primark.


Revisionstation's Paper 3 teaching Resources pack

If you prefer to keep research in the lessons very focussed (or don’t have computers) then consider using Revisionstation's Edexcel A Level Business complete paper 3 pack:


·        2 original mocks with comprehensive answers

·        Over 500 slides

·        Worksheets and PPTS on every bullet point

·        Relevant clothing industry case studies that are linked to all the Edexcel theory

·        A bank of PDFs and annual accounts relevant to the clothing industry

·        Samples questions and answers about the clothing industry

The pack is just £60 everything you need to help your students prepare for paper 3.





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