How to Pass the CMA exam in the first attempt

CMA all over the Middle East in general and Qatar in particular has seen amazing growth in the recent few years. The number of students enrolling into the program has increased many times which is something very positive both for the employers and the employees. Employers benefit by having competent management accountants who can help the company make informed decisions whereas the employees benefit from earning higher remunerations. In terms of the figures; according to the recent IMA Salary Survey, CMA qualified employees earn on average 33% more than non-CMAs. That means everything is going great, right? WRONG. Although the number of new students enrolling in the CMA program is very high, the number who actually ends up passing the exam is very small. To be exact, the CMA pass rate for the entire Middle East is just 10%, which is even less than a pass rate of 15% for the CFA qualification (Chartered Financial Analyst) which is famous for being very challenging.

In this article I will briefly share with you a few key points on how the pass the CMA exam in the first attempt.

1. Set you expectations right. CMA is not easy : Most people get drawn towards the CMA qualification because it has just two computer based exams. If you think you can just pass the exam by skimming through the book a few times and doing a few questions, GET READY FOR A SURPRISE. The first thing you need to do to pass the CMA exam is to have the right mindset i.e. to know that the exam is challenging and you will have to put in a significant amount of hard work in order to pass. And Yes! Remember! If CMA was easy, it would not have much worth. It is so recognized all over the world because it is a challenging and a very comprehensive exam.

2. Stop thinking of yourself as a financial expert : A great number of students who enter into the CMA qualification have studied accounting and finance for several years at universities and have years of experience in the industry. A lot of these students become over confident because of that. Although your previous qualifications and experience helps a lot in understanding concepts, the CMA exam is a lot about techniques which come only from question practice and good lecturer support.

3. Studying at home after your class is absolutely essential: When it comes to passing the CMA exam, you have to study in the right way, NOT THE EASY WAY. It is easy to come for a class and watch your trainer explain concepts and do questions. But that alone will never make you pass. In order to get good at solving questions, you have to practice a very good number of questions by yourself. The more questions you practice on your own, the more speed and accuracy you will build up before the exam.

4. Make sure you join an instructor led course: After working with students studying various different qualifications, one thing I have learned is that passing the CMA exam on your own and passing is almost impossible. That is because unlike other courses like ACCA, CIMA etc. there are very few good self study resources available for CMA. Self studying will mean wasting a lot of time going through the material just to get familiar with it. With a syllabus that is huge and your time which is limited, this can be a disaster. Moreover joining a tuition provider will cost you just a little bit above what it costs to buy study material. At Excellence Training for example, we give students a lot of study material as a part of the package. If student were to buy that material from that market, it will cost them much much more than the price of our package.

5. Spend more time practicing questions than reading textb0ooks: The CMA exam is all about being able to answer the questions correctly. Because of just four hours of mostly multiple choice questions, the exam is more about exam techniques rather than conceptional understandings. So stop reading the book again and again and start practicing more and more questions. Remember! You are taking a professional exam; not an academic exam and your preparation has to be exam focused. In other words question based.

6. Choose your tuition provider very carefully: Since CMA has just two parts, you will find a very large number of training centres offering the qualification. A vast majority of these just aim to take the tuition fee from the students once and then provide them a very cheap service hence increasing their margins. That is a much easier way to earn money than actually making the students pass so that they will pay again for CMA Part 2. Joining such a tuition provider will mean the trainers will generally be of lower standard, the study material will be very limited and there will be no support outside the class room which will make passing CMA for you an impossible task. So beware of tuition providers who insist on you paying for both parts at once or those whose prices are unbelievably low. Both of these things are signs of poor quality.


Written by : Hasham Abbasi, CMA trainer.