From September 2018, the ACCA are introducing a new paper – the Strategic Business Leader exam. This exam will be instead of the current P1 and P3 exams – but it’s not a like-for-like replacement. Students need to be prepared for the new exam, as the syllabus and style will change.


The ACCA work hard to ensure their exams give you the relevant skills for your career, so membership is maximally valuable. The Strategic Business Leader exam is designed with that in mind, based on extensive global industry research. The new exam will give you the strategic problem solving and leadership skills that’ll be most useful for your career.

What does the new ACCA exam look like?

The Strategic Business Leader exam will be a four-hour, closed book exam worth 100 marks – 80 for technical syllabus knowledge, and 20 professional marks. The exam will consist of one compulsory section with all questions related to one case study.

The case study will be issued on the day of the exam, so there is no material to pre-prepare. You’ll receive up to 18 pages of mixed information, such as:

  • Annual reports
  • Media sources
  • Spreadsheets
  • Pictures and diagrams
  • Survey results
  • Interview transcripts
  • Memos; emails; presentations

You’ll use these materials to perform tasks, which reflect the practical tasks you’ll encounter in the workplace. They might include:

  • Analysing and interpreting data
  • Identifying and resolving problems
  • Drafting written business communications
  • Creating presentations

The Strategic Business Leader exam will replace the P1 and P3 exams, so the core syllabus is drawn from these – although refreshed and restructured.

The Strategic Business Leader exam is not just P1 and P3 renamed.

It more closely reflects the demands of the workplace, and is very different in content, style and structure to the old P1 and P3 exams. It focuses more heavily on the strategic application of knowledge and professional behaviour in real-life business context.

That means that you’ll need to study the new syllabus if you’re taking the Strategic Business Leader exam, even if you’ve previously studied for P1 and P3.

Who has to take the Strategic Business Leader exam?

You have to sit the new exam if you haven’t passed both P1 and P3 before September 2018. If you’ve only passed one then you do have to sit the Strategic Business Leader exam and you’ll need to study the new syllabus.

How can you prepare?

The ACCA have released two specimen papers that you can use to practice, and a marking and examiners guide. The ACCA will also work with approved learning providers to ensure you get enough relevant practice material, including mock exams.

As a LearnSignal member, you’ll enjoy tailored study sessions specifically for this new paper – due for release shortly.


The introduction of the Strategic Business Leader exam is a positive step from the ACCA, which will help you better hone the skills to excel in your career. However, plan ahead now to ensure you don’t end up studying double the amount! If you enter for P1 and P3 and don’t pass both before the September 2018 deadline you’ll have to study again for whole new exam.

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