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Secondary;Broad scope;Subject of the week;Economics and Business

UNDERSTANDING BUSINESS STUDIES. By David Needham and Robert Dransfield. Stanley Thornes pound;18

ESSENTIAL BUSINESS STUDIES. By Dr Alan Whitcomb and Barbara Bowen. Hodder and Stoughton pound;12.99.

Some recent A-level business studies textbooks have been criticised for being too simplistic and failing to extend the more able students. Under-standing Business Studies seeks to redress the balance.

By adopting a spiral approach, part one of this book covers the basic content of an A-level course, while part two examines business strategy and applications, building on the concepts developed earlier. The latter section is pitched at the highest advanced level and beyond, so is designed to provide progression for students.

This could be from year one to year two of the course, from the new AS to A level, or to provide extension material in line with recommendations in last year's Dearing report into higher education. In addition, the first section of the book gives constructive guidance on study skills specific to business studies, including integrated key skills and critical thinking.

With more than 600 pages of dense text, the book provides a comprehensive cover of the subject. Although photographs and pictures are scarce, the text is broken down into manageable sections by the use of bold print, bullet points, charts, diagrams, case studies, task boxes, fact boxes and "synthesis" boxes - open-ended stimulus questions to broaden discussion around the concepts covered in the text. The content itself addresses some of the latest thinking, making it an up-to-date analysis of business in the United Kingdom.

Examination questions are graded progressively between the two sections and include a full range of question types from AEB, NEAB, Cambridge and Oxford Delegacy exam boards. Although this book is aimed specifically at learning outcomes associated with "academic" A levels, the way in which the subject content is presented makes it equally useful for GNVQ courses in business. This may have been intentional in the writing of the book, or it may simply be a reflection of the way A-level and GNVQ Business courses are converging. Either way, this is an extremely comprehensive text for the study of business at this level.

Essential Business Studies provides a similar resource at GCSE level. This is a good basic textbook giving a thorough coverage of all key business concepts. Explanations are concise and accessible, key words are in bold type and students can consolidate their learning with a plentiful supply of activities and structured questions, as well as very practical suggestions for research.

The presentation, however, is perhaps not as exciting as it could be for this section of the market. In this age of sophisticated computer graphics, it is difficult to see why publishers insist on using line drawings in the style of a 1960s comic strip. Textbooks are now competing with the Internet, CD-Roms and video as classroom resources and can no longer afford to rely on the quality of the text alone. That said, this is a useful resource for GCSE, Intermediate GNVQ and other related courses at this level.

Jill Turner is GNVQ co-ordinator at Godalming College, Surrey

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