4 reasons you should complete EPSM before studying ACCA SBL

Updated: Aug 18, 2020



Assuming today you just got your Applied Skills exam result, all subjects passed!


Now, you are considering next level exam that is the Strategic Professional Module exam.


You probably heard exams in this module are difficult, yes, they are. Some papers in this module pass rate is only 30%.


You also heard it is an Ethics and Professional Skills Module (EPSM) you need to pass in order to be an ACCA member.


So, what should you do next?


ACCA advises students to complete EPSM before studying any Strategic Professional exam. Here I would like to share why you need to follow ACCA advices. In addition, I would tell you some secret tips on how the completion of EPSM can help you to pass Strategic Business Leader (SBL) exam.

A quick recap of ACCA relational diagram

In order to be qualified as ACCA member, you need to pass all required exams, pass the Ethics and Professional Skills Module and obtained required working experiences.


ACCA SBL should be the first paper to start in Strategic Professional module as some of the exam questions are referring back to the knowledge gained from prior module papers, such as Accountant in Business, Performance Management, Financial Reporting, Audit & Assurance and Financial Management.


SBL also contains 20 marks in professional skills which are new to many of you. Professional skills cannot be found in any papers studied in Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills module, but you can find them in EPSM in which I would like to share more about it in the following.

What is ACCA ethics and professional skills module

ACCA launched the new EPSM in 2017. The purpose of EPSM is to increase your employability by exposing you to realistic business situations and developing all required business skills.


Those skills are not only limited to ethics in business practice, but also skills in developing your career too. The module is made of learning, support and assessment units in an interactive environment.


Effective from 2 April 2019, total number of units in EPSM is 10 (the old EPSM is 7 units only). They include –

  1. Ethics and professionalism

  2. Personal effectiveness

  3. Innovation and scepticism

  4. Commercial awareness

  5. Leadership and team working

  6. Communication and interpersonal skills

  7. Data analytics (New!)

  8. Case study (New!)

  9. Strategic professional support (New!)

  10. End of module assessment


Some of the topics are very useful in your career development, such as organising meetings, using spreadsheets and crafting your CV (e.g. Unit 2) and communicating in the workplace (e.g. Unit 6). I will share with you what topics are useful in your SBL exam below.

How long does the ACCA Ethics and Professional Skills Module to complete

The module is made up of 10 units while Unit 1 to Unit 6 provides the learning to you on both ethics and professional skills. At the end of each unit, there will be a series of assessments to embed your learning.


Unit 8 is a case study, the professional skills developed in the previous units will be tested. A series of tasks include financial forecasting, human resource planning, organisational restructuring advice and strategic planning.


Unit 9 explains the links between EPSM and SBL and other Strategic Professional exams and how EPSM supports learning of these papers.


Unit 10 is an assessment containing 14 questions divided into 2 objective test questions. The topics are from first 7 units and pass mark is 50%. If you don’t pass then you will get feedback and you can try again.


In an interactive learning environment, you will get a lot of opportunities to respond tasks and challenges, it help to develop your professional skills in workplace, including communication, commercial acumen, innovation, analysis and evaluation.


You are expected to take approximately 20 hours to complete the module.


If you completed EPSM before 2 April 2019, you will still have the right to access to the new content but you no need to complete the new content.


When should you complete the Ethics and Professional Skills Module

Now, you may have a question of when to complete EPSM. Before making your decision, you have to know the ‘secret’ in ACCA syllabus design.


When developing the new Strategic Professional exam, ACCA conducted a lot of research and survey from different parties on its structure. One key insight is developing professional skills.


EPSM is designed to support you to exam success at Strategic Professional, especially Strategic Business Leader exam.


To optimise the support provided by the module, it is the best for you to complete it before studying (or attempting) Strategic Business Leader exam.


4 reasons you should complete EPSM before studying ACCA SBL

Even ACCA doesn’t tell you the exact reasons why you should complete EPSM before studying ACCA SBL, I do my research and study of all published materials and find there are four reasons to support this.


The first and most important reason is professional skills.


In ACCA SBL, 20 marks are assigned for professional skills including communication, commercial acumen, analysis, scepticism and evaluation. In EPSM, you find Scepticism in Unit 3, Commercial Acumen (or awareness) in Unit 4, Communication in Unit 6 and Analysis in Unit 7.


An example is scepticism. ACCA SBL states the meaning of scepticism is you have to probe, question and challenge information and views presented to them, to fully understand business issues and to establish facts objectively, based on ethical and professional values.


In EPSM Unit 3, Section 9 clearly introduces scepticism and how it applies to different cases such as investment decision and audit. You are definitely benefited by completing it to master the skills before studying SBL.


Next, EPSM helps you to prepare for SBL Section A, Leadership.


Ethics and professionalism in Unit 1 and Leadership in Unit 5 are relevant to Section A in SBL syllabus. You learn all fundamental principles about ethics and different leadership style in EPSM which can help you to familiarize with SBL contents.


Thirdly, the topics in Commercial Awareness in Unit 4 of EPSM are valuable in preparing Section C Strategy.


I am surprised that EPSM introduce many strategy concepts such as PESTEL analysis, SAF model and SWOT analysis in Unit 4. All these knowledge and concepts are examinable in SBL exam while you are in advantage to learn it before studying SBL.


Last but not the least is Big Data and Data Analytics. It is covered in Unit 7 which is a newly added unit in the updated syllabus (effective from 2 April 2019). Many of the concepts such as 3 Vs (Volume, Velocity and Variety) of Big Data, types of analytics and methodologies are all in Section E of SBL exam.


I think, just my opinion, Big Data and Data Analytics is very important in your SBL exam based on the EPSM syllabus changes by ACCA.

Cases and Strategic Profession Support

Unit 8 is also newly added into EPSM syllabus. It is a comprehensive case study while you need to have a role in order to complete the case. Tasks in the case include financial forecasting, organisational restructuring, human resource planning and strategic planning.


It is very similar to what you need to do in SBL exam!


Unit 9 explains the links between EPSM and SBL and other Strategic Professional exams. It also covers how EPSM supports your learning of those papers.


To my view, it is a unit telling you how to study SBL and other Strategic Professional exams. You complete this module means you grasp all basic ideas on how to study those papers, especially SBL.

Conclusion: Complete EPSM before studying SBL

I share with you the reasons why you are in advantage in studying SBL if you complete EPSM in advance of it.


It is statistically proved they are highly correlated.


In September 2018 SBL exam, ACCA published a paper saying that the pass rate for those who had already completed EPSM is 73% while the average pass rate in that session is 45%.


In December 2018 SBL exam results, 25% are more likely to pass SBL if candidates complete the module beforehand.


These two figures are more than words to explain why you need to complete before studying SBL. Just click the following button to enrol EPSM to increase your chance to pass SBL exam.



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