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CMA Score Release and Pass Rate

Learn everything you need to know about the CMA pass rates and find out when your CMA score release date will be.

When do CMA scores get released?

CMA scores are usually released 6 weeks after the end of the month in which you took your CMA exam. Typically, this means that your scores will be released in the middle of the following months:

CMA exam testing monthCMA score release

How is the CMA exam scored?

The CMA exam is broken into two parts you must sit for and pass separately, and each part has two sections—100 multiple-choice questions and 2 essay scenarios. The grading for each is the same: 75% of your score is from multiple-choice questions and 25% is from essay scenarios.

NOTE: If you do not get at least 50% of the multiple-choice questions correct, you will not move on to the essay section.

Exam scores are scaled, based on the difficulty of questions on your CMA exam, to scores ranging from 0 to 500. You need a 360 to pass, but note that a scaled score of 360 does not necessarily convert to 72%. A candidate with a more difficult test might only earn 68% of the total points available and still wind up with a passing scaled score of 360.

What does this exam equating and score scaling mean for you? These processes don’t mean much for test-takers. The purpose of the CMA exam is to ensure anyone who passes can perform the duties of a CMA, and CMA exam questions are all thoroughly vetted. If you’re able to earn a 360, you’ve shown you have the knowledge and skills required of CMAs. So don’t be distracted by scaled scoring. Just do your best and try not to be discouraged if you feel your exam is very difficult. It may be! But that doesn’t mean you won’t pass.

CMA multiple-choice questions

Be sure to make your best educated guess on the multiple-choice questions—there is no penalty for incorrect answers.

Each CMA exam will include an undisclosed number of “pretest” questions to gather data for their future potential use. Such questions do not count toward your score. It does no good to try to guess which questions might be pretest questions, so it’s best to give every question your full attention.

But if you struggle with test anxiety and get hung up on a particularly difficult question, remember, it could be a pretest question and might not even count toward your score! Make your best guess and mark it to revisit later if you have extra time.

For information on how to study for the CMA multiple-choice questions, visit our study guide resource page.

CMA essay questions

The essay portion of the CMA exam is broken down into multiple questions based on the two scenarios provided. Your answers are manually graded by a subject-matter expert, and essays can be awarded partial credit, so never leave an item blank. Your goal is to show that you possess the knowledge of a CMA, and every point helps you achieve this goal.

Note that the CMA graders are looking to give you points, not take them away. Don’t worry about including too much information when you’re writing your essays. Ultimately, the more of your thought process you show, the better the chances are for the grader to find your work worthy of points.

NOTE: This doesn’t mean you should throw a bunch of unrelated topics into your essay. If you begin to write poorly or confuse the point of your essay by adding a bunch of unrelated content, you will end up losing points for organization and writing skills.

For information on how to study for the CMA essay questions, visit our study guide resource page.

What is the CMA performance report?

The performance report is broken down into the same content areas as the Content Specification Outline, the outline used to explain what is on the exam. The report lists every content area and assigns each a “Descriptive Level” that indicates your performance. There are three Descriptive Levels: Satisfactory (S), Marginal (M), and Unsatisfactory (U).

  • “S” is the strongest score you can receive. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t make any mistakes, but rather your understanding of the content area is well developed. If you sit for the exam again, light review of this material should be sufficient.
  • “M” indicates a score that is barely passing. You likely understand the general concepts but struggle to apply them at a higher level. Read through any relevant outline material and test yourself frequently with practice quizzes.
  • “U” covers a very wide range. You could have received a U because of an off-performance day (perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep the night before or had some test-day nerves) and missed Marginal performance by a question or two. You could also have missed them all (but probably not!). If you receive a U on a content area, you will need to prepare a robust study plan and stick to it.

Candidates who fail an exam part will receive a Performance Report via email from Prometric approximately 14 days after exam results are posted. If you have to retake an exam part, you will know what to study.

NOTE: While the performance report will help you determine your weak areas, you want to make sure you review everything. Remember, you are not trying to “make up” the remaining points; you’re going to sit for the exam again, which means you need to maintain your mastery of topics you know well and improve across all others. The report should help refine your review, not dictate it completely.

What is the pass rate for the CMA exam?

The CMA exam saw significant changes in 2020, and as a result, 2020 pass rates could be similarly affected. We are already seeing an increase in the pass rates for CMA Part 1. You can see the pass rates from the new exam below:

2020 Quarter 1 Pass Rates
CMA 145%
CMA 245%

These scores show the average pass rate for CMA Part 1 has benefited from these changes, which is good news for candidates moving forward. Prior to the exam changes, the pass rate for Part 1 of the CMA exam was around 36%, and the pass rate for Part 2 was around 50%. Pass rates have only fluctuated slightly from 2015-2019.

CMA Part 1 Pass Rate CMA Part 2 Pass Rate

NOTE: Pass rates based on averages from 2015-2019.

These pass rates might seem disheartening, but there are multiple reasons why these scores are so low. Foremost of these is the broad pool of CMA candidates. The CMA is respected and sought after internationally, and the most difficult requirement for certification is passing the exam. Many try, but not all adequately prepare. Know that if you invest the time studying, you can pass the CMA exam.

Is the CMA exam hard?

The short answer is yes, the CMA exam is difficult. But it has good reasons for being difficult—it is meant to verify you have the needed skills to be a CMA. That said, it isn’t necessarily as difficult as its low pass rates imply.

There are multiple factors that influence the CMA exam pass rates, but two of the leading ones have to do with the CMA candidate pool—especially compared to that ofother accounting certifications.

The CMA exam is an international exam

While many accounting certifications have international candidates, the CMA certification is more widely used internationally than other common accounting certifications, such as the CPA. In addition, the CMA exam is only offered in English in most countries. This means that many CMA candidates are taking an exam, one with an essay portion, in a language other than their native one.

NOTE: The CMA exam is offered in Simplified Chinese in China.

Taking an exam in another language may be reflected in the low pass rates. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to study for the CMA exam in English. You’ll need to be comfortable with the format of the exam, the wording of the questions, and the topics in order to maximize your odds of passing the CMA exam.

The CMA exam doesn’t require an accounting degree

Anyone with a bachelor’s degree can become a CMA. In fact, you can sit for the CMA exam before you’ve completed a bachelor’s degree. This means that some CMA candidates may not have a firm foundation in accounting on which to build their studies, which can result in poor scores on the exam.

Many other accounting certifications require an accounting-related degree to sit for the exam, so the CMA exam attracts more non-accountants than other certifications.

NOTE: The CMA exam tests foundational accounting knowledge and many accounting-related topics. Be sure to check out what topics the CMA exam tests before you begin your studies.

What if I fail the CMA exam?

If you do not pass the CMA exam, you will receive a CMA score report approximately 14 days after your exam results are posted. As discussed above, this score report will help refine your study plan, but it should not be your only consideration.

Use your CMA score report to create a list of strengths and weaknesses

Your CMA score report will tell you some of your weak areas, so write those topics down. But it won’t be good enough to just study your weak areas because you may have lost points on questions from other topic areas too.

Make use of a CMA exam review system if you’re not already

If you’re not using a CMA exam review system, finding one is a great way to improve your odds of passing the next time. A review provider will help you identify more topics you need to review and will provide exam-emulating questions to test yourself against.

Use the information provided by your CMA practice exam, if applicable, to add to your list of review topics

In addition to your CMA score report, if you’re working with a CMA review provider, you’ll likely have a list of exam topics that could use attention from your CMA practice test (if you took one). Be sure not to ignore the results from your practice exam, even if the results differ from your score report.

Discuss your study plan with an CMA exam expert

After you’ve made your CMA study plan, discuss it with an expert. This could be someone personal, such as a mentor, or an exam expert, such as one of the Personal Counselors here at Gleim. This will ensure you’re not overlooking anything and help reestablish your confidence for the CMA exam.

Create a study schedule using your list of review topics

Now that you have a list of review topics, you’ll want to create a study plan for the CMA exam. This is the same process as discussed on our CMA study plan resource page, so we won’t cover it in detail here. Suffice to say, create weekly benchmarks for your review using a calendar and note your actual progress as you study.

NOTE: Be sure to include time for a general review of all topics and an exam rehearsal. Just improving your weak areas is often not enough to pass the CMA exam next time. Your next CMA exam will have different questions and will weight topics differently, so you’ll want to invest some time in reviewing other topic areas. This also serves to improve your mastery of these topics, which will help you score better next time.

Schedule the CMA exam using the information from your study plan

Your study plan should include an end date. Use this date to decide which testing window to sit for the CMA exam and make an appointment. It is best to try to retake the CMA exam in the next testing window. This ensures you won’t forget any of your studies and helps you avoid wasting valuable time refreshing mastered topics.

Just like when you took the CMA exam the first time, staying motivated is key to your success.

NOTE: Scheduling your exam near the beginning of a testing window will help if you need to reschedule the exam later on.

Sit for, and pass, your CMA exam

When you sit for the CMA exam, use your exam tips and preparation to conquer the CMA exam and get one step closer to earning your CMA certification.