The CMA exam is a 2-part professional exam made up of multiple-choice questions and essays. It’s designed to ensure you can perform the duties of a Certified Management Accountant and tests you on topics like financial planning and strategic financial management.
This page will cover everything you could possibly want to know about the CMA exam.
The CMA exam has two parts that you’ll take separately. Each part tests different topics, but they all follow the same structure. You’ll have 4 hours to complete the 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and 2 essay scenarios included in each part. By default that breaks down to 3 hours for the MCQs and 1 hour for the essay scenarios, but if you finish your multiple-choice questions early, your remaining time will carry over to the essays. You can’t use any of your essay time on the MCQs however.
The goal of the CMA exam is to validate that candidates have the necessary skills to meet the demands placed on CMAs by their industry. To best accomplish this, the CMA exam is split into two parts that test the different topics CMAs need to be skilled in.
IMA Opens in new window, the association of accountants and financial professionals in business, conducts regular studies to find out the scopes of work CMAs are expected to perform. ICMA, the certification branch of IMA, uses this information to keep the exam up-to-date and relevant. They release two documents that serve as the syllabus for the CMA exam—the Content Specification Outlines (CSOs) and the Learning Outcome Statements (LOSs).
In addition to the information above, CMA candidates are expected to possess a minimum level of business knowledge. This minimum level includes knowledge of basic financial statements, time value of money concepts, and elementary statistics.
The best way to ensure you’re prepared for the CMA exam is to work with a review provider that will do the heavy lifting for you. Mapping your studies to the CSOs and LOSs can be a full-time job on it’s own and would waste valuable time you could be spending preparing for the CMA exam.
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Part 1 of the CMA exam tests your accounting knowledge and skills. It has six content areas, or “domains.”
Here is a high-level overview of what to expect from each domain in Part 1. It is not exhaustive. For a list of specific tasks, check the LOSs Opens in new window.
The Part 1 domains are further broken into specific tasks CMAs are expected to perform in the LOSs.
|CMA Exam Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics|
|External Financial Reporting Decisions||15%|
|Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting||20%|
|Technology and Analytics||15%|
Part 2 of the CMA exam tests your business management knowledge and skills. It’s where the nuts and bolts of Part 1 come together to support CMA decision-making. You’ll still be tested on your ability to calculate, but in service of making a strategic recommendation to management. Similar to Part 1, it also has six content areas, or “domains.”
Here is a high-level overview of what to expect from each domain in Part 2. It is not exhaustive. For a list of specific tasks, check the LOSs Opens in new window.
The Part 2 domains are further broken into specific tasks CMAs are expected to perform in the LOSs.
Gleim Review Systems are mapped to CMA CSOs and LOSs, so you are guaranteed 100% content coverage. What’s more, our SmartAdapt™ technology directs you to areas that need improvement, taking the guesswork out of studying.
|CMA Exam Part 2: Strategic Financial Management|
|Financial Statement Analysis||20%|
As a reminder, each part of the CMA exam will have 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 essay scenarios. These questions can be grouped into 4 broad types of multiple-choice questions, plus questions about the essays.
The CMA exam is nondisclosed, which means exam questions and solutions are not released to outside parties until they are retired by the ICMA and no longer included on the exam. IMA is partnered with several review providers, but no exam prep provider has inside knowledge of the exam.
That’s a crucial distinction to keep in mind as you consider CMA review courses. Every review provider, including Gleim, creates their own study materials, including practice questions and mock exams.
In 1981, our very own Dr. Gleim created the first CMA review course. Since then, more candidates have trusted us to help them pass the CMA exam than any other provider. We incorporate feedback from our candidates to improve our materials and provide comprehensive coverage of CMA exam topics. So many candidates pass with Gleim because our course is designed to make sure you feel confident when you sit for your exam.
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There are four different types of MCQs you might encounter on the exam:
The CMA essays don’t sort so neatly into categories. Broadly speaking, the essays will be one of three types: calculations, analyses, and explanations.
CMA exam essays exist to test your “real-world” skills in a way that MCQs cannot. You’ll have to evaluate data, make a judgment, and defend your position. Essay scenarios typically ask 4-7 questions each and you can receive partial credit, so make sure to show your work if a calculation is involved and include everything on-topic that you can think of.
Getting comfortable with answering questions on a time crunch will help you prepare for exam day. Each part of the CMA exam is 4 hours—3 hours for multiple-choice questions and 1 hour for the essays. Managing your time well is critical to passing the CMA exam. The only information you get during your exam is a clock providing the hours, minutes, and seconds remaining. There will be no guidance for breaks or time allocation within each section.
Here are our tips for how to manage your time: