The Institute of Management Accountants is dedicated to excellence within the management accounting profession. The Certified Management Accountant (CMA®) designation was developed in 1972 to provide an objective measure of an individual’s knowledge and competence in the field of management accounting. Only the CMA program recognizes the unique proficiencies required for success in this challenging profession.
The purpose of this handbook is to provide information on the requirements for CMA certification, including registration procedures, scheduling exams, and the examination process itself. The handbook also includes an overview of the CMA exam content and IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice. Candidates should familiarize themselves with the information in this handbook.
To be eligible for CMA certification, you must fulfill all of the following requirements:
- 1. Active membership in the Institute of Management Accountants
- Pay the CMA Entrance Fee
- Satisfy the Education Qualification
- Satisfy the Experience Qualification
- Complete all required examination parts
- Comply with the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice
To become a certified CMA, candidates must satisfy one of the following education
requirements and submit verification of education to ICMA.
- Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university.
- Professional Certifications
Candidates for the CMA Certification must complete two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management. This requirement may be completed prior to or within seven years of passing the examination. Teaching qualifies as related professional experience when it is full-time and at least 60% of the course load taught is accounting or finance above the principles level over a two-year period. Professional experience is expected to be gained in full-time employment. However, continuous part-time positions of 20 hours per week meeting the definition of qualified experience will count toward this requirement at a rate of one year of experience for every two years of part-time employment.
Candidates for CMA certification must complete all required examination parts.
- Part 1: Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control (4 hours – 100 multiplechoice questions and two 30-minute essay questions)
- Part 2: Financial Decision Making (4 hours – 100 multiple-choice questions and two 30-minute essay questions)
Each exam part will consist of 100 multiple choice questions and two 30-minute essay questions. You will have 3 hours to complete the multiple choice section and one hour to complete the essays. The essays will be presented after you have completed the multiple choice section of the exam or after 3 hours, whichever comes first. Once you complete and exit the multiple choice section of the exam, you cannot go back. You must remain in the essay section to complete the exam. The essay section consists of 8-10 written response or calculation questions based on two scenarios, describing a typical business situation.
Note: You must answer at least 50% of the multiple-choice questions correctly to be eligible to take the essay section.
You will not receive immediate pass/fail results because the essay questions will be graded offline. This is a time consuming and labor intensive process. In order to assure consistency, accuracy, and fairness all papers are graded at the same time. Sample grading is performed first to ensure all alternative solutions have been accounted for. Reviewers check the grading throughout the grading process. Once grading is completed there is an additional review of papers on the borderline of passing. The scores for the multiple choice section will be added to the scores of the essay section for a total weighted score of pass/fail reflected in a scaled score for the entire part. Candidates are not required to “pass” both sections; the total score determines pass/fail status. Exam results will be emailed and posted to your online profile approximately six weeks from the end of the month in which you tested.
As described previously, the CMA examinations are criterion-referenced tests, meaning that they are used to determine whether a candidate meets a certain threshold or standard of performance. Accordingly, the ICMA uses an accepted procedure designed for the purpose of determining the level of performance on the tests that actually constitutes passing. This procedure involves the collective judgment of a panel of subject matter experts within the fields of management accounting and financial management. Separate passing scores are established for all parts of the exams, and all pass/fail determinations are final.
Since the actual items on the CMA exams are different from test form to test form, the different forms of the exam will vary in difficulty, in that some forms may contain somewhat more difficult questions than others. The same standard for passing the test is applied to all candidates, regardless of which form of the test they take. Thus, in order to maintain consistency in standards, the ICMA uses techniques of statistical equating to determine the equivalency of exams. The purpose of equating is to ensure that the passing scores on all forms of the exams are equivalent in terms of levels of difficulty. In this way, the same standard is maintained for all candidates, regardless of when and which test form they take.
All scores on the CMA exams are expressed as scaled scores, ranging from 0 to 500, with the passing score set at 360. The raw scores on the test (i.e., the number of items correct) are transformed to this scale for the purpose of maintaining uniformity and consistency in the way scores are reported, regardless of which test forms a candidate may take.
Performance Reports are sent via email from Prometric to candidates who fail an exam part. Performance reports are emailed approximately 14 days after exam results are posted to the candidates’ profile. Performance reports show the candidate’s performance as satisfactory, marginal or unsatisfactory for each of the key topic areas from the multiple choice section of the exam as well as the overall performance on the essay section of the exam.
Note: You cannot take an exam part more than one time during a testing window.
Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control
A. External Financial Reporting Decisions
(15%) (Level C)
Preparation of financial statements: balance sheet, income statement, statement of changes in equity, statement of cash flows; valuation of assets and liabilities; operating and capital leases; impact of equity transactions; revenue recognition; income measurement; major differences between U.S. GAAP and IFRS.
B. Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting
(30%) (Level C)
Strategic planning process; budgeting concepts; annual profit plans and supporting schedules; types of budgets, including activity-based budgeting, project budgeting, flexible budgeting; toplevel planning and analysis; and forecasting, including quantitative methods such as regression and learning curve analysis.
C. Performance Management
(20%) (Level C)
Factors to be analyzed for control and performance evaluation including revenues, costs,
profits, and investment in assets; variance analysis based on flexible budgets
and standard costs; responsibility accounting for revenue, cost, contribution and profit centers; key
performance indicators; and balanced scorecard.
D. Cost Management
(20%) (Level C)
Cost concepts, flows and terminology; alternative cost objectives; cost measurement concepts;
cost accumulation systems including job order costing, process costing, and activity-based costing;
overhead cost allocation; supply chain management and business process performance topics such
as lean manufacturing, ERP, theory of constraints, value chain analysis, ABM, continuous
improvement and efficient accounting processes.
E. Internal Controls
(15%) (Level C)
Corporate governance; internal control risk; internal control environment, procedures, and
standards; responsibility and authority for internal auditing; types of audits; assessing the
adequacy of the accounting information system controls; and business continuity planning.
Financial Decision Making
A. Financial Statement Analysis
(25%) (Level C)
Calculation and interpretation of financial ratios; evaluate performance utilizing multiple ratios; market value vs. book value; profitability analysis; analytical issues including impact of foreign operations, effects of changing prices and inflation, off- balance sheet financing, and earnings quality.
B. Corporate Finance
(20%) (Level C)
Types of risk; including credit, foreign exchange, interest rate, market, and political risk; capital
instruments for long-term financing; initial and secondary public offerings; dividend policy; cost
of capital; working capital management; raising capital; managing and financing working capital;
mergers and acquisitions; and international finance.
C. Decision Analysis
(20%) (Level C)
Relevant data concepts; cost-volume-profit analysis; marginal analysis; make vs. buy decisions;
income tax implications for operational decision analysis; pricing methodologies including market
comparable, cost-based and value-based approaches.
D. Risk Management
(10%) (Level C)
Types of risk including business, hazard, financial, operational, strategic, legal compliance and
political risk; risk mitigation; risk management; risk analysis; and ERM.
E. Investment Decisions
(15%) (Level C)
Cash flow estimates; discounted cash flow concepts; net present value; internal rate of return,
discounted payback; payback; income tax implications for investment decisions; risk analysis; and
F. Professional Ethics
(10%) (Level C)
Ethical considerations for management accounting professionals and for the organization.
EXAM STRATEGIES – MCQs
The best preparation you can make for taking the exam is thoroughly studying the material and content covered by the examination. Beyond that, however, there are several strategies you can use while taking the test that will help to maximize your performance.
- Answer the questions that you know first.
Try to avoid dwelling on any particular question(s) for extended periods of time. This will give you the opportunity to answer all of the questions you may know and also allow you to see how much time you have to devote to the questions that are more difficult for you.
- Mark the difficult questions for later review.
You should approach the test with the expectation that you will encounter at least somequestions that you cannot immediately answer. Keep in mind that each question is worth the same number of points (i.e., 1 for correct and 0 for incorrect), regardless of its difficulty. Do not agonize over any particular question, but mark those questions you are unsure of so that you can readily locate them when you are ready to look at them a second time.
- Read each question carefully, noting any key words.
Pay close attention to the wording of the question. Words such as except, least, and most in a question will have a significant bearing on the correct answer. Think each question through very carefully before answering. You may want to jot down key words that appear in the question, or to rephrase the question in your own words if you are having trouble understanding it.
- Try to answer the question in your mind before actually looking at the options.
Then see if the answer you formulated exists among the options. Doing this could serve as a sort of verification of the correct answer. You should still carefully review the other options as well, to be certain there isn’t a more appropriate answer than the one you selected.
- If you are uncertain about an answer, try to make an educated guess.
You are likely to know something about the topic presented in the question and are, therefore, often able to eliminate at least one incorrect option. If you come across an item for which you truly do not know the answer, try to eliminate those options that you deem likely to be incorrect. This will increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.
- Answer ALL of the questions.
The CMA exams do not employ a penalty for incorrect answers. Points are not deducted from your score for an incorrect answer. There is nothing to gain by leaving questions unanswered; therefore, answer all questions on the exam.
- Keep scratch paper organized.
You will be given a booklet similar to a college “bluebook,” to be used as scratch paper for doing calculations or other notes. Label these notes clearly, and show your work clearly. The scratch paper booklet is turned in at the end, and is not used in scoring your exam. However, when you go back to review your work, it is much easier and quicker if you do it neatly.
- Keep track of time
When taking the multiple-choice test, plan the amount of time given vs. the number of questions that will be presented. Watch the time you invest in each question—don’t get stuck for too long on one question. Keep moving through the questions.
- Use the full time allotted to you.
In a similar vein, there is no advantage in ending the test early. Make the most of any remaining time you may have by reviewing your work, making corrections, or going back to more difficult questions. It is possible that during such review time, you will recall some fact or information which you may have previously overlooked on one or more questions. Though it may seem like a relief to end the test early, bear in mind that the allotted time will end soon enough, and you will want to make the most of the few minutes you have remaining to you to help maximize your score.
EXAM STRATEGIES – ESSAY QUESTION
You will be given one hour to complete the essay portion of the Part 1 and 2 exams. To make the best use of your time:
Keep track of time as you work through the scenarios. Do not spend too much time on any one question. Note that the points for each scenario are proportional to the suggested time shown for that scenario.
- Begin by writing key words, thoughts, facts, figures, and anything else that can be used to
answer the question.
- Read the entire question for requirements. Note that you may have more than one task— for
example, define ABC and interpret its applicability to XYZ.
- Begin your answer with one or two sentences that directly answer the question.
- Make it as easy as possible for graders to give you points. The goal in grading is to award you points, so show your thinking clearly and effectively, detailing any calculations. You can only receive the maximum points the question is worth. Therefore, it is possible to achieve a good score even if you have an incorrect calculation provided you have shown enough other information that the grader can award points for.
- Proofread your answer for logic, thoroughness, and clarity. It is very important to make sure that the grader will be able to easily follow your thinking and understand your answer.
- Do not leave a question blank. If you do not have enough time to write a full response, write an outline of your main points to show what you know in order to get partial credit.
- Use cut/paste or copy/paste functions only within a single question. These functions do not work across questions and can lead to data being lost. If you find your answer to Question 1 also answers Question 2, write “see my answer to Question 1”.