Meet Nicolas Lehmann, a 25-year-old graduate student from Bottmingen, Switzerland.
In February, the ICMA, the certifying body of the IMA, announced that Nicolas was the recipient of the ICMA Gold Medal for his performance on the CMA Exam. How well did he do? Better than everyone else in the world.
Out of the 5,726 candidates worldwide who sat for the CMA Exam, Nicolas earned the top score.
And it’s not really a big surprise. If you check out his LinkedIn profile, you’ll quickly see that Nicolas is serious about management accounting.
“Mathematics and numbers were always a passion of mine,” he says. “On the other side, I had a huge interest when it comes to business, business ideas, business models. To combine that—management accounting and also accounting in general–that’s a cool area for me and it’s my passion.”
But Nicolas still needed a little help along the way to earning the ICMA Gold Medal. He attended the CMA course at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, where he’s currently pursing a master’s degree in Accounting and Finance.
“I was influenced by my professor at the university, who taught the preparation course for the CMA,” Nicolas says. “And because I had this interest in management accounting, I saw the course, I did some research about the exams and certifications, and said, ‘Okay, this is suitable for me.’”
Nicolas isn’t shy about sharing his recipe for success on the CMA Exam.
“Practice is the key,” he says. “It’s not done by reading just the curriculum and getting the basic knowledge. You really have to practice it and then you have to do the sample exam, all four hours at home, to experience the whole thing.”
For three months straight, Nicolas did intense multiple-choice question drills for several hours a day. He answered 3,000 questions in all. When he was done, he went back and work them all again.
One thing Nicolas learned during his intense weeks of study was to work on his weaknesses. For him, that meant working on his essay writing.
“In the multiple-choice section, you just have to click on one of the four possibilities,” he says. “In the essay, you’re not really sure if it’s the correct answer and it was a bit challenging for me in Part I. After taking the Part 1 exam, I adapted my style and focused more on essay writing and how to write a correct answer for Part II.”
“I used the solutions from the Wiley book,” Nicolas explains. “I liked the essay part in the Wiley book. I think they are—the essay questions, the official ones provided by IMA—the solutions were very good and it was easy to follow. And I got a feeling of what the exam would be like.”
Even though he’s passed the CMA Exam, Nicolas stills need to meet the work requirement before becoming a Certified Management Accountant. But he’s likely to have a strong start in the workforce, having already held internships with Google and Procter & Gamble.
“When we talk about the CMA, it has helped me already during my latest internship at Procter & Gamble,” he says. “There, I was a financial analyst for the sales team, and the skill-set really helped me. And I have to say for job interviews and applications, it’s always special to mention you have the CMA.”
So, what’s Nicolas’s advice to other candidates preparing for the CMA Exam?
“You should not have any blind spots,” he says. “It’s beneficial to have an overview of knowledge in all areas. Those 20% essay questions might come out of one area that you said, “Oh, it’s not so interesting and probably won’t be on the exam.’ Then it comes up and it’s really uncomfortable during the exam.”