Is CMA Tough?

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A lot of people are curious about the level of difficulty associated with the CMA exam. After all, if the pass rates are any indication, it’s safe to say that the majority of candidates find it incredibly tough.

The CMA exam can be difficult for different reasons. But it isn’t merely a matter of difficulty, as much as students tend to lack proper guidance. With enough effort and proper preparation, the CMA exam difficulty will not phase you or hamper your ability to pass.

Is the CMA Exam tough?

With CMA exam pass rates as low as 45% for Part One and also 45% for Part Two, there is obviously a high level of difficulty.

But why is the CMA test hard and what can you do to bridge the gap between the statistics and earning your own passing grade?

There are a few factors that may contribute to these low marks, so let’s break down some of the most common issues.

How Long Does It Take to Study to Pass the CMA Exam?

To pass the CMA exam, you’ll need to dedicate a bare minimum of 90 hours to studying beforehand. However, we’d recommend shooting for closer to 300 hours to raise your chances of doing well on the exam. You can space out your study schedule over a six to nine-month period. The best CMA review courses will ensure you cover and review all the material.

CMA Exam Prerequisites

The first step in getting your CMA certificate is to earn a bachelor’s degree. What’s interesting about this is that that CMA doesn’t care what kind of degree you have. Unlike other career niches where you are required to have an applicable degree, anyone can take the CMA exam. That is to say, you could have a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and that qualifies you for the CMA exam.

In my opinion, this puts you at somewhat of a disadvantage because you will not be familiar with any of the study materials or content prior to preparing for the exam.

While there is an experience requirement that candidates must fulfil – two continuous years in an applicable field of management accounting – I still think the degree prerequisite adds to the low passing rates.

CMA Exam Structure

This exam is made up of two different parts. As I mentioned above, the passing rate for Part One is only 40% and 50% for Part Two.

Each CMA exam part contains 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and 2, 30-minute essay scenarios containing about 8-10 written response questions.

The CMA exam is also quite long. To answer all of these questions, candidates have 4 hours of total testing time: 3 hours for the MCQs and 1 hour for the essays.

The exam is taken at one of the many global Prometric centres and is computer-based. It has been my experience that many candidates get jammed up on how to study for the CMA exam and don’t use the right tools to prepare; i.e. the right review course.


In terms of content, each Part of the exam covers quite a bit of information. Part One is all about Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics. This requires understanding external financial reporting decisions, planning, budgeting and forecasting, performance management, cost management, internal controls, and analytics.

The CMA exam is comprised of 2 parts. Part 1 focuses on financial accounting, including planning, budgeting, forecasting, as well as performance and cost management, and internal controls. Part 2 includes financial statement analysis, corporate finance, decision analysis, risk management, investment decisions, and professional ethics.

The sheer volume of information covered in each part of the exam is one of the reasons for getting a CMA exam passing score is so difficult. For this reason, I highly recommend using a review course so you can focus your study efforts on the information you don’t understand that well vs wasting your time on content you comprehend.

Skills the Exam Tests You On

Due to the fact that the role of a certified management accountant is so specialized, it’s necessary that the exam tests candidate’s various cognitive skills to ensure they really know the material.

Specifically, the candidate must have 6 cognitive skills in order to pass the exam

  • Knowledge: the ability to remember previously learned material such as specific facts, criteria, techniques, principles, and procedures (i.e., identify, define, list).
  • Comprehension: the ability to grasp and interpret the meaning of material (i.e., classify, explain, distinguish between).
  • Application: the ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations (i.e., demonstrate, predict, solve, modify, relate).
  • Analysis: the ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure can be understood; ability to recognize causal relationships, discriminate between behaviours, and identify elements that are relevant to the validation of a judgment (i.e., differentiate, estimate, order).
  • Synthesis: the ability to put parts together to form a new whole or proposed set of operations; ability to relate ideas and formulate hypotheses (i.e. combine, formulate, revise).
  • Evaluation: Ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose on the basis of consistency, logical accuracy, and comparison to standards; ability to appraise judgments involved in the selection of a course of action (i.e., criticize, justify, conclude).

Your ability to demonstrate each of these cognitive skills, especially during the essay portion of the exam, is critical to success.

CMA Exam Difficulty

CMA exam covers all the above mentioned topics in just two exam parts.

The scope of material covered for financial management varies by designation and your personal interest in the material can play an effect on your success. For example, if you are enjoying the CMA content you will be more apt to stick to a study program and of course, more likely to retain the information.

How to Pass CMA Part 1 and 2 With Ease?

It’s true, the general format and volume of material covered in each part of the CMA exam can make it difficult, but there are ways around this.

For starters, understanding the multiple-choice section of the exam and what is expected from you during the essay section of the exam process can be incredibly beneficial. The more familiar you become with the exam structure, the more likely you are to succeed.

You have a comfortable amount of time to finish the CMA exam. You have three years to sit for and pass both parts. The CMA exam is offered in three testing windows every year: January/February, May/June, and September/October. You may only sit for the exam in those windows, and if you fail an exam section, you have to wait until the next testing window to sit for that section again.

In addition to that, choosing a CMA review course that taps into your personal learning style and ensuring you study the right amount of hours per week can increase your odds too.

To conclude, I would like to reassure you that US CMA is not tough for Indian students if you are under the right guidance. You must understand that taking the right guidance is the key to crack US CMA exam because of its typical course content and wide scope. Contact us for more enquiries and guidelines to clear CMA.


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