In the United States and North America, 51% of candidates pass Level 1 of the CMA Exam and 54% pass Level 2. Worldwide, however, those numbers decrease to only 31% for Level 1 and 47% for Level 2. Statistically, these pass rates indicate that approximately just one out of two people who take the test may not pass on their first try.

To pass on your first try, you need to prepare. And you always need to be practicing.

Before You Register

Preparation for the test starts even before you fill out the CMA exam application. Understanding the criteria required to becoming a CMA, and to use the credential effectively, is essential when assessing the test prep playing field.

As background, the Institute of Certified Management Accountants creates and administers the CMA exam. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university as well as two years of uninterrupted, full-time work in the field before being certified as a CMA.

What is in this field of study?  It is a position with exposure to management accounting or financial management.  These two years of work experience will give you the foundation you need in order to take the test, however this period can also be an invaluable resource during your test preparation and evaluation period.

On-The-Job Experience

This one might seem obvious—but using the day to day cases you encounter in the professional realm as a way to apply what you’re learning to prepare for the test will help to ingrain key concepts. As an applicant, you should take on projects or jobs in general financial management and gain experience to the applied theory the CMA supports.

Let’s start with the first portion of the exam, which covers the basics of Financial Planning by testing one’s knowledge of the following components: budgets, financial forecasts, operations, and performance management. If you have prior experience in Cost Accounting and Cost Accounting Management, you will already be familiar and comfortable with many of these subjects. This is the foundation that is crucial for the critical thinking and decision making that will be expected of a CMA holder in the workplace.

Part Two of the exam uses the aforementioned core and expands it to reasoning. It covers the critical steps that go into making vital financial decisions. It also includes a section on Corporate Finance and the utility and methodology behind effective analysis of corporate finance policy. Like the first portion, previous experience such as work in Cost Accounting or financial analysis will be invaluable to you, since the aim of the section is to measure critical thinking skills.

Here are three simple activities you can do to make your work -day study time:

  1. Use CMA vocabulary in meetings and on projects–saying the words in context creates a deeper level of comprehension
  2. After meetings that bring up relevant topics, write meeting notes that map to your study guides
  3. At the end of every week – or periodically – review your work to see which parts are in-line with the CMA exam

The tips above may also apply to CPA and CFA test prep.

Do you have any other techniques you utilize at work to help you prepare? Let us know in the comments!