Six of the best

September 2020

SBR guru Tom Clendon has some top tips for tackling ACCA Strategic Professional CBE.

This September sees students in the UK and Ireland – and in many other countries across the world – sit their Strategic Professional exams as CBE. So here’s my tips on passing this tough paper

Tip one

Fail to prepare for CBE and prepare to fail! ACCA have laid on some fantastic resources to enable you to prepare and become familiar with the CBE environment. Becoming familiar with test reach and the practice platform is like learning to drive. It is kinaesthetic. This means you have to do it, not just read articles in PQ about it!

Tip two

RTFQ – read the full question. Yes that’s right, the FULL question! This means reading the requirement first and then skim reading the exhibits. You should notice a direct correlation to the requirements of the question to the information in the exhibits. That way when it comes to starting to answer the question you only need to study the information that is relevant

Tip three

Reflect. The information that you’re given in a question will be given for a reason. So reflect on why you have been given it.

For example, in SBR you may be told that the company has obtained an interest free loan from the local government.

The first reaction is that the company has a financial liability that is accountable under IFRS9 Financial Instruments. But why are you told it is interest free? Why are you told that the loan is provided by the local government?

Both of these facts are relevant in understanding the accounting treatment. Because the loan is interest free and from local government it represents financial assistance. It is a government grant (IAS 20). The initial recognition of the liability will be at fair value (IFRS13) and determined as the present value of the future cash flow. This will be less than the monies received. But I digress into the detail of SBR.

Tip four

Is it time or knowledge that is holding you back? I wonder what the limiting factor is that could prevent you from passing the exam. Is it time or is it knowledge?

Many students who don’t pass just don’t answer enough of the exam to earn a pass. So is that they don’t have the knowledge or don’t have enough time?

If you were given five hours or six hours to do the exam would you feel confident of passing the exam? If the answer is no then you are not ready for revision and need to study and gather more knowledge.

If the answer is yes, then you are ready for revision and the only thing between you and actually passing the exam is doing questions and practising time management techniques to make sure you reach your potential. Ideally, you get your questions marks so you can improve by reflecting on the feedback and feed forward given to you.

Tip five

Improve your time management. The number one piece of advice that I can give you is to do exam questions to time and using the test reach practice platform. You should also be aware in your planning process how long you should be spending on each question.

I recommend that for a 10-mark question it should take you 18 minutes. It is always easier to earn marks at the start of the next question than to extract the last mark out of the previous one. It is therefore necessary to be ruthless and to move on when you have finished spending the requisite amount of time on a particular question. But, I repeat, the best way to improve your time management is to do exam questions to time.

Tip six

Register for the free webinar. ACCA is holding a free webinar to support students who are sitting SBR as a CBE exam in September. This webinar will take place on 17 August 2020 at 11.00 am (UK). To register or to access a recording click here.

• Tom Clendon is an ACCA SBR guru and lectures online for FME Learnonline. Go to