How to pass Strategic Business Reporting

Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) builds on everything you learned in Financial Reporting and now requires you to apply that knowledge to practical situations.  You have to demonstrate professional judgement and awareness of ethical issues.  It is therefore advisable to have completed the ACCA Ethics and Professional Skills module before attempting this exam.

In addition to the accounting standards you learned for FR, there are a few others to learn:

  • IFRS 1 First-time Adoption of IFRSs

  • IFRS 2 Share-based Payment

  • IFRS 8 Operating Segments

  • IFRS 11 Joint Arrangements

  • IFRS 12 Disclosure of Interests in Other Entities

  • IFRS for SMEs

There are also a number of other statements and documents – the Integrated Reporting Framework and IFRS Practice Statements, EDs and DPs.  See the examinable documents for your sitting.  The Conceptual Framework is always important – make sure you review the latest version.

While the FR exam contains a lot of calculation and preparation of financial statements, the SBR exam is more discursive.  You will have to explain and discuss the application of accounting principles, rather than just do the numbers.  This is a higher-level skill and one you will develop by practising lots of exam-standard questions.


The exam has two sections, each worth 50 marks.  In all exams so far Section 1 has had Question 1 for 30 marks and Question 2 for 20 marks.  Question 1 has consistently featured group accounting, concentrating on the aspects not examined at FR – piecemeal acquisitions and partial disposals.  Make sure you understand the principle of ‘crossing an accounting boundary’.  However, unlike in the FR exam, here you will not be required to produce a complete consolidated financial statement.  You will be asked for extracts and for explanations concerning the accounting treatment of different issues in the scenario.  You must do well on both the written and computational aspects of this question to secure a good mark.  Question 2 is a scenario question and it is here that your knowledge and understanding of ethics is tested.  Make sure what you write is completely relevant to the scenario.  There are two professional marks in Question 2 for the application of ethical principles – make sure you get them.  Section B has Questions 3 and 4, each for 25 marks. These will cover other areas of the syllabus.

So the advice for your revision period is:

  • Do not neglect any part of the syllabus.  The examiners will aim to bring lots of standards and topics into the paper.  You cannot afford to leave anything out.

  • Do the Ethics and Professional Skills module.

  • Use the ACCA website resources including the Practice Platform to really familiarise yourself with the CBE exam.  You should be comfortable with all the functionality well before your exam date.

  • Practise lots of past exam questions and do any available mock exams.  Develop your writing skills.  Learn to discuss the application of accounting principles and treatments.  As you go through, discover what you don’t know, and note those items for further revision.


During the exam:

  • Read the question.  Examiners’ reports still note that some students did not read the question.  Don’t be that person.  You only have four questions.  Read each one at least twice, note all the significant points, such as the dates, and make sure you are clear about exactly what you have to do.

  • Produce your answer in the format asked for in the question.  If it is a report, make it look like a report, with the correct headings, an introduction and conclusion, and the calculations in an appendix.  This is how you get professional marks.

  • Make your answer relevant to the scenario.  A recitation of the requirements of a standard will not gain you many marks.  You must relate it to the situation in the scenario.  And make sure you have taken account of all the information in the question.  Every sentence is there for a reason – it is telling you something.

  • If you are asked to answer from the viewpoint of a particular stakeholder, such as a creditor or investor, make sure you have done exactly that.  Which aspects would be important to them and why?  What are the aspects that are important but not relevant to your stakeholder?  Leave those out – there won’t be any marks for them.

  • Manage your time.  You can see from the number of marks allocated to a question or sub-question how long you should spend on it.  Be disciplined about this.  When time’s up, move on.  It is always easier to get a few marks on a new topic than to wring one more remaining mark out of something you have already spent too long on.

  • Don’t add in irrelevant material.  If your answer looks a bit short, don’t pad it out with stuff you haven’t been asked for.  The marker will just ignore your additional offering.  And there’s nothing wrong with a short answer, as long as you have answered the question.  Keep your sentences short and don’t let yourself ramble.