Ask Tom: Changes to ACCA’s SBR examination

Please can you explain the changes that have been made to ACCA’s SBR examination?

Of course! From September 2023 the SBR examination will be different. Somethings have radically changed, others more subtly. Whilst somethings remain the same.  

The radical change 

Q1 will test group accounts in a radically different way. Whilst the academic level and syllabus hasn’t changed the style of Q1 has.  Students will be presented with a pre-populated spreadsheet showing a set of group accounts already prepared. Only these financial statements will somehow be incorrect, and so in need of updating. For 10 to 14 marks students will be tasked with inserting numbers in the spread sheet columns to update and correct the group’s financial statements.  

In addition to the number crunching there will be the need for students to explain and contextualise the adjustments that have been made. 

For the avoidance of doubt, whilst normally questions revolve around the group statement of financial position, exam questions will continue to be set around the group statement of cash flow and the group profit and loss account.  

The subtle change 

The list of examinable documents for the September exam reveals that there are no exposure drafts. As such the examiner team is looking to subtly reframe the theme of current issues into one of investor focus.  

Indeed, both SBR specimen exams now have examples of questions which specifically challenge students to comment on the significance of various accounting issues from an investor perspective. 

No change 

Knowledge of group accounts and IFRS and ethics and the conceptual framework will continue to be the backbone of the exam. I have no doubt that the exam will remain a challenging time pressured technical and mainly written exam. Unlike other strategic professional exams there are only 4 professional marks. I remain convinced that students who have been taught to understand the principles, who have been coached in examination technique, and who have received constructive feedback on their assignments and mock exams will be well prepared and do well in this examination. 


On one level it’s always slightly frustrating when changes are made to exams as it means extra work for me! Indeed, I have rewritten my online course to make sure that it remains exam focused so that I am teaching and revising my students on group accounts in the correct way. 

However, I welcome this evolutionary change by ACCA. It means that the exam remains relevant to the workplace. It is after all more realistic to think that a qualifying accountant is adjusting and updating a set of financial statements on a spread sheet rather than preparing them from scratch. 

Further details 

If you are wanting further details about how you can pass SBR then you can contact me directly on WhatsApp: +44 7725 350793.  

You can access my YouTube channel.  

 You can listen to my SBR podcasts.  

Tom Clendon is an SBR online lecturer and podcaster with the platinum provider FME LearnOnline and a double PQ award winner! 

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