A disciplined approach will pay dividends

May 2020

Worried about sitting the SBL computerbased exam (CBE)? Ashim Kumar has some advice to put your mind at rest.

Strategic Business Leader (SBL) CBEs are set to be rolled out worldwide on a staged basis.

Although many students have experience of CBEs on the Applied Skills papers, SBL is different in many ways and demands a particular approach.

As a first step, please review the following excellent ACCA resources: CBE Guidance and Workspace Demo.

My recommended approach is designed to avoid continually switching between windows by gathering all relevant data in the Response Options first. This is important; under exam stress, it is easy to be overwhelmed by too much data on-screen, which can lead to a confused answer.

I suggest you follow this approach and then adjust to suit your style, if necessary.

Stage 1 – Task Analysis

1: Go quickly through the instruction screens; you should be familiar with these already and not need to use the full 10 minutes available for this exercise. You can start the exam before this time is up and gain a few extra minutes.

2: Familiarise yourself with the number of Tasks and Exhibits.

3: Head-up your Response Word Processor (RWP) with the word ‘PLAN’

4: Copy/paste the Overview (Exhibit 1) into your RWP.

5: Copy the first task into the RWP. You will lose the formatting when you do this, so be careful to separate out each part of the task (a), (b), etc.

6: Bold key words in each requirement, e.g. ‘Memo’, ‘Board of Directors’, ‘and’, etc. You do not currently have the option to use colour highlighting in your Response Options, but this may change.

7: Under each sub-task (e.g. part a, part b, etc.), type:

a. Time available or better still time to stop (remember to include PS marks to calculate this). Alternatively, write this on the paper provided in the exam.

b. Number of points to be made at (usually) two marks each.

c. Presentation, if relevant, e.g. table/slide, etc.

d. First thoughts on your answer e.g. PESTEL, 5-Forces, 6 Capitals, etc. These should NOT be detailed, they are simply reminders: you have not read the Exhibits yet, so you don’t know what is relevant.

e. Reference to the relevant Exhibit/s; it is often reasonably easy to marry up the Task to the relevant Exhibit. If this is not immediately obvious, leave this step for when you read the Exhibits. It is also possible that more than one Exhibit is useful for a particular Task; but often, most of the relevant data for each question is contained in one Exhibit.

8: Repeat 5-7 above, for the remaining Tasks.

9: This whole process should take no longer than 15 minutes. You’re now ready to read the Exhibits.

This process should be automatic by the time you attempt the paper. It is an effective way to de-stress before starting the thinking process. And it helps ensures that your answer proper demonstrates professionalism (a key expectation in the exam).

Stage 2 – Data gathering

1: Start with Q1(a). Open and read the relevant Exhibit(s) and copy/paste key information to the RWP, underneath the task or sub-task to which it applies.

2: These may be multiple sentences, or even short paragraphs. Do not waste time on selecting precise words/phrases.

3: Continue this for all questions, until you run out of time; that is after 60 minutes.

4: You may not have analysed all the Tasks at the end of 60 minutes, but that doesn’t matter. You MUST start answering the questions at the end of your preparation time.

5: You now have all relevant data in your RWP, and an answer plan. Close all other windows.

Notes on the Scratchpad and physical paper are not marked, so I recommend not using the Scratchpad, and use paper only to note finish times for each answer, as described above.

Stage 3 – Earning your marks

1: Write the heading ‘Answer’ under each plan. You can add lines later.

2: Number your answers; 1(a) 2(b), etc. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to guess which question a candidate is answering.

3: Please remember that PS and Professionalism marks are critical to passing the SBL paper, CBE or not!

4: Copy/paste text to be used as subheadings (key phrases from the Tasks, Exhibits and Frameworks) freely from your plan as relevant.

5: Do NOT simply repeat facts from the paper; this adds no value and will earn no marks.

6: Use the state/explain/apply approach to earn your two marks for each point. State the principle/Explain the principle/Apply the principle to the question. You have 3.6 minutes (1.8 marks x 2 minutes) in which to write a two-mark answer; a great deal can and should be said in that time.

7: Make as many points as the question demands, e.g. a 10-mark question requires five points to be made.

8: State the most important points first (your notes from Stage 1 above, will help you identify these).

9: Stop on time and move to the next task.

ACCA students can access my webinar, delivered to SBL Trainers, here.

• Ashim Kumar offers SBL training with FME Learn Online – for more click here.

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