Tips for Ethics questions in SBM
Strategic Business Management

Tips for Ethics questions in SBM

May 3, 2021

One of the things the SBM examiners are quite clear about in relation to Ethics questions is that you need to take a “nuanced” approach at the Advanced Level.

At the Professional Level, many Ethics questions are pretty much “black and white” scenarios in which something is either very dubious from an Ethics point of view or completely acceptable. Things are different at the Advanced Level.

The SBM examiners have self-consciously designed SBM Ethics scenarios so that they are less clear cut than at the Professional Level. This implies several things for your exam technique.

There may be different Ethics impacts on different stakeholders, with some being severely affected and others not affected much at all.

It may be the case that the issue appears at first sight to be a very serious Ethics issue but, after closer inspection, the matter is less serious or potentially even not an Ethics issue at all if certain actions are undertaken – therefore be careful not to go in too hard in your response and state that the problem is extremely serious.

There could be quite different impacts for the client verses the advisory firm so always check carefully if you have been asked to give assistance both to the client and your own advisory firm, or just to the client (or potentially just to the advisory firm).

In some past papers (although this is quite rare), the nuance in the Ethics aspects is the fact that the question wording will not explicitly ask you to look for Ethics issues – these may be hidden in the question Exhibit material.

The other thing that the SBM examiners often say is that students do not give enough recommendations on what to do about the Ethics issues so we would suggest that you always have a dedicated subheading of “Actions” to pick up the relevant marks.

Our final tip would be to please ensure you use a framework of some type to organise your discussion. This could be the Transparency, Effect and Fairness framework, applying the ICAEW principles of ethical conflict resolution or simply using the potential ethical threats as the subheadings.

Whichever way, you will keep the marker happy simply by organising your Ethics content in some way – the examiners have commented that they do not want students simply to write a common-sense Ethics response which anyone could have written without studying any technical material. Whilst the necessary headings are not exactly all that “technical” in nature, they are concepts which only an ACA student would be able to use and so this fulfils the criteria the examiners are looking for.

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