The CMA Exam - Everything you need to know

Obtaining your CMA certification shows employers you have valuable skills and knowledge in necessary competencies like strategic planning, financial data analytics, and risk mitigation. But before you can become a Certified Management Accountant, you have to pass the CMA Exam. To help you get started, we’re outlining everything you need to know, from requirements necessary to take the exam to what kind of topics will be on it.

CMA Exam requirements

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is the governing body over CMA certification. The only requirement you must meet prior to sitting for the CMA Exam is having an active membership with the IMA. They offer several tiers of membership depending on your career: 

  • Professionals: $295
  • Students: $49
  • Academics: $160

Once you join, you can pay the entrance fee for the CMA Exam and receive the CMA support package prior to the exam as well as feedback reports, experience and education credential reviews, and employer notification when you receive your CMA designation. 

  • Professionals: $300
  • Students: $225
  • Academics: $225

After paying the fee, you have three years to pass both sections of the CMA Exam. Otherwise, you will have to pay the fee again. 

When you're ready to sit for either Part 1 or Part 2 of the CMA Exam, you'll also need to pay the exam fees. 

  • Professionals: $495 per part ($990 total)
  • Students: $370 per part ($740 total)
  • Academics: $370 per part ($740 total)

Education and experience requirements

All candidates must have a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university or college, though a related professional certification may be accepted. Also, all candidates need to show two consecutive years working in management accounting or financial management, not including internships or training positions. 


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The CMA Exam format and topics

The CMA Exam consists of two separate exams, both of which test your knowledge of six competencies (12 total) and consist of 100 multiple choice questions and two essay questions. 

Part One: Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics

  • Planning, budgeting and finance: 20% of the exam focuses on this topic
  • Performance management: 20%
  • External financial reporting decisions: 15%
  • Cost management: 15%
  • Internal controls: 15% 
  • Technology and analytics: 15%

Part Two: Strategic Financial Management

  • Decision analysis: 25% of the exam focuses on this topic
  • Financial statement analysis: 20%
  • Corporate finance: 20%
  • Professional ethics: 15%
  • Risk management: 10%
  • Investment decisions: 10%

Both parts of the CMA Exam are scored from 0 to 500, with 500 being a perfect score. Multiple choice counts for 75 percent of the grade while the essay section counts for 25 percent. All scores are scaled to maintain consistency and fairness across candidates. 

You must score a 360 on both Part One and Part Two to earn your certification.

CMA Testing Windows

CMA testing is only available during specific windows. In 2024, the CMA Exam dates are: 

  • January 1 through February 29
  • May 1 through June 30
  • September 1 through October 31

It's important to note that you can't take an exam part more than once per testing window. 


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Preparing for the CMA Exam

The CMA Exam pass rate in 2020 was only about 45 percent. While it's a challenging exam, you can improve your likelihood of passing the first time with the right preparation. 

Create a study schedule

The IMA recommends candidates spend between 150 and 170 hours studying for each part of the exam. It's important to pace yourself and stick with studying by setting up a realistic study schedule that works with your other obligations and that you can maintain. 

For example, if you work 40 hours a week and have young children, studying three to four hours each weeknight and five to six hours a day on the weekends is probably not feasible. But maybe one to two hours a few nights a week and two to three hours each day on the weekend could work with your schedule. 

Create a study environment

Give yourself a space to study where you can concentrate and minimize your distractions as much as possible. This may be at home, the library, a coffeeshop, or anyplace you can go and devote your attention to complicated material. If you're easily distracted by noise, consider investing in a set of noise-cancelling headphones. 

Use a CMA Exam review course

The best tip we can provide is relying on a CMA Exam review to get you Exam Day ReadySM. Having videos where instructors break down complex topics into real world examples, textbooks that provide in-depth knowledge and practice exams that test your retention can give you the confidence you need to pass on the first try. 

Get a 14-day free trial of our CMA Exam review course

At Becker, we're dedicated to making sure you have the resources, material and support you need to pass the CMA Exam on the first try. To see why more students choose Becker, get a 14-day free trial of our CMA Exam review course and get started on meeting your career goals! 

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Why Becker?

The benefits of being a CMA are clearly widespread, and can lead to a variety of lucrative and fulfilling career opportunities that can reward you throughout your career's lifecycle. Explore all of Becker's CMA offerings to get started on your path to CMA.

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