Strategic Business Leader is very different from anything you’ve sat before, so exam technique is vital. Master these areas to pass the first time!
1. Manage your time
The Strategic Business Leader exam is a four-hour closed-book exam centred on a single case study of 12 to 18 pages of material. You’ll need to leave plenty of time to process this information.
The ACCA recommend you allow at least 40 minutes to read the case study and plan your answers, leaving 200 minutes for the questions.
This leaves ~2 minutes per mark, so allocate the time you spend proportionately. If a task is worth 20 marks, you should allocate 40 minutes to complete it.
Be strict with yourself. As one of our ACCA tutors, Steve McCormick says:
“Time management is one of the biggest reasons students fail ACCA exams. It feels wrong, to stop and move on before you’ve completed an answer – but you must.”
2. Read closely
Your performance on the Strategic Business Leader exam depends on how well you understand the case study.
The ACCA recommend you read the opening section first, giving context. Then progress to the exam questions and then read the case study material in full, thinking about the answer requirements.
You might find it helpful to annotate useful points as you read, starting to analyse the information you’ll need for your answers.
It’s vital to pay especially close attention to the format your answer should take. If you’re asked for a presentation and you give a management report, you’ll lose marks. However good your management report.
That might sound obvious, but our ACCA P5 tutor Peter Woolley notes:
“Students often fail because they tend to answer the question they wish they’d been asked – not the actual question!”
This is even more important in the Strategic Business Leader exam, as the exam will often ask you to adopt different perspectives to address questions. You might have one question that requires the strategic perspective of the Finance Director, but the next asks you to prepare a financial presentation for the Finance Director.
3. Plan your answers
This is critical for the Strategic Business Leader exam because the paper draws on one case study, and questions could relate back to other questions. This means that you can refer back to your answer to another question to avoid repeating information and wasting time.
To capitalise, you must plan your answers holistically before you start writing – not just each answer, one by one. Allow one point for each mark, although there are also 20 marks available for your professional skills.
Planning means you can structure your answers in the most efficient, logical way – and it makes your paper easier to mark.
As Peter Woolley says: “If you make it difficult for examiners to see your point, they simply won’t award you the mark.”
Let’s sum up with a quote from the ACCA themselves:
“The key to success [in the Strategic Business Leader exam] is to provide a breadth of issues [covering] the number of different points identified, balanced with sufficient but not excessive depth of discussion”.
If you follow the three ACCA exam tips listed here, that’s exactly what you’ll do!