Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • How will I access the pre-seen?

    The pre-seen, which is specific to each exam session along with guidance on how to use it, will be accessed through Exam Planner.  You will receive an email letting you know that the pre-seen is available and the ACCA website will also announce the release of the pre-seen on Exam Planner. You should access the pre-seen as soon as it is released and spend time becoming fully familiar with it. Make sure you understand the content of the pre-seen so that you can better contextualise the new exhibit information that will be provided to you in the exam.

    The pre-seen will not be available on the general website though. It will be available two weeks before the SBL exam.


    • Leave it too late to read the pre-seen
    • Think that a quick read through is enough
    • Undertake general research on the industry
    • Try to question spot
    • Neglect question practice
  • How should I spend the two weeks before the exam?

    You should spend this time familiarising yourself with the pre-seen, you can also discuss it with your colleagues and tutors.  Make sure that you have a good understanding of the organisation on which your exam will be based and the industry in which it operates.  Much of your revision should still be the same as for any exam – that is to ensure you have solid knowledge of the syllabus and perform significant question practice.

    You can research any aspects that you don’t understand – but do not undertake general research as this will not score marks in the exam.  Do not focus simply on the pre-seen and neglect syllabus knowledge and question practice.

  • Are past exams still relevant for my revision and practice?

    Yes – the syllabus has not undergone any substantial changes and so recent exam questions will reflect the syllabus content.  The style of exhibits and tasks is also not changing – so past exam questions will still provide you with relevant revision resources.

    You won’t be able to answer any past exam questions using the pre-seen on its own though – as there is unlikely to be enough depth and detail in the pre-seen.  Remember that task answers should focus on the exam exhibit information with the pre-seen just referenced for background and context.

  • Will the exam look any different?

    Students will be able to view all exhibits and the pre-seen during the exam along with each individual task. Please note however, that only one task will be viewable at a time. These tasks will also be answered in separate response areas. Students will be able to go back to amend, edit or update any task at any time during the exam. Tasks will only be finalised on submission at the end of the exam.  We recommend that all tutors and students review this change by working through the specimen exams on the ACCA Practice Platform.

    Apart from only showing one task at a time, the exam will look the same and will use the same response formats.  There will still be exhibits taking a variety of formats, but there will be fewer exhibits in total and there will now only be three tasks in total.  Professional skills will be examined in the same way, but only covered once each and it will still be clear which skill is being tested.

    SBL remains an integrated case study though and exhibits can relate to more than one task and the tasks can be inter-dependent, hence the inclusion of all exhibits on each task page.

  • Are there going to be less requirements to present an "analysis of company context" (e.g. SWOT, 5 forces, PESTLE) since most of these would draw on the pre-seen?

    We may still require students to present an analysis of the company and its performance, position, or context in the SBL exam in the new format, but the context will not be based purely on information included within the pre-seen.  In answering any such requirement, students will need to include details which are provided in exam exhibits.  This means that it will not be possible to prepare a full answer to a task requirement using the pre-seen only.  Also note that we are rarely specific on models to be used and this will continue.

  • Now that the time given in the exam will be 3 hours and 15 minutes, not four hours, would students be expected to write less?

    The time reduction from 4 hours to 3 hours and 15 minutes is a reflection of the reduction in the new material (exhibits) that students will need to interpret and the number of different tasks that students will need to answer in the SBL exam.

    There is also a considerable time saving due to students being familiar with the fictious organisation and the industry in which it operates before the timed exam starts due to the information contained within the pre-seen.  This means that much of the synthesis and reflection of the context of the case organisation and its environment has been taken out of the examination time. The number of technical marks has not been reduced, we would still expect students to answer tasks to the same level of depth and detail as before. 

    Students will still need to manage their own time carefully though and work effectively and efficiently during the exam.

  • With the introduction of the pre-seen, should students expect the exam to be harder?

    No, and it won’t be easier either. The intellectual level of the exam will remain the same. The marking process will also be as rigorous as in all prior sessions.

  • Where can students find examples of the type of information that will be provided in the pre-seen?

    Specimen and mock exams, along with their corresponding pre-seen information can be found on the practice platform where students can also practice answering these questions in simulated CBE style software. We strongly advise that students review the exams here and understand the capabilities of the software that they will be using before they attempt the exam.


  • As Strategic Business Leader does not ask for a particular model or framework should they be used at all in the answers?

    Models will not ordinarily be named in SBL exam requirements because the exam is more practical rather than a demonstration of knowledge of the syllabus.  They may be mentioned in exhibits however without necessarily requiring the answer to strictly use the model.

    Although the models/frameworks are not specifically given in the requirements and or named in the exhibits, they can be used to help structure the answer and also to help observe what is missing in the answer. Students will not get extra technical and professional marks for describing  the model nor lose technical marks for discussing the model. They may lose professional marks if they unnecessarily discuss the model/framework rather than use it appropriately to complete the task required.

  • Will only one professional skill be prescribed per requirement, and will each requirement always have a professional skill assigned to it?

    Only one professional skill will be required to be demonstrated per requirement, but not every requirement will have a professional skill assigned to it. There may be cases where a requirement or part requirement does not require the demonstration of a specific professional skill.  Professional skills are only examined once and will be for four marks each.

  • Will technical verbs in the requirement match with the professional skill assigned to that requirement?

    Professional skills will not always match the verbs used for technical skills being tested.  For example, a technical requirement may be to ‘evaluate’ but may additionally require demonstration of scepticism or analysis as a professional skill to carry out the evaluation professionally.

    So, the professional skill tested will be a specific skill that can be displayed alongside the technical skills being tested. Most importantly, the professional skill assigned to the requirement should guide the technical answer. For example, presenting an answer that is more sceptical if scepticism is the professional skill required while doing the evaluation.

    In other words, if the technical requirement is to evaluate a project proposal and scepticism is the professional skill being examined, this should guide the student to questioning deeply some of the assumptions within the proposals or highlighting any key omissions from the proposal.   

  • Will all the professional skills marks be awarded if the answer has fully met the criteria for the professional skill being tested in the requirement but has not been presented in the specific format asked for?

    The general rules of professionalism must always be applied to answers in addition to the professional skill being specifically asked for in the requirement.  Candidates will not get full professional skills marks in a requirement if they have not presented their answers according to the format asked for.

    For example, if a task is to be completed using a report and the evaluation skill is tested; even if the answer has met the specifically stated evaluation criteria, candidates will not be able to earn all the professional skills marks available if they have not used the required format.

  • Can a candidate get good analysis skills marks if all numbers are wrong?

    Marks involving the use and analysis of quantitative information will be awarded for technical skills using the Own Figure Rule as appropriate. Professional marks will also be awarded appropriately too, where analysis is the professional skill examined, but if the answer has been prepared on the basis of unjustified assumptions, or has misinterpreted information given in the task set, it is unlikely to get full marks.

    Good analysis needs to use correct data and process it appropriately which is why the awarding of full marks is highly unlikely.

  • How will students who have not worked before, demonstrate commercial acumen?

    Wide reading on global business news will help such students. Approved publishers also publish material with some real-life examples where students can learn real-life business cases.

    Students who have not worked before are encouraged to complete the Ethics and Professional Skills module before attempting SBL.

  • The syllabus requires application of general principles of the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN)’s Global Governance Principles to organisations’ corporate governance. Does this mean that country specific codes are not relevant?

    SBL is a global exam and as such knowledge of an individual country's governance guidance cannot be assumed. The ICGN principles are global guidance that students can be assumed, as a minimum to know. However, students can use the knowledge they have of an individual country’s corporate governance codes.

  • What is the link between marks and number of points in Strategic Business Leader?

    There is no direct link between the marks available and the number of points students need to make. As a rule of thumb, one mark is awarded for each point made if relevant. General points of knowledge that do not relate to the case study do not gain points. Most of the points are gained through application of the knowledge to the specific circumstances of the case study.