CMA Exam 101

Welcome to The CMA Guide! My name is Bryan Kesler and I wanted to help give you the basic background on what the CMA exam is and what to expect.

What is the CMA Exam?

The Certified Management Accountant, or CMA, is a certification for accountants/financial management. Unlike the Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, designation which is focused on public accounting the CMA is aimed at corporate professionals in the private industry.

***Differences between CMA and CPA Exams***

So in other words, CMAs are concerned with management accounting and internal reporting. The ability to provide timely and relevant data and budgets to management assists in problem solving and day to day decision making. So if you are aspiring to become a controller or CFO someday then the CMA will be one of the most valuable certifications for you to obtain. 

The CMA exam is made up of 2 parts, which can be taken in any order you wish.

It is required that you take at least one part within the first 12 months of entering the CMA program and you must complete both parts within three years. If you do not pass both parts within the three year time limit then any credit received for passing a single part will expire and you will have to retake the full exam. 

Here is a breakout of what is included in each part of the CMA exam:

Part One - Financial Planning, Performance and Control

It is a 4 hour exam made up of 100 multiple choice questions and two 30-minute essay questions
The various topics covered are as follows:

  • Planning, budgeting, and forecasting
  • Performance management
  • Cost management
  • Internal controls
  • Professional ethics

Part Two - Financial Decision Making

It is also a 4 hour exam made up of 100 multiple choice questions and two 30-minute essay questions
The various topics covered are as follows:

  • Financial statement analysis
  • Corporate finance
  • Decision analysis and risk management
  • Investment decisions
  • Professional ethics

What are the Education and Professional Requirements to Sit for the CMA Exam?

There are specific education and experience requirements in order to be eligible to sit for the CMA exam. Per the IMA website you must have completed the following:

You must be a member of the IMA - Sign up by using this link

* You must at a minimum have a Bachelors degree from an accredited college or university - click here for a list of education institutes 

* A minimum of 2 years of continuous professional experience in management accounting or financial management. Qualifying experience includes but is not limited to the following:
• Preparation of financial statements 
• Financial planning & analysis 
• Monthly, quarterly, and year end close 
• Auditing (external or internal) 
• Budget preparation & reporting 
• Manage general ledger and balance sheets 
• Forecasting 
• Company investment decision making 
• Costing analysis 
• Risk evaluation 

* You must also pay and entrance fee of $240 (Professional Member) or $75 (Student/Academic Member) to join the CMA program - click here to enter the CMA program
* To sign up to sit for the CMA exam there is also a standard fee as follows:
Professional Member Exam Fee Both Parts - $330 per part
Professional Member Exam Fee Single Part - $380 per part
Student/Academic Member Exam Fee Both Parts - $140 per part
Student/Academic Member Exam Fee Single Part - $190 per part

How is the CMA Exam Scored?

Check out my CMA Exam Score Release Page to find out more

What are the Pass Rates for the CMA Exam?

The pass rate for the CMA exam is very low for any standardized test. During 2014 the pass rates were as follows:

5/1/13-2/28/2014 Pass Rates Worldwide Part 1 Part 2
Worldwide 35% 42%
Asia Pacific 41% 45%
Europe 49% 52%
Middle East & Africa 21% 29%
The Americas 51% 52%

Based on these pass-rates it is very apparent that having the best review course possible is very crucial to anyone looking to take the CMA exam. 

You can check out my assessments of the best review courses currently available to help you make the most informed decision possible. 

Click here for my reviews of the Best CMA Review Courses

What are Salary Expectations for a CMA?

So you put in the hard work and pass the CMA exam. What are the benefits??

The IMA completed a salary survey of accounting professionals and put together the following formula to best estimate what your median salary should be based on experience and your designations. The good news is that a typical CMA makes an average of $20K more than your peers without a CMA!

There is a real need for CMAs in corporate America and around the world so companies are willing to pay for your experience and knowledge! Just think that if you can become a CMA early in your career you will be making 20K more per year over your entire career than someone without a CMA. So while spending almost $1,000 on a review course + another $1,500 to sign up to sit for the CMA exam may seem like a lot up front it will be the best investment in your career that you can make! 

FYI: 20K X 40 years = $800,000!

What Is My Next Step?

You need to find a CMA review course that is going to GUARANTEE you will pass the CMA exam on your first try so you can start making $20K more per year!

List of Top CMA Review Courses and Discounts