Blog Home / Study Guides & Resources / How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)

If you’re wondering how to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to pass!

To pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, you’ll definitely need a deep knowledge of the Conceptual Framework, which sets out the concepts upon which International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are based. If you’re wondering how to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know to pass the first time. You need to keep reading whether you’ve got ACCA Strategic Business Reporting coming up, are considering enrolling, or want to know how to resit.

Before we start, it is essential to know that there are two versions of ACCA Strategic Business Reporting – the International Paper and the UK and Ireland Paper. These relate to whichever reporting standards you are studying. In this guide, we will be referring to International Paper. This doesn’t affect the structure, format or most of the syllabus. Depending on the standards most relevant to your career, you can choose the exam you will be sitting for. Read more about the ACCA variant exams.

Here’s a list of our guide’s contents:

  • Overview
  • Exam Format
  • Syllabus Guide
  • Study Tips
  • Exam Technique
  • What the Examiners Say
  • FAQS
  • Final words

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: An Overview

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting teaches you to apply your knowledge, skills and professional judgement within the business reporting arena. You’ll learn how to correctly prepare reports and communicate business reporting principles and concepts effectively to stakeholders. Essentially, this is about knowing corporate reporting inside out and meaningfully communicating that to other business leaders. For an in-depth look at what ACCA Strategic Business Reporting involves, scroll to the syllabus section of this guide.

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is one of two Strategic Professional Essentials papers in your ACCA course. You sit the ACCA exams in module order, as the modules increase in complexity as you progress. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting falls at the most advanced level. You should already have plenty of supporting knowledge and skills – either from the ACCA or, if you have exemptions, from your previous study. We also recommend taking your Ethics and Professional skills module before taking ACCA Strategic Business Reporting. Although you have to sit modules in order, you can take exams within each module in whichever order suits you. At the Strategic Professional level, this generally isn’t the order you’d think.

Read more:  ACCA FAQs: In what order should I take my ACCA exams?

That’s for two reasons.

  1. There are real benefits to taking the other Essential Strategic Professional paper, ACCA Strategic Business Leader, as your last, or near to last, exam. Much of the information in Strategic Business Leader is covered in earlier modules, and you’ll be better placed to pass if you hold this exam for later.
  2. As Learnsignal Head of ACCA, Alan Lynch sums up:

    “If I were you, I would probably pick ACCA Strategic Business Reporting as my first Strategic Professional paper. It’s a very detailed paper with a vast syllabus, but it’s closely related to Financial Reporting [previously F7], which you’ve probably done fairly recently.”

Overall, ACCA Strategic Business Reporting will likely be the first Strategic Professional paper you sit – and it might even be your first ACCA paper, depending on exemptions.

This means this paper could be a big wake-up call. Here are the most recent pass rates for Strategic Professional exams, and you can see how SBR performed in its first outing:

Recent ACCA Strategic Professional Results

Sep 2022495142344334
Jun 2022504941334231
Mar 2022504643343833
Dec 2021514841323734
Sep 2021514838303634
Jun 2021464439324132
Mar 2021505239364432

Read more:  How difficult is the ACCA really?

One analogy we bring up often is the brain surgeon.

If you were going into surgery tomorrow, would you really want someone who’d got nearly half the questions wrong on their professional medical exams? The answer is definitely not, which is one very good reason to try and pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting with more than the bare minimum. There’s an important attitude shift here. The thing is, the ACCA isn’t just a barrier that you have to get through to be allowed to progress in your career. It’s not something you can hack or outsmart. It’s about your subsequent professional career.

Everything you learn during the ACCA, on ACCA Strategic Business Reporting and other papers, is directly relevant to the professional you become, the value you add, the money you earn, and your career trajectory. Sure, if you scrape a pass with an average mark, that’s good news. A pass is a pass. But also, if you have big ambitions and want to do great things with your career, why would you settle for scraping? There are always exceptions, but on the whole, people who excel in their ACCA exams are much better placed to excel in their subsequent careers. So be that person. Not the person who scraped the 50s and 51s in every paper. And the great news is, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn how to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting like you really mean it.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: Exam Format

Apart from Strategic Business Leader, all the Strategic Professional (Essentials and Options) papers follow the same format. You get a total time of three hours and 15 minutes to complete ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, and the pass mark is, like all other exams in the ACCA qualification, 50%. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is a paper-based exam only right now.

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting has a total of 100 marks across two sections with two questions each; all four questions are compulsory. Within this total, four professional marks are available. We’ll show you how to get those in the exam technique section in this guide.

Let’s unpick those sections because the ACCA helpfully guides you on which syllabus areas they examine in each.

Section A

Section A has two scenario questions worth 50 marks overall. The first question will focus on the financial statements of group entities, likely with some discussion of financial reporting. That’s syllabus areas D and C, respectively; we’ll look at the syllabus in more depth later in this guide.

The second question will focus on the reporting and ethical implications of certain events in your given scenario. There are two professional marks available for this question.

Section B

Section B has two questions worth 25 marks each, and they might be either based on a scenario or a case study, or they could be essay-based. Whichever format they take, they’ll definitely have elements both of calculation and discussion.

Section B is broader in scope than section A, and you might be tested on any area in the syllabus. However, there will always be either a full question or partial question on the appraisal of financial or non-financial information from the preparer’s perspective or other stakeholders.

There are two professional marks available for section B. We’ll talk through your exam technique to handle these questions later in this guide.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: Syllabus Guide

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting focuses largely on corporate reporting. Still, it is slightly broader, making sure you have the skills to explain and communicate the implications of transactions and reporting to a range of stakeholders. Be aware of the required exam technique that we discuss further in a later section of this guide, which focuses on written analysis over calculations.

As we’ve written elsewhere in our Ultimate Guide series, these subjects are designed to align the ACCA qualification more closely with the direct needs of employers. Today’s modern, strategic accountant needs the skills to relate to other stakeholders across the business, understand and represent finance in the broader business context, and have a deep understanding of ethics.

As ACCA put it, the aim of the paper is:

To discuss, apply and evaluate the concepts, principles and practices that underpin the preparation and interpretation of corporate reports in various contexts including the ethical assessment of management’s stewardship and the information needs of a diverse group of stakeholders.

You’ll learn the concepts, theories and principles of business reporting and need to be able to question, evaluate and challenge proposed accounting treatments. Good scripts will easily relate professional issues to relevant practical situations and previously learned concepts.

What You Need To Pass

To pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, you’ll definitely need a deep knowledge of the Conceptual Framework, which sets out the concepts upon which International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are based. You’ll need to confidently discuss the consistency of the framework for each IFRS that’s examined. The integrated reporting framework also lays the foundations for a new reporting model, so be prepared for questions about how this relates to corporate reporting.

On the practical side, you do need to know how to prepare and present financial statements according to current accounting statements. However, evaluation is an integral part of ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, and this isn’t a purely practical or calculation-based exam. To this end, you’ll need both professional and ethical judgment as well as technical knowledge. Basically, ACCA Strategic Business Reporting isn’t just testing how well you learn the syllabus. It’s testing how you apply the syllabus in a business context and talking to other business peers.

You’ll often have to adopt a specific perspective to answer the question. That perspective might be external, or it might be an internal stakeholder. In any case, you’ll need to show you can communicate appropriately to the situation, depending on who you’re talking to. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting links to other exams in the ACCA qualification, so your previous knowledge will serve you well here.*

*That’s one reason exemptions aren’t always a good idea.

That especially includes Financial Reporting (previously F7) and even Financial Accounting (formerly F3). There’s also an indirect link to Advanced Audit and Assurance (previously P7). If you’re planning to take that as your Options paper, it might naturally follow well after ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Here’s a diagram from the ACCA:


The ACCA Global SBR study and syllabus guide give ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, A to F, six key learning objectives.

Main capabilities:

On successful completion of this paper, candidates should be able to:

  • Apply fundamental ethical and professional principles to ethical dilemmas and discuss the consequences of unethical behaviour.
  • Evaluate the appropriateness of the financial reporting framework and critically discuss changes in accounting regulation.
  • Apply professional judgment in reporting the financial performance of a range of entities. NOTE the learning outcomes in Section C of the syllabus can apply to single entities, groups, public sector entities and not-for-profit entities
  • Prepare the financial statements of groups of entities
  • Interpret financial statements for different stakeholders
  • Communicate the impact of changes and potential changes in accounting regulation on financial reporting

Here’s the relational diagram showing how those areas tie together:


As you can see, ethical and professional principles and changes in accounting regulation (A and F) are big syllabus areas that tie into all the other areas. As we said above, the ethical aspect of this will come up in the second question in Section A and will include professional marks. Area F, which is essentially about current issues, could come up in either but will likely not be a full question so much as a partial question.

Download the complete ACCA Strategic Business Reporting study and syllabus guide from ACCA Global to review in-depth. You might also want to read the  ACCA’s bank of technical articles addressing syllabus areas for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: Study Tips

This section looks at the best way to study for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting to maximise your pass chances. If you’ve sat the earlier Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills papers, you hopefully have a good idea of how to structure your study time. Saying that this might be your first exam, and it’s certainly one of your first at this level – so these tips are worth at least a refresher read.

Especially if you want to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting first time (of course you do).

1. Refresh previous papers – especially if you had exemptions

As we said above, ACCA Strategic Business Reporting has clear ties to other ACCA papers, namely Financial Reporting (previously F7) and Financial Accounting (formerly F3). It’s definitely worth revising the previous syllabuses here to ensure you’re completely confident in the assumed knowledge from these papers.

That applies even – or especially – if you had exemptions on these papers. You might have covered the material at an equivalent level before enrolling for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, but you might not have covered the same areas in the same depth. This is one big reason students fail ACCA exams because the paper assumes foundational knowledge that some students just don’t have. There’s nothing worse than discovering you don’t remember previous important concepts when you’re midway through the exam.

This article covers the exact areas of overlap and assumed knowledge in more depth:  Stepping up from Financial Reporting to SBR.

2. Leave at least 12 weeks

The ACCA shy away from giving a proscriptive amount of study because every student is so different. That is true, and so you can take this exact recommendation with a pinch of salt… but if you think you need less than 12-weeks, you might want to rethink.

In our experience, even the best students struggle to really learn everything in less than 12 weeks – because once you take a revision, practice questions and mock exams into account, you’re really not left with 12 weeks to actually study. Some students can adequately prepare for the earlier papers in less than 12-weeks, although we don’t recommend it. But at the Strategic Professional level, these exams are very complex, and the syllabus is long and deep.

Look at how many students fail this exam, and don’t assume you’re different or immune. The only way to be different or immune is to study harder and study in the right way – and that means not cutting your time short just because you want to finish sooner. We’ve said many times before that’s a false economy because you’re more likely to fail, and then you’ll be adding another 12-weeks (because hopefully you’d do it right the second time and start again with 12 full weeks to study) on top. This means… pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting for the first time, and it ‘costs’ you 12-weeks. Study for 8 weeks and fail? It costs you 20-weeks. And that brings us nicely to the next point…

3. Don’t combine papers

When we say 12-weeks, we mean for this one paper. You might assume you can study two papers for one sitting and pass the ACCA faster, but again, that’s a false economy. You definitely don’t want to risk failing both and starting again. And again, you’d hopefully do it right the next time, so you’d take 12-weeks for each separately – so you’re looking at another 24-weeks, and that’s assuming you pass the first time.

We recommend you only take one paper per sitting, especially now there are four sittings per year. That seems the least stressful and fastest way to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting and gives you the best chances of passing the first time. And if you need more evidence? Learnsignal student Kelly Crawford came joint 1st in Ireland and 11th worldwide for Audit and Assurance (and all her papers so far have been in the 70s and 80s), and she was very clear:

“I start 2 to 3 months before an exam, and I only sit one exam per sitting, so it’s realistic to chip away at study, a couple of hours a day. I very rarely study during the day because I work in the week, and weekends are my family time.”

Kelly’s strategy might seem like it takes longer, but in reality, she’s likely to pass four ACCA exams per year with minimum stress or disruption while also working and having a young family. That’s a strategy we wholeheartedly recommend.

4. Study the full syllabus

We’ve said this a thousand times, but you still get students who failed every sitting because they missed areas of the syllabus. However small it seems, it can make the difference between getting or leaving a mark – and in an exam where hundreds of students sit at 49, 50 and 51, that one mark could mean you fail.

And there’s no escape if you realise you don’t know an area because ACCA Strategic Business Reporting has only compulsory questions. If you don’t know it, you can’t avoid it – and in a written paper, a guess frankly isn’t good enough. Trust us when we say you don’t want the feeling of opening the paper and realising that one area you skimmed is a major focus. So – cover the full syllabus, every single small element, until you’re totally confident. There’s really no excuse to fail because of this because it’s so basic: if you’re sitting an ACCA exam, you need to know the content. Struggling with any syllabus areas? Learnsignal students get 24/7 tutor support as well as our comprehensive video and question library, so we can help you overcome any hurdles before they derail your ACCA Strategic Business Reporting progress.

5. Structure your study

We say this for every single paper, and it’s just as true for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: you need a study plan. This will help you focus your time and be disciplined about covering all the areas in plenty of time.

We recommend covering the complete ACCA Strategic Business Reporting syllabus in nine weeks, so you have three weeks left for revision, practise questions and a mock exam. The ACCA recommend you leave even more than this for revision and final preparation – six weeks total. The main point is to try and cover the entire syllabus the first time as quickly as possible so you can move to questions and revision. Talking of the mock exam, it’s most helpful if you take the mock exam in the first ten days or so of your revision period, so you can spot and revise problem areas based on your mock performance. If you’re a Learnsignal student, remember your membership includes a mock exam marked by real tutors – so you can get an accurate gauge for your exam-day performance and understand where else you need to focus.

You can download your own free ACCA study plan to help you pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting here. Just scroll to the bottom of the page for the download link.

6. Practice makes perfect

Forgive the trite expression, but it’s true: the best technique for studying ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is practice, practice, practice.

That should start from your very first day, not just when you’ve finished studying. Just writing notes over and again won’t help. Instead, you need to be testing your knowledge at every stage to force yourself to recall and remember information. (This is called retrieval practice, which is the idea that repeated self-testing improves your memory significantly).

For Learnsignal students, we make that easy by including quizzes with each revision video in addition to all our practice questions. But every student can use this principle – cover your notes and try and remember information; try and explain to a friend without looking at your notes; make and test yourself on flashcards. Then, once you’ve covered the syllabus, you should move on to practice questions. With Learnsignal, you should practice each question without looking at the tutor walkthrough. Then you should go back through the question with the tutor and note where you made mistakes. Then recover this question again once you’ve had a chance to refresh the information. Rinse and repeat until you’re getting every question right!

This is the most critical thing you can do. Almost universally, the students who do more practice questions are more likely to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Download the complete ACCA Strategic Business Reporting study and syllabus guide.

7. Understand how and where you learn best

Different people learn in different ways, in different places at different times, using different strategies. Work out what works for you, and cater to that. Otherwise, you’re trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. There’s no point leaving 12-weeks to study unless you’re also using that time wisely. You could leave 100 weeks, but you won’t pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting if you’re not taking information in.

So stick to what you know works. Experiment with new ways of working if you’re unsure but be disciplined about sticking to what works, not just what you enjoy. One important thing is integrating study with your daily life, especially if you’re working while you study. That’s the principle we built the Learnsignal around because most people don’t have huge time to study.

Remember Kelly’s advice early? Chip away with bitesize study moments. That’s why all our videos are short – watchable on the go, when you’re on the train, having breakfast, or grabbing a ten-minute coffee break. That’s also scientifically proven to be the best way to learn, by the way. It’s how you take information in without overloading yourself, so you have time to mentally process each new chunk of information before moving on. That’s why Learnsignal students rave about us.

8. Take your real-world blinkers off

Syllabus area F of ACCA Strategic Business Reporting specifically addresses current accounting regulations and potential changes – which means you need to be aware of those current issues. The examiners certainly will be and will look to include elements of questions calling on current issues where possible. And they’ll certainly look favourably on scripts that refer to relevant current affairs and issues.

The thing is, as we said earlier, this isn’t ‘just’ an exam. The ACCA introduced this updated Strategic Professional level to explicitly align your skills to the real-world skills that will serve you – and the organisations you work with – best in your career. Knowing what’s going on around you that might impact you and your decision-making and the business and business-decision making? That’s absolutely fundamental to adding value as a strategic accountant today. So make sure you don’t put the real-world blinkers on when you’re studying for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting or any other paper. You should be actively engaged in the wider business world around you.

9. Become a Learnsignal member

Learnsignal is built by accountants for accountants. It’s the tool our founders wished they had when they were studying. And it genuinely works. Our students rave about us; we’re ACCA Gold Approved Learning Providers with thousands of students worldwide. You can become a member by signing up for a monthly, quarterly or yearly plan to access everything you need to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting and every other exam.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: Exam Technique

Exam technique is generally the most prominent reason students fail the ACCA exams, especially in more advanced modules. The examining team sum up their approach to ACCA Strategic Business Reporting like this: “Candidates will be examined on concepts, theories, principles and the ability to apply this knowledge to real-life scenarios.”

So, what you want to know is, what does that mean in practice? What does a good ACCA Strategic Business Reporting answer look like? What does a great ACCA Strategic Business Reporting answer look like?

1. Read and Highlight the Question Requirements

When you get into ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, you should first read the question requirements before reading the scenario. This means you know exactly what you’re looking for when you read the scenario.

This is a crucial technique to save time because otherwise, you’ll likely end up reading the scenarios through at least twice – once to read them, the second to find what you need once you know the requirement. So cut straight to the important bit and read the requirements first.

It’s also a good idea to highlight or annotate key question words in the requirement at this point so you know exactly what’s essential. A huge number of students fail because they misunderstand or misread questions at this stage. Just don’t over-annotate – if you highlight everything, you highlight nothing.

2. Plan Your Answers

You won’t pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting unless your written answers are up to scratch.

Here’s what the ACCA has to say:

“For SBR, there will be significantly more marks allocated to written answers than numerical answers. Simply practising numerical questions will not result in success in this examination, and the written answers should be in sufficient depth to answer the question that is being asked. Brief narrative answers are unlikely to meet the requirement of the question even though the numerical content may be correct. This means that a thorough analysis of the question requirements is imperative.”

To improve the quality of your written answers, it’s vital you plan before you start writing. Think about things like:

  • How many marks is this question worth?
  • How many points do I need to make?
  • What points are there?
  • Which of these are most important and relevant?
  • How should I structure these points?
  • What previous knowledge and skills do I have that relate?
  • How do I relate this to the scenario?

Once you’ve read the requirements and then the scenario, you should start having a good idea of answering some of those questions. So jot down bullet points organising your thoughts to create a structured, thoughtful answer. This also helps avoid repetition, which wastes valuable time.

3. Choose Where You Start

All four questions in ACCA Strategic Business Reporting are compulsory, so you can’t choose which questions you answer. What you can choose is which order you answer them in.

Here’s the ACCA’s advice:

“It’s a good approach to start with the ‘best’ question for you. Getting a first ‘good’ question under your belt will boost your confidence.”

So if you read the questions and think number 2 is right in your comfort zone, it’s fine – even better than fine, it’s a good idea – to do number 2 first.

However, the ACCA does warn that you need to be careful not to run over on time on your first question just because you know the subject matter well. This brings us neatly to our next point.

4. Structure Your Time

Poor time management is one of the biggest reasons students fail ACCA exams. The markers often see scripts that have got 46 or 47 marks by the three-quarter-point but then ran out of time and didn’t write anything else. This is a real shame because the student obviously had all the knowledge and understanding to pass but let themselves down on time management.

So how should you structure your time?

The first point is reading, planning, and reviewing. For all the Strategic Professional exams that are 3 hours 15, the ACCA recommends you spend at least 15 minutes planning your answers. Then allocate time proportionately for writing your script, according to the available marks. To do that, take the time for the paper, subtract reading, planning, and reviewing time, and then divide by the total number of marks.

For ACCA Strategic Business Reporting:

  • Total time: 195 minutes
  • Reading and planning time: 15 minutes
  • Total remaining time: 180 minutes
  • Total available marks: 100 marks
  • Total time per mark:  1.8 minutes

So for a 25-mark question, you know you have roughly 45 minutes. This gets slightly more complex for sub-requirements, which are often implicit for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

*It is worth saying – in our opinion, 15-minutes planning is a bare minimum. Although you don’t want to spend too long planning before you start writing, we’ve known some students to find 30-minutes planning time easier to work with. That would leave you with roughly 1.6 minutes per mark.”

Example SBR Specimen Paper 2:

Example: Specimen Exam Question 2:

Discuss the ethical and accounting implications of the above situations from the perspective of the reporting accountant.

(18 marks)

You need to scan the scenario to identify the ‘situations’; five accounting issues can be identified and in each an incorrect accounting treatment is suggested. Interwoven throughout the scenario is the ethical issue of the inappropriate behavior of the finance director.

To allocate marks here, you should notice that the question has two requirements: ethical and accounting implications. It’s reasonable to expect that the marks are split equally for these two requirements, nine and nine. And if you need to pick up nine marks talking about ethics, there’s no point writing 20 points about accounting. That will just waste time and only get a maximum of nine marks. As you first read the questions, notice these requirements or issues and estimate how many marks each is worth. Then write that next to the question as your deadline.

Be disciplined about sticking to this deadline even if you’re still writing the answer. As the ACCA note,

“A student will gain more marks from spending five minutes working on a new question than from continuing to work on a question that they have already spent the allocated time on.”

For ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, the big risk is you spend too long on the calculations and not enough time on the narrative – which is worth more marks. Being strict about how you allocate your time helps avoid that mistake.

5. Be Succinct

By now, it should be apparent that you will be under time pressure for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting. Which means you can’t afford your answers to belong, rambling affairs. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting isn’t about volume; it’s about quality. That’s why some of the best, award-winning scripts are often the shortest.

That means you need to do three things:

  • Choose the most relevant knowledge to answer the question; don’t just write everything you know.
  • Write just enough for the marks available. One mark for one point is a good guideline, although you can pick up two marks for one point if that point is well developed – showing the consequences of that point, for example. Don’t write 10 points for a 5 mark question.
  • Don’t write out standards or guidance by rote; that won’t earn you marks and will waste time. Applied knowledge is everything.

If you’ve planned your answers upfront, being succinct is much easier because you’ve thought about what you need to include and, crucially, what you can leave out.

6. Flesh Out Your Answers

This might seem at odds with the point above, but you still have to answer the question requirements in enough depth, even though you should aim to be succinct. To pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, you have to write enough but not too much.

The ACCA give three key skills for answering business scenarios well:

  • Identify key issues or problems from the question scenario;
  • Analyse the requirements and make inferences to delve deeper into the question;
  • Identify things that are noticeable by their absence – things the company should be doing but aren’t, for example.

That’s how you add value to the scenario, rather than just repeating the information you’re given or writing lengthy introductions or rote descriptions. Don’t tell the examiner what the scenario says; tell the examiner why what the scenario says (or doesn’t say) matters.

State, Apply, and Conclude

The ACCA also share the state, apply, and conclude technique which works well for many questions on ACCA Strategic Business Reporting:

A planning (and writing) approach that fits many SBR questions is the ‘state, apply, conclude’ approach-in other words:

  1. Sate (in brief) the facts of the scenario and where relevant the requirements of a standard or other pronouncement.
  2. Apply the requirements to the facts of the scenario.
  3. Conclude with a recommendation (which may be the accounting treatment or and action to be taken and, as required, an impact assessment (on identified stakeholders).

Whichever approach you use, the important thing is this. For each point, think about writing the point, explaining why it matters and outlining one main consequence of that point. If you struggle to put yourself in different stakeholders’ shoes, try asking yourself – ‘so what?’; ‘what happens now?’; ‘what will that result in?’.

Here’s an example of how that chain of thought might go:

You could try to follow a stepped approach:

  1. Is the transaction or accounting treatment good or bad for the stakeholder?
  2. What action might the stakeholder take?
  3. What action would other stakeholders take as a result?
  4. What would be the impact on the reporting entity?

Even if the consequence is implied or you think it’s totally obvious, the examiner can’t give you the mark unless you state it.

It’s also important to build out every point you make, rather than focussing on one point you know loads about and being too brief in the others. You can’t earn ‘bonus’ marks for a really good answer on one point when you need two points.

7. Help The Examiner

The ACCA Strategic Business Reporting examiners want to award you the pass and will always look for ways to award you marks, but you have to help them out. You do that by creating a clear, structured script that is easy to read and easy follow. That’s also the key to gaining professional marks on offer. Use headings and subheads and clearly differentiate each point. If you know your handwriting is messy, leave a line between each line, and certainly leave a line between each paragraph or point. Clearly lay out calculations and label line items.

It’s also worth noting that you should keep complex calculations separate from written answers rather than embedding them. Instead, present complex calculations in a separate sheet or an appendix – so your narrative is easy to read. The ACCA recommends you actually do calculations as you write about them, one by one, to explain each element of the calculation well because you’ve just calculated it.

It’s important to remember,  the ACCA say,

“A well-written answer in SBR is not produced in an essay style; it should be laid out clearly and easily for the marker to follow.”

Use Bullet Points

They especially recommend the extended bullet point writing style and give the guideline that one good point is likely one or two sentences. Here’s an example worth one mark:

  • John is acting unethically because he’s asking Lucy to ignore IAS 23.
  • IAS 23 requires that borrowing costs are capitalised only if set criteria are met. John is acting unethically because, in order to increase profits, he’s asking Lucy to capitalize borrowing costs that IAS 23 requires to be expensed.

The two answers effectively make the same point. however, a greater level of detail given within the second point is required in order to score the mark. The first answer point does not demonstrate an understanding of the requirements of IAS 23 or the motivation for the unethical behaviour. whereas the second answer point clearly shows this.

You must write sufficient points to score at least a pass in a given requirement. Therefore, for example, in a 10-mark written question, a minimum of five points should be presented, but on the basis that not all of these may score preferably seven or eight points. This does not, however. mean that quantity is more important than quality – the content of the points must be good, or else there is little point in writing them down.

It’s generally correct to assume that one point gains one mark, or one especially well developed point can gain two marks. You can show you’re developing a point with signpost phrases like:
…this indicates…
…this means…
…this is important because…
…the impact of this is…
…to address this problem, management needs to…

8. Finally – Stay Calm

It’s a much-repeated point but still worth a reminder. Exams are stressful, but that’s normal. But do what you can to beat the stress and stay calm, and you’ll be more likely to do yourself justice.

Check out the ACCA’s tips for a calmer ACCA Strategic Business Reporting exam day:

ACCA tips

Read more:  Exam Day Prep: Checklist

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: What the Examiners Say

The ACCA make examiner’s reports available after each exam, where they discuss students’ scripts in detail. However, because ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is a new exam, the examiner’s reports all focus on the old P2 exam. Saying that the ACCA themselves state there is no difference in content so much as application. This means the old P2 examiner’s reports (available here) are still well worth reading because many of the points are transferable. These reports tell you exactly where other students are falling down on your paper and help you understand the examiners’ views on specific topics.

It’s not an exaggeration to say you’re much more likely to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting if you take the time to read the examiner’s reports and other examining team guidance.

Some points come up in almost every report:

  • Read the question properly. Students fail every year because they answered what they wish they saw, not what was actually there.
  • You won’t pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting if you just set out technical information, guidance or standards without applying them back to the scenario. Rote knowledge isn’t enough.
  • When considering current issues for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, this means current debate in the accountancy press. You have to read more widely than your learning materials to build a deep personal understanding of the topic.
  • Full professional marks can’t be awarded unless you complete the question.
  • Practising numerical questions isn’t enough to pass (even for P2, and now especially for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting). You need to be able to write in enough depth to appropriately answer the question. Professional accountants have to provide advice; that’s what this exam tests.
  • Brief answers are unlikely to earn a pass (again, this is even at P2 – which was even less discursive than ACCA Strategic Business Reporting). Even if your numerical content is correct, you need to discuss it.
  • Look carefully at the verbs the question uses. Are you being asked to advise, evaluate, discuss, analyse, and prepare? Read the ACCA’s list of question words, and make sure you understand precisely what they’re asking you for.
  • Look carefully at other ‘signpost’ words in the question to understand where to focus your answer. For example, if a requirement asks you to ‘briefly’ do something, this aspect should get less focus in your response.
  • Every sitting, students fail because they simply don’t know enough. The syllabus is very deep, and students don’t seem to study long enough, so they only have a superficial knowledge of topics. This won’t earn a pass. “This exam rewards personal understanding, not superficial learning”.

Becoming A Mind Reader

Read the Mind of an ACCA Strategic Business Reporting Marker as well as the P2 examiner’s reports, the ACCA have also created a guide, especially for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, designed to help you get inside the head of an ACCA Strategic Business Reporting marker:

“By giving you an insight into a marker’s thinking, explaining what we are trained to look for, what we award marks for, and giving you the reasons why marks may not be awarded, you will be better prepared to take the exam. It will help you fulfil your potential by being better able to translate your knowledge, experience and judgement into accumulating the necessary marks to pass.”

In the guide, the examiner talks you through some specimen student answers and shows you how they would mark those scripts. You should definitely make time to read this in full because this is one of the most valuable resources the ACCA have provided to help you pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Read the complete guide here.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: FAQS

These are the most common admin-type questions we get about ACCA Strategic Business Reporting. If you have a question we haven’t answered here, head over to our website and chat with one of our experts.

Who has to sit for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting?

This is an Essentials paper, so you must pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting to qualify as an ACCA member.

What if I already passed P2?

If you already passed P2, you don’t need to sit ACCA Strategic Business Reporting. Your pass marks still count as long as you’re within seven years from the date you first passed any Strategic Professional exam.

This limit means you must pass all the Strategic Professional exams and reach affiliate status within seven years, or you’ll lose any Strategic Professional level passes and have to re-take them to complete the ACCA qualification.

More on that here.

How much does ACCA Strategic Business Leader cost?

Once you’ve paid your one-off registration (£79 in the UK) and annual subscription fee (£95 in the UK) to be an ACCA student, you pay individual exam fees. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting costs between £125 and £298 in the UK, depending on which sitting you choose and when you enrol. The more in advance you enrol, the less it costs you. Discover the specifics of  ACCA pricing for your country.

Read more:  Everything you need to know about ACCA exam fees

Then there are the fees to study ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, which depend on the tuition provider you choose. That can range from thousands down to the small monthly subscription fee offered by Learnsignal for comprehensive study materials to maximise your likelihood of passing ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Where can I sit ACCA Strategic Business Reporting?

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is only available as a paper-based exam and is available from more than 400 exam centres in 170 countries. You can book ACCA Strategic Business Reporting here, where you’ll be asked about your country and shown exam centre options.

What resources are there to help me pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting?

The ACCA has a huge resource library to help you pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, as they do for every exam. The fact this is a new exam doesn’t change that. The reason so many students fail ACCA exams isn’t because there isn’t enough help – the ACCA are desperate for more students to pass. Instead, students fail because they don’t take advantage of the help there.

Check out the ACCA’s resource hub for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Then don’t forget the comprehensive ACCA Strategic Business Reporting learning portal available for all Learnsignal members. Access laser-focused lectures from expert ACCA professionals, markers and tutors, and an extensive question bank including tutor walkthroughs; get unlimited 24/7 tutor support; get a mock exam marked and annotated; join our exam prep bootcamps – all for a small monthly subscription fee.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: Final Words

This comprehensive guide should help you approach ACCA Strategic Business Reporting with confidence, understanding what it takes to earn your pass. The next step is to knuckle down and start studying. No excuses – your main takeaway should be that you can pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting if you’re disciplined, make enough time and practice plenty of questions.

This guide should prove there’s no magic formula. Learnsignal gives you all the help you need, but ultimately success is in your own hands. You decide today – in your attitude – whether you’ll pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Give yourself the best chance at passing your exams with our expert-designed cheatsheets available free for a limited time.

Alan Lynch
25 min read

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *