We answer your questions about ACCA Strategic Professional

Posted on 5 November 2019
We answer your questions about ACCA Strategic Professional

If you’ve just finished the Applied Skills level you’ve probably got a few questions for us about the next step to Strategic Professional.

Many students don’t know what to do next, so hopefully we can help you out by answering some of the most common queries.

When should I sit the Ethics and Professional Skills Module (EPSM)?

You should complete this module before, or alongside, your first Strategic Professional subject. The module will increase your chances of passing at this level, as it will add to your technical knowledge.

It’s essential that the EPSM is completed ahead of Strategic Business Leader (SBL), as the skills covered are explicitly examined in this subject. If you leave the EPSM until later on you’ll be at an unnecessary disadvantage.

When should I attempt Strategic Business Leader (SBL)?

You can take it at any time (as long as you’ve completed, or are completing, the Applied Skills level).

But if you’re a Level 7 Apprentice, studying the ACCA qualification, you must sit SBL as your final paper as it’s the formal end point assessment (EPA).

Strategic Business Leader is the longest exam, at 4 hours, and requires you to have professional skills such as: communication, analysis and scepticism. You may not have developed these in earlier subjects, or at this point in your career, so it’s advisable to get at least one or two Strategic Professional subjects under your belt first.

Which optional papers should I choose?

At the Strategic Professional level there are two compulsory papers, Strategic Business Leader (SBL) and Strategic Business Reporting (SBR).

There are also four optional papers:

Advanced Financial Management (AFM)

Advanced Performance Management (APM)

Advanced Taxation (ATX-UK)

Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)


There’s no set combination, although students often select ATX with AAA and AFM with APM. When making your selection there are a few things to consider:

How much did you enjoy the underpinning subject?

If you didn’t like Financial Management you might find it hard to motivate yourself to study Advanced Financial Management, as we tend to spend more time doing the things we enjoy.

How well did you do in the lower level subject?

If you didn’t perform well at the lower level subject it’s likely you’ll find the higher level subject difficult to pass. If you had three attempts at Taxation don’t opt for Advanced Taxation.

What area are you currently working in or want to work in?

If you are working in practice you should do Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) as it’s essential if you want to obtain a practice certificate. One of the AAA examiners has previously said that students not working in an audit environment may find the exam difficult. If you’re working in industry you may find AFM and or APM more useful.

Does your employer have a subject preference?

If your employer is paying for your studies they may have a preference over which subjects you take. Even if they haven't said anything, it might be worthwhile checking with them first.


Should I attempt Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) before Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)?

No way! You must complete Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) before, or alongside, Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA). Sitting them the other way round is like running before you can walk.

In SBR you learn about the accounting standards. In AAA you learn about auditing them. If you sit AAA before SBR you’re trying to learn how to audit standards you haven’t yet learned. Don’t put yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage. AAA is a tough paper with a pass rate usually hovering around 30% - you don’t want to make your job any harder.

Should I change how I’m studying?

If you’ve been studying well and scoring high marks at the lower levels then probably not. Keep doing what you’ve been doing so far. However, if you’ve just scraped by, doing the bare minimum, then now is the time for a change.

Research by Kaplan shows a strong link between students that complete their practice tests and assessments, and pass rates, particularly at the Strategic Professional level.

Getting practice tests marked is even more important than at the Applied Skills level as all answers are long form (there aren’t any objective test questions), so good exam technique is essential. If your tutor offers to mark your answers, submit them on time to get the feedback you need. This will highlight any areas that you’re struggling with, and increase your chances of exam success.