Strategic Business Leader (SBL) essentials on one page

How to approach the Strategic Business Leader (SBL) exam
SBL is a 3 hours, 15 minutes integrated case study which examines a breadth of organisational functions. It assesses not only technical and ethical skills but the professional skills expected of effective leaders and advisers to senior management.

SBL: rationale about the exam

The rationale for the syllabus can be summarised as follows:

  • Leadership and governance
  • Strategy requires an understanding of risk management
  • Technology and data analytics are transforming businesses
  • Organisational control includes internal audit
  • Financial aspects support decision making
  • Innovation, performance excellence and change.

SBL: integrating technical and professional skills

The aim of the syllabus is to combine the main functions of organisations in the context of leadership capabilities.

Illustration covering communication, commercial acumen, employability and technology, scepticism, evaluation and analysis. The inner area of the illustration covers topics A-H: A - leadership, B - governance, C - strategy, D - risk, E - technology and data analytics, F - organisational control and audit, G - finance in planning and decision-making.

How to earn Professional Skills marks

20% of the total marks will be allocated to Professional Skills:

  • Read each requirement:
    • Note the specified answer format (e.g. a memo)
    • Identify the professional skill (e.g. scepticism) and recall the sub-skills (e.g. probe, question, challenge)
    • Read the prompt for how to demonstrate (e.g. ‘by challenging the comments made at the emergency meeting’)
  • Bear this skill in mind as you:
    • Read the requirement again
    • Actively read the relevant exhibit (e.g. transcript of emergency meeting)
    • Think about and plan your answer points
  • When you prepare your answer:
    • Present it in the specified format
    • Use suitable headings and subheadings
    • Make only relevant points
    • Avoid repetition
    • Write clearly and concisely
    • Keep your tone professional.

You should complete the Ethics and Professional Skills module before attempting any of the Strategic Professional examinations.

Tips for success in the SBL exam

  • Plan to study the syllabus content as quickly as possible
  • Start practicing case study questions as soon as possible. Visit the past exams and question practice page for SBL for guidance on how to approach question practice, including using the new ACCA Practice Platform
  • Work on your professional skills from the outset
  • Attempt each specimen and past exam in four hours and in full.

Key resources

Tackling the exam

Each task will specify an answer format, for example:

  • Prepare a briefing paper…
  • Write a report for the board…
  • Draft a letter…

A task may have more than one requirement, for example 'evaluate… and recommend…'.