USA Preparing for CMA Exam

May 2, 2021
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United States
Hello everyone,

I have recently passed both parts of my CMA exams and I really enjoyed my preparation. I would like to share my experience so that others can benefit from it in pursuing their CMA.

  1. Mental preparation: It is crucial that you constantly remind yourself how difficult this exam is and think about all the benefits that holding a CMA certification could provide. During my preparation I'd frequently look up the benefits of CMA and read about candidates who have successfully completed the curriculum (this can be found on the last two pages of Strategic Finance magazine provided to registered members of IMA). Also, I kept few positive assertions close to me to keep reminding me that I'm capable of doing this. Simple assertions like: "I'm strong, I'm confident, I'm smart and I'm capable of achieving anything I put my heart into." Mental preparation is the key, don't underestimate it. The goal is not to be scared but to acknowledge the mountain you must climb.
  2. Registering for the exam: For both parts of the exam I only registered after I was halfway through my study material (SM). This helped me in assessing how long would it take to finish the other half of the SM. Once you know how long it'd take to finish the SM, add one month of cushion for reviewing and taking a LOTTTTTTTT of practice questions. If you're like me and you've been out of touch with studying for over 10 years then you will need to provide yourself with a grace period to adjust to studying again. For CMA part 1 it took me 6-7 months of preparation where first 2 months I was struggling with sitting down and focusing. For the part 2 exam I was able to finish all the materials and take the exam in about 3.5 months. It's a long-term investment of time and effort, so plan accordingly.
  3. Study material – I don't want to discuss which study material I picked openly as this could discourage some people if they have invested in the study materials already. But speaking from experience, all study materials have their own strength and weaknesses, but they all do an amazing job in preparing the candidates. I can discuss the further privately, if interested.
  4. Studying for the exam: I chose a very simple strategy to study, and I'll break it down in steps:
    1. Order: When you're going through the material, study in the same order the material has been prepared. Don't skip chapters to tackle easy chapters first or vice versa. Build and continue a rhythm.
    2. Notes: For each chapter make separate notes for yourself. Either you can make notes using a notebook, like I did, or make flashcards that you can carry anywhere. Key point is to make it descriptive enough to review frequently and be able to understand the context.
    3. Studying: I kept a simple flow for studying. I started with studying the first chapter and took my notes Then moved on to practice questions for the first chapter (2-3 practice exams with 15-20 questions). Repeat this for chapter 2. But before moving on to chapter 3 I'd do a cumulative practice exam on chapters 1 & 2. Continue this pattern until the last chapter. Let's summarize this - Study the chapter, take notes, do the chapter related practice exam, then take a cumulative exam with all the previous chapters included. Key is to maintain 70% and above in all the practice exams. When you sign up for CMA, be prepared for lots of practice exams, that's the only way to learn the concepts well. After finishing each chapter, I spent 1-2 days reviewing notes from the old/previous chapters. This way I continue refreshing myself with the older contents.
    4. Essay questions: I didn't spend more than 1-2 days over essay preparation. You will be well prepared for essay questions if you follow step c above and spend some time to understand the material well. Only thing you need to know about essay is how do you format your answers so that you don't waste too much time during the exam thinking about the most efficient way to respond to the question. So, glance over some previous year essay questions and look at how the answer is formatted. You will know the content for your essay question once you have understood the concepts from each chapter. If you don't understand the concepts well from the chapters, then practicing essay is not going to be much of a use.
  5. Conclusion: When you're studying for CMA make sure you know the fact that there are tons and tons of concepts to learn and understand. Understanding is the key here, and this understanding comes from taking lots and lots of practice exams and learning from your mistakes. I practiced with 1,500 questions on average for each part. Also, equally important is that you review your materials repeatedly. If you continue to review your previous chapters throughout the curriculum, you will save yourself from a lot of frustration that comes toward the end of the study material when you can't remember 70-90% of what you have studied in previous chapters. Therefore, review previous chapters as soon as you finish studying for a new chapter in the study material. Also, create a small group with people who are taking the same exam during the same month you're registered to take it. This will motivate you further to be on track. Lastly, take lots and lots of practice questions (learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable). On days when you're scheduled to take practice exams and don't feel like taking them, force yourself to take 5-10 questions at least!!! Challenge yourself everyday to climb a little more of that mountain, soon you'll be on the top!
I really hope this helps.

Feel free to check out some videos I've prepared to explain few of the hard CMA concepts:
Labor Cost Variance
Material Cost Variance
Static and Flexible Budget
Preparing for CMA Exam

Good luck!!

Jobin Thomas

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