If you’re wondering how to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, you’ve landed in the right place. In this comprehensive guide we tell you what this new exam is, explain how it differs from the old P2 exam, and share everything you need to know to pass first time.

So here goes. Whether you’ve got ACCA Strategic Business Reporting coming up, you’re considering enrolling, or you already failed P2 and want to know how to resit with success – keep reading.

How to Pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: The Ultimate Guide

Can we get a drum roll please? Because here it is. The LearnSignal ultimate guide to everything you need to know to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting. Dip into the sections you need or read cover to cover.

*Before we start, be aware there are two versions of ACCA Strategic Business Reporting – the International paper, and the UK and Ireland paper. These relate to which reporting standards you learn, whether international or UK/Ireland. In this guide we’re referring to the International guide.

This doesn’t affect the structure, format or most of the syllabus. You can choose which exam you sit, depending on which standards are most relevant to your career. Read more about variant papers.

Here’s a list of contents:


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 as well as communicate business reporting principles and concepts effectively to stakeholders.

Essentially this is about knowing corporate reporting inside-out and being able to meaningfully communicate 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 paper in your ACCA course and replaces the P2 exam from September 2018.

You sit the ACCA exams in module order, as the modules increase in complexity as you progress. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting falls in the most advanced level and 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 you take 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 Strategic Professional level this generally isn’t the order you’d think.

Read more: ACCA FAQs: What order should I take my ACCA exams in?

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 very large syllabus but it’s closely related to Financial Reporting [previously F7], which you’ve probably done fairly recently”.

Overall, then, 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.

Which means this paper could be a big wake-up call. Here are the pass rates for P2 for the last few sessions:

The pass rates for P2 are remarkably consistent around the 50% point. Which doesn’t seem that bad, especially compared to the likes of P7, until you realise that means half of all students fail to pass.

And consider again that many of those passes sit around 50-something, which means even the students that passed failed almost half the questions.

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 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, the career trajectory you have.

If you scrape a pass with an average mark, sure, 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 guy or gal who scraped 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 give you some guidance 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 area 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 the scenario you’re given. 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 appraisal of financial or non-financial information from the perspective of the preparer or other stakeholder.

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 is a revamped version of the old P2 exam. It still focuses largely on corporate reporting but is slightly broader, making sure you have the skills to explain and communicate the implications of transactions and reporting to a range of stakeholders.

Here’s what the ACCA have to say about the differences between ACCA Strategic Business Reporting and P2:

“The new SBR syllabus does not require different knowledge to that which was required in P2 Corporate Reporting. However, there has been a change in how the examining team expects the candidate to apply that knowledge; for example, the requirement to look at corporate reports from the view of investors”.

The big change, which we’ll discuss in the exam technique section of this guide, is the increased focus on written analysis over calculations.

As we’ve written elsewhere in our Ultimate Guide series, these changes 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, understanding and representing finance in the broader business context and having a deep understanding of ethics too.

As the 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 concepts you’ve previously learned.

To pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting you’ll definitely need a deep knowledge of 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, which is a throwback to P2. However, evaluation is an important part of ACCA Strategic Business Reporting and this isn’t a pure practical or calculation-based exam.  

To this end, you’ll need both professional and ethical judgement as well as technical knowledge. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting isn’t just testing how well you learn the syllabus, basically. It’s testing how you apply the syllabus in a business context, 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, and 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 (previously F3). There’s also an indirect link to Advanced Audit and Assurance (previously P6) so 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 gives six key learning objectives for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, A to F.

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 areas of the syllabus that ties 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 chances of a pass.

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 (previously F3). It’s definitely worth revising the previous syllabuses here, to ensure you’re completely confident on 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 mid-way 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 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 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.

Which means… pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting 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 onto 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 having to start 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 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 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”

Read our full interview with Kelly now.

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 every single sitting who failed 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.

LearnSignal Free Trial

#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 you cover the complete ACCA Strategic Business Reporting syllabus in nine weeks, so you have three weeks left for revision, practice 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, 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, its most useful 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 onto practice questions. With LearnSignal, you should practice each question without looking at the tutor walkthrough. Then you should go back though 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 single most important thing you can do. Almost universally, the students who do more practice questions are more likely to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Check out the ACCA’s specimen papers for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting here.

#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 if you’re not taking information in then you won’t pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

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.

Read more: Should I study alone or in a group?

Read more: How to create the right ACCA revision environment

One thing that’s important is integrating study with your daily life, especially if you’re working while you study.

Read more: The truth about studying the ACCA while working [Interview]

That’s the principle we built LearnSignal around, because most people don’t have huge chunks of 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, 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.

Free LearnSignal Trial

#8 – Take your real-world blinkers off

Syllabus area F of ACCA Strategic Business Reporting specifically addresses current accounting regulation 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 out 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 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 all over the world.

You can become a member for only €89.99 per quarter (cancel anytime) and that gives you everything you need to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting and every other exam.

We cover the entire syllabus in comprehensive depth but in bitesize, specially-designed materials structured in the optimum way to help you pass. And we know that because we have a whole team of global ACCA experts and accountants behind us, including professional examiners.

Find out what you get with LearnSignal membership in this article. Then sign up for your free trial, and help us to help you earn that pass.

Or hey, you can upgrade here if you’re already on your free trial.

LearnSignal Free Trial

How to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting: Exam Technique

Exam technique is generally the biggest 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”

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?

Here goes.

#1 – Read and highlight the question requirements  

When you get into ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, the first thing you should do it 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 important. A huge number of students fail because they misunderstand or misread the question 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. The previous P2 exam relied more heavily on calculations but this paper is largely about written answers.

Here’s what the ACCA have 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 how to answer some of those questions. So jot down bullet points organising your thoughts, so you can 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 do 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. Which brings us neatly onto 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. Which 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 recommend 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, 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. Where this gets slightly more complex is for sub-requirements – which for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting are often implicit.

 

*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.

Here’s an example from ACCA Strategic Business Reporting specimen paper 2:

To allocate marks here, you should notice the question has two requirements: ethical implications 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 read the questions the first time, 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

It should be very clear by now, you are going to be under time-pressure for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting. Which means you can’t afford for your answers to be long, 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 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 even though you should aim to be succinct, you still have to answer the question requirements in enough depth. 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 long 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.

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

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:

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 needed 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. The way you do that is creating a clear, structured script that is easy to read and easy to follow. That’s also the key to gaining the 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, 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 recommend you actually do calculations as you write about them, one-by-one, so you can explain each element of the calculation well because you’ve just calculated it.

It’s important to remember, the ACCA say,

“A good written answer in SBR is not produced in an essay style; it should be laid out in a way that is clear and easy for the marker to follow.”

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:

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 need to…

#8 – And finally… stay calm

It’s a much-repeated point but still worth a reminder. Exams are stressful, 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:

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, 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 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.
  • Look carefully at the verbs the question uses. Are you being asked to advise, to evaluate, to discuss, to analyse, to prepare? Read the ACCA’s list of question words here, and make sure you understand exactly 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, it means this aspect should get less focus in your answer.

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 to give 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 useful resources the ACCA have provided to help you pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.  

Read the full 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 to one of our experts. Here’s the link you need.

 

How does ACCA Strategic Business Reporting relate to P2?

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is a refreshed and updated version of P2. The technical content is the same but your application of that content is different. ACCA Strategic Business Reporting involves more writing, as the focus is on building the skills to explain and communicate business reporting as well as the technical side of reporting.

Who has to sit ACCA Strategic Business Reporting?  

Any ACCA student who hasn’t already P2 by the last sitting, which happened in June 2018. This is an Essentials paper, so you have to pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting to qualify as an ACCA member.

What if I already passed P2?

If you already passed P2 then 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 to complete the ACCA qualification.

More on that here.

If I failed P2 and have to retake ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, should I study the new syllabus?

Our personal bugbear is seeing students – for any exam – resit exams without studying properly from the beginning. We hear things like, “I just got unlucky”, or “that question won’t come up again this year” and “I’ll just study the bits I know I got wrong”. No, no, no.

The fact is, if you failed then something needs to change – studying the material in less depth than the first time is only likely to earn you another fail. And if you thought you could revise this material while you studied for another exam, you might well have failed that exam too because you put yourself under too much time pressure.

If you fail, you have to hit reset. And so, yes, if you studied P2 and failed, you do need to study again from scratch and we’d strongly advise you take 12-weeks on just this exam. Which means you should definitely work from the new syllabus.

Worried you might waste time learning stuff you already know? Don’t. If you find you already know the material then it’ll take less time to study that element and you have longer for an area you struggle with, or longer for practice questions. That’s not wasted time, that’s time that will help you pass ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

Can I use P2 exam questions to practice for ACCA Strategic Business Reporting?  

Although there’s lots of overlap with the ACCA P2 syllabus, ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is a new exam and you should treat it as such. The ACCA – and the ACCA Approved Learning Provider you choose (hint, hint: LearnSignal) – provide plenty of questions and answers specifically tailored to the new exam. These are the best resource to use to practice.

Is ACCA Strategic Business Leader a paper-based or computer-based exam?

ACCA Strategic Business Reporting is only a paper-based exam right now.

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 then 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 depends on the tuition provider you choose. That can range from thousands down to only €89.99 per quarter (we know, we should probably charge you more!) for comprehensive study materials to maximise your likelihood of passing ACCA Strategic Business Reporting.

LearnSignal Free Trial

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 your country and shown exam centre options.

Is ACCA Strategic Business Reporting more difficult than P2?

That depends how you feel about written questions versus calculations. While the content is generally unchanged from P2 to ACCA Strategic Business Reporting, how you apply that knowledge is different.

 

While every student is different, many of you do tell us you struggle more with written questions. If that’s you it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find ACCA Strategic Business Reporting difficult – it just means you need to be doubly-sure you practice questions and read the exam technique section of this guide.

And even if some students do find this paper a little more difficult, it’s definitely a more useful exam to have under your belt in terms of your future career.

The ACCA have taken great care to develop an exam that helps you build the skills to be a successful modern strategic business or finance professional. This exam is a fundamental part of that.  

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. Rather, students fail because they don’t take advantage of the help that’s 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-focussed 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 €89.99 per quarter (a fraction of the cost of legacy providers).

Start your free trial here, or upgrade from your free trial to enjoy everything LearnSignal has to offer.

Free LearnSignal Trial

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 give 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.

 

Start your Free Trial here if you’re new to LearnSignal, or upgrade to full membership here and enjoy everything we have to offer.