Abigail Tholen is living proof that it’s possible to balance graduate school, a social life, and CMA prep and still be successful on the CMA exam! As a student and Gleim Campus Rep at Western Illinois UniversityOpens in new window, she’s shown us how she gets things done. While everyone is unique, Abigail found success by prioritizing her studies, practicing discipline, and staying calm on exam day.
Overall, [studying for] the exam and keeping on top of my study schedule was difficult. However, all of my hard work paid off and I passed the exam. It made me proud that I was able to pass such a difficult exam while also pursuing my graduate degree.
We recently had the opportunity to interview Abigail about her experience with Part 1 of the CMA exam, and she shared with us a few tips that she used to pass the first time!
When asked what the hardest part of studying for the CMA exam was, Abigail told us that for her, it was finding the willpower to create a study schedule. Until she actually planned out her study time, Abigail explained that it was too easy to get distracted or skip studying altogether.
While studying for my exam, I really struggled with getting a schedule down. I felt like I kept prioritizing other things in my life. I was starting my graduate program at the time that I was studying while also working a graduate assistantship and trying to maintain a social life. I missed out on a lot of things with friends because I needed to prioritize my studying for the CMA.
This is not uncommon for any CMA candidate. Most candidates struggle with knowing just what to prioritize and setting goals for themselves. However, making the right sacrifices in the beginning makes it worthwhile in the end.
I would advise anyone starting to study for the exam to set a specific schedule and prioritize that study time. It may be hard to study when you know your family is going out for dinner or your friends are doing something, but you will thank yourself in the end when you pass your exam.
Our advice mimics hers. If you can stay disciplined and study consistently, you will earn a lifetime worth of benefits!
Abigail mentioned her study schedule ramped up to over 6 hours a day before the exam. This was no small feat, as she was still in the middle of her graduate assistantship; however, she was successful on exam day! Consistency is key to success on the CMA exam. Treating your exam studies like a full-time or part-time job rather than a hobby or free time activity makes them easier to prioritize.
When she encountered hiccups in her study habits, Abigail explored other methods to supplement her learning. She was able to get a better understanding of the material tested by mixing different learning methods rather than sticking to just one.
I found myself reading the words but thinking about something else or getting on my phone. I found that watching the Gleim videos while reading the book really kept me engaged and focused.
At Gleim, we know that everyone learns differently and has evolving needs as they study. That is why we developed our Gleim Instruct video series and our adaptive learning system, SmartAdapt™, so you don’t waste time re-studying concepts you have already mastered. Instead, we want you to be able to study in the way you are most comfortable with.
When preparing for the CMA exam, Abigail received news that her testing location had changed, likely due to COVID-19 precautions. Instead of panicking, she booked a hotel near the new exam location and put the worry out of her mind.
My exam was in downtown Chicago at 8 a.m. At first, I was a little upset that the location got changed, but I think it was for the better. I got into the city the night before my exam and stayed in a hotel two blocks from the testing center. This allowed me to relax and study the whole night in my secluded, quiet hotel room. In the morning, I was then able to know I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic or anything.
This experience helped keep her anxiety low and allowed her to stay up late while studying the night before. We recommend getting a full night’s sleep, and in Abigail’s case, the proximity of her hotel to the testing center meant she could stay up later and not have to wake up and worry about the drive or traffic in the early morning.
Abigail found staying in the hotel so helpful that she plans on booking a hotel again for Part 2 of the CMA exam and all four sections of her upcoming CPA Exam. It may be hard to find or afford a hotel near the testing center, but Abigail’s experience shows it might be worth a try if you suffer from exam-day anxiety.
Regardless of your plans, it makes sense to schedule your exam early; it’s the best way to find a test center and time that is convenient for you. Read up on what to expect on exam day so you can be prepared to make the most out of your day!
Abigail told us that staying calm before the exam really made the difference. She recalled seeing other students tapping, fidgeting, and acting nervous while she was confident that her thorough studying of the Gleim CMA Review meant that she knew everything she needed to pass the exam.
The biggest tip I would advise while taking the exam is to not overthink questions. You have been studying and preparing for this exam, so when you find a question that your gut tells you is one answer, go with it.
Once the exam began, she pushed herself to put down the first answer that came to mind when she was confident about a topic. For topics she didn’t know, she selected the best answer and moved on. Her advice: revisit the tough questions if you have time at the end. It’s easier to review your answers if you are flagging questions you want to revisit along the way.
Regarding the essay questions, she recommends starting with the essays you are most confident about. But, no matter what, don’t leave any essay blank—graders want to give you points, but they can’t if you don’t try to answer the questions!
It made me proud that I was able to pass such a difficult exam while also pursuing my graduate degree. It also made me more confident about studying for Part 2 and the four CPA sections. I plan to utilize Gleim for both my CPA and finishing up my CMA.
Abigail shows she’s willing to go above and beyond to get the most out of her career. There are many benefits to getting dual certified early in your career, and Abigail is well on her way to enjoying them!
We are excited to continue to help Abigail as she pursues her dreams and becomes a great accountant. Keep up the great work, Abigail!