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