Common Mistakes With Strategic Papers (and how to avoid them)

Georgina Roberts

The Challenges Of Strategic Professional Level Exams

The ACCA Strategic Professional exams are a significant step up in complexity and depth from the earlier papers, focusing on advanced topics in accounting, finance, and strategic management.

Students often face unexpected challenges they've not encountered before when stepping up to Strategic Level.
But are the exam requirements really so different? Well, yes!

Now you're being asked to think and act as you would in the workplace, leading a team and taking responsibility for strategic decisions.

So, to help, we've compiled a list of some common mistakes we see that are made by ACCA students when sitting their Strategic Professional exams.

You'll also find here in this article a handy step-by-step guide on how to avoid these pitfalls and maximise marks.

Easy when you know how :)

Common Mistakes At SPL

Where and Why Students Lose Marks

  1. Underestimating the Exam's Difficulty: Many students don’t  fully appreciate the leap in difficulty at the Strategic Professional level, leading to inadequate or poor preparation.

  2. Poor Time Management: Spending too much time on one question or part of the exam can leave insufficient time to answer others.

  3. Lack of Practice with Question Types: Not being familiar with the types and formats of questions can lead to confusion and wasted time during the exam.

  4. Ignoring or Forgetting about the Professional Marks: Some students focus solely on technical content and overlook the professional marks awarded for professional skills like communication and analysis.

  5. Insufficient Knowledge Application: Failing to apply theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios or case studies, which is a key requirement at this level.

  6. Over-reliance on Memorisation: Relying too much on rote memorisation of knowledge instead of understanding concepts and how to apply them to the scenarios.

Step By Step Guide To Avoid These Mistakes

Avoiding The Pitfalls

  1. Understand the Exam's Depth and Breadth
    * Start your preparation early to give yourself enough time to cover the syllabus comprehensively.
    * Engage with ACCA resources, including mark schemes, examiners reports and syllabus outlines, to understand the expectations.

  2. Improve Your Time Management
    * Practise full-length mock exams under timed conditions to get a feel for the pace you need to sustain throughout.
    * Develop a strategy for allocating time to questions based on their marks and complexity.

  3. Familiarise Yourself with Question Formats
    * Use ACCA’s practice resources and past papers to get comfortable with the types of questions you'll face.
    * Focus on understanding how to approach different question styles, including written responses and case study analyses.

  4. Aim for Maximum Professional Marks
    * Read the examiner's reports to understand what is expected for professional marks. A lot is common sense.
    * Practise structuring answers clearly and professionally, focusing on clarity, relevance, and succinctness.

  5. Apply Knowledge Practically
    * Focus on applying theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios. This can be improved by working through case studies and applying concepts to real-world business situations
    * Join our Facebook Group so you can discuss topics and question each other - share your ideas and advice and ask your peers for their's too.

  6. Move Beyond Memorising
    * Deepen your understanding of key concepts by exploring their applications and implications in various contexts.
    * Use active learning techniques such as teaching concepts to others, creating mind maps, or applying knowledge in practice questions.

  7. Stay Informed
    * Keep abreast of any changes to the syllabus, exam format, or relevant industry trends that may impact - read the technical articles available via ACCA for your paper.


If you take a structured and strategic approach to your exam preparation, focusing on both your knowledge and skills, you can avoid some of these common pitfalls.

This level of exam is all about evaluation and problem solving. Focus on how you will adapt to the scenario; what decisions you will make for the business in the case study and how you will shine as a key decision maker in the organisation. You have to immerse yourself in the scenario.

We hope you enjoy studying for these engaging and challenging exams and we wish all our students the very best of luck with them.

Richard and Team aCOWtancy