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CMA Exam Overview and Resources

In order to become a Certified Management Accountant, one must pass the CMA exam. Passing the CMA certifies accountants to work in corporate financial account and management settings.

This qualification covers separate topics from those who receive a certified public accountant (CPA) certification. The CMA exam and resounding certification focuses on management and other executive duties.

A CMA designation shows that you are a strategic management and financial accounting expert. While public accountants focus on the day-to-day, detail-oriented matters, CMAs are focused on big-picture planning.

Summary: Utilize our CMA resources below to help you prepare for your CMA exam.

CMA Exam Resources

Here’s a list of free CMA exam practice tests, resources, and study guides. Use these resources as a way to prepare to pass your test.

Official CMA HandbookGeneral information about becoming a CMA.Institution of Management Accountants
CMA Exam Practice QuestionsICMA-published book of practice essay questions and answers.Academia
Official CMA Exam Practice QuestionsThe IMA’s CMA guide with sample questions and essays.Institution of Management Accountants
Navigating CMA Multiple-Choice QuestionsInteractive sessions to get hands-on experience with actual CMA exam multiple choice questions.Institution of Management Accountants
CMA Exam Flashcards 1Review 50+ flashcards to prepare for the exam.Quizlet
CMA Exam Flashcards 2Review 20+ flashcards to prepare for the exam.Quizlet

CMA Exam Outline

To become a Certified Management Accountant, you must pass Parts 1 and 2 of the CMA Exam. This exam has been created to ensure that individuals have the skills to perform the duties necessary.

SectionDescriptionNumber of QuestionsDuration
1Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics

100 multiple choice questions

2 30-minute essay questions

4 hours
2Strategic Financial Management

100 multiple choice questions

2 30-minute essay questions

4 hours

The CMA exam consists of two sections lasting four hours each. The sections are broken down into separate focuses.

CMA Exam Part 1

  • Financial Reporting Decisions (15%)
  • Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting (20%)
  • Performance Management (20%)
  • Cost Management (15%)
  • Internal Controls (15%)
  • Technology and Analytics (15%)

CMA Exam Part 2

  • Financial Statement Analysis (20%)
  • Corporate Finance (20%)
  • Decision Analysis (25%)
  • Risk Management (10%)
  • Investment Decisions (10%)
  • Professional Ethics (15%)

This breakdown can help candidates understand what they need to focus on, where their priorities should be, and how they should schedule out their studying.

Hopeful candidates can take the test sections in any order, starting with part 1 or part 2. The CMA exam tests the knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, and evaluation of the information and questions presented. Part 1 has the lowest pass rate of the two parts at around 36%.

CMA Exam Scheduling, Fees, and Administration

Before you take your exam, ensure that you have all of the credentials and other necessities to take and pass the test.

How to Register for the CMA Exam

To become a Certified Management Accountant, you must first register for the CMA program. To do this, you must join the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). This is an association of accountants and other financial professionals.

As a member of the IMA, you will have access to continuing education programs and networking opportunities. The annual membership rates are as follows:

Type of MembershipAnnual FeeRegistration Fee
Full-Time Faculty$120$15

To register, all you have to do is fill out an application and pay the membership and registration fee. To remain a CMA, you must maintain an IMA membership and pay the annual dues.

Scheduling Your CMA exam

There are three testing periods throughout the year, each two months at a time.

Testing Window 1 – January through February

Testing Window 2 – May through June

Testing Window 3 – September through October

You can register for one of these testing windows until the 15th of the last month in the window. For example, for Testing Window 1, you have until February 15th to register.

To make an exam appointment, register for a testing window at the IMA’s CMA website. It’s recommended to schedule your exam appointment at least four weeks in advance. You must register at least 72 hours ahead of your date.

How Much Does It Cost to Take the CMA Exam?

Exam registration costs depend on your IMA membership. If you are a student or academic, the fee is $311. Professionals will pay $415 for the registration fee.

How is the CMA Exam Administered?

You can take part 1 and part 2 of the CMA exam in any order and it does not have to be on the same day. Many prefer to complete part 2 first, as that has a higher passing rate than part 1. Once you are registered, you will go to the location of where your exam will be administered.

CMA Exam Requirements

Be mindful of the CMA Exam requirements. Make sure that you have all of the qualifications needed before scheduling the test. To take the exam, you must:

  • Be an IMA member.
  • Be enrolled in a CMA program.

As stated above, you must be an IMA member to take the test. Additionally, you must also be enrolled in the CMA program. The CMA program will have an enrollment fee to ICMA. After you complete this program, you have three years to complete and pass both parts of the CMA Exam.

To become a CMA, you must also:

  • Have a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited university.
  • Earn a professional accounting certification.
  • Work two years of relevant job experience.

Most prep exams recommend completing at least 150 hours of coursework before you take the tests.

CMA Exam Scoring

The most recent average passing rate of the CMA exam was 34% and 46% on part 1 and part 2 respectively. Part 1 is considered to be the most difficult of the two sections, and many are required to retake the test due to the high failure rate.

Both sections of the exam are scored on a scale of 0 to 500. The scores are weighted, with multiple-choice questions worth 75% of the overall score and the four total 30-minute essays are worth 25%. Incorrect multiple choice question answers are not penalized.

To continue on to the essay section, however, test takers are required to score at least a 50% on the multiple choice section. Essay questions can be given partial credit, and showing your work can add up to many extra points.

To pass the CMA exam, you must receive a 70%, which is 360 points out of 500. Because the scoring is scaled, candidates will learn their score in relation to the passing score of 360. 

It takes about two weeks for exam takers to get their results via email from Prometric. This is a broken down report that shows where candidates can improve and what they were successful at.


The main difference between these two credentials is the CPAs tend to work with public accounting, while CMAs work more in the industry sector.

CPAs are the most recognized credential in the accounting industry.

The CMA Exam has a lower pass rate than the CPA Exam. CPAs do not have as much time to complete the exam, with 18 months as opposed to 36 months for the CMA. Finally, the CPA Exam has four parts to the CMA’s two.

The CMA Exam is very focused on understanding concepts with a high-level of depth. This has given the CMA Exam the reputation of being a difficult-to-pass test.

You should commit at least 90 or more hours per section. For many, this means that studying can take anywhere from two to three months.

You need to score at least 360 points out of a total 500. Due to the weighted results, the actual amount of missed questions varies. The exam portion allows for partial credit, helping to boost many candidate’s scores.

Gianni Evangelisti
Gianni has been working in the test prep industry for 6+ years. Gianni has created test prep materials across multiple different exam categories.