Top 10 Tips on CMA Essay Questions

Ever since I started teaching CMA, I have seen great concern from students regarding the essay questions part of the exam. Although I believe the essay questions in CMA are not difficult but in order to build confidence in the students, I often dedicate specific classes for this section of the exam.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to succeed in the essay questions part of the exam.

  1. Before moving on to the essay questions practice a good number of multiple choice questions. The reason behind this is very simple. Doing a large number of multiple choice questions will make certain that you have very good knowledge of all the relevant areas in the syllabus. Once you have the knowledge, applying that in the essay questions is not all that difficult.
  2. Don’t get scared by the words ”Essay questions”. You don’t really need to write large essays!!! You should know from the start that you are not required to write several pages of essays in these questions. In fact, the name of this section of the exam is quite misleading. Most essay questions have a small case study and the questions generally require a few sentences to be written or a few calculations to be done. You should expect between 4 to 10 parts in each essay question.
  3. Make sure that you know the meanings of verbs in the requirements. You should know that there is a difference between ”list, explain, identify, define, discuss, analyze, evaluate etc”. Each of these verbs mean a different thing and will require you to write different lengths in your answers. I have discussed in detail in another article of mine the meaning of each of these verbs. Although the examiner does not expect a very high level of English in the essay questions, he definitely expect you to at least know the meaning and application of each of the verbs.
  4. Read the requirements first. By doing so, you will make sure that you know what to look for when you start reading the scenario. A lot of times the scenario contains least contains some part of the answer; especially in descriptive requirements. Note that you can move back and forth between several parts of essay questions during the exam.
  5. Be brief and specific. You can use bullet points! You should know that the essay questions are checked by a team of human beings rather than the computer. Therefore they can really judge you and hence score you down if you write too much hoping to at least get something correct. Yo can you bullet points but avoid writing just one or two words in each of the bullets. Instead try to at least write one sentence in each bullet point. As a general rule, one or two sentences for each point are sufficient.
  6. Never leave a question blank even when you are running out of time. You will be awarded partial credit for your work. If you ran out of all the time, it is OK to quickly write outlines of he main points.
  7. Always show your workings. Even if you get the answer wrong, you can still get majority of the marks if you have shown your working in the calculations part of the essay questions.
  8. Utilize all the available time. If you are done with answering all the questions and there is still some time remaining, use that time to review your questions or to do those questions you are not really sure about. Do not exit the exam before the time gets over.
  9. Go through material specific to essay questions. Some resources like essay questions from the exam support package and Hock International’s videos where Brian Hock solves some essay questions can be very useful. Try practicing as much as possible in the time you have. However also make sure you are practicing a good number of Multiple Choice Questions because these are 75% of the exam and Essay questions are just 25% of the exam.
  10. Know how the essay part of the exam looks like. Below is a screenshot of how the essay part of the exam looks like and also some sentences describing this part of the exam.

If you have any questions regarding this article in particular or CMA exam in general, you can email me at :

Good luck and study hard!

Written by: Mr Hasham Abbasi