The Competitive Edge lesson

Introduction to lesson

What is competitive edge? and what is your competitive edge?

Many people especially non-native English speakers don’t know this term but it is not only helpful for them to become aware of it but also to reflect on what it is within them. This lesson is about exploring language around the word competition and then discussing the meaning of competition and in particular competitive edge. At the end of this lessons students of English should feel satisfy that not only did they improve their language skills but also leave them with some food for thought about themselves and those around them. After all, whether we’d like to admit it or not, we’re all competing with others on many levels of our lives consciously or not – so let’s make sure we know our strengths and weaknesses while doing so.

Warm up

Start by writing the word COMPETITION on the board and asking students in pairs/groups to brainstorm as many ideas that come to mind in 2min. Alternatively if the level permits tell them they can’t include anything that has to do with sport(this adds an additional level of difficulty). Make a spidergram around the word with students’ ideas. Then get them to tell you the other forms of the word: compete, competitive, competitor

Write the word ‘feelings’ on the board and draw a circle around it. Brainstorm with students the feelings they associate with competition. Alternatively you can use the ideas from this handout that comes from the Pearson Longman Advanced Expert coursebook:


Put the feeling words on a spidergram and check understanding with students. Once the words are covered then you can discuss the question below.

Ask students to discuss in pairs a competition(academic/athletic or any other) they took part in and describe the experience to their partners.


Get partners to pay attention by giving them these questions to take notes on as their partner speaks.

  • How did you feel before and after?
  • What was the most exciting/challenging part of the competition?
  • What were the advantages and disadvantages of taking part?
  • Would you take part again? What would you do differently?

Vocabulary building

Idiomatic expressions related to competition:

set the pace, have sth up your sleeve, tip the balance(in sb’s favour), be hard to beat, gave it our all, gave it our best shot, paid the price, a close call, to pull it off, play it safe

Though idiomatic these are common expressions related to competition and quite practical to use in any form of it (sport, business etc.) Below I’ve provided one exercise with some of the expressions that can be used after the language has been  introduced.

Are the meanings similar or different? Write S or D.

  1. They’re setting the pace.                   They’re neck and neck.

  2. They’ll take some beating.                They’ll be hard to beat.
  3. They’re gaining ground.                     They’re catching up.
  4. The competition is hotting up.          The competition is slipping up.
  5. They’re forging ahead.                       They’re gaining ground.

You can do the word formation task from the warm up as well.

The easiest and most straightforward way is to split the collocations and ask students to match them. Alternatively you can create sentences with the word competitive and leave the other word out for students to fill-in the gap with the appropriate word in context.


  • Competition: cut-throat, ferocious, intense, fierce, stiff
  • competitive: position, pressure, price, threat, advantage/edge, strategy
  • competing: bids, offerings, suppliers, technologies
  1. Name some examples of stores or products that are competitively priced? What does that mean?
  2. Can you name some competing technologies in today’s market?
  3. Think of a service you used recently( phone, internet, streaming, mechanic, online website or app) what are the competing offerings for that service?
  4. In what areas of our lives to we feel competitive pressure? Describe some instances.

Increase competition: encourage, intensify, sharpen

Decrease competition: harm, inhibit, stifle


Here’s a short video on competition and it’s role in business:

and here’s another by an entrepreneur and successful social influencer:

Each are short enough to show in class. You can use three kinds of questions: Listening comprehension to check understanding. Concept questions to check students understand the concepts being expressed specifically and finally as a springboard for discussion/reaction(Do you agree with what was said? Why(not)? Justify your opinion with examples.

Reading and Speaking

This is potentially a jigsaw or debate resource:

You can cut up the pros and cons and then in groups ask students to read separate cut outs of some of them. Then in pairs they summarise what their paragraph mentioned about competition. Students can be given questions to do this more efficiently and quickly such as:

  • Was your text in favour or against competition for kids? What was the justification for it?
  • What were the arguments/examples given?

Afterwards ask the students to switch partners and speak with another person from their group. Students do this until they have spoken to enough people to get different perspectives. Afterwards you can put them in new pairs and ask them to give their own opinion based on their persona experience and what they heard others say in class.


Use any of the questions as you see fit to create a discussion, debate and/conversation in pairs/groups or in the whole class.

Are you competitive? In what areas of your life to you like to be?

Is competition important for young people/adults? What are the pros and cons?

Can you think of any examples of companies/people you know and what their competitive edge is?

As a student/professional what do you think your competitive edge is? How did you achieve it? OR do you have it as a natural ability/by circumstance?


Was this lesson idea useful? You can find more by checking out the whole collection here? Need more tips? Check out the YouTube channel with over 200 episodes on teaching and learning English.

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