The 8 Biggest CMA Exam Prep Mistakes

biggest cma exam mistakes

Studying for the CMA takes guts, grit, and some serious hard work. Even though I’m a highly ambitious person, I didn’t study perfectly the first time. I want to be sure that none of you make the same CMA exam prep mistakes I did.

Here are 8 CMA exam mistakes I made, and what I would do differently if I could do it over again. The good news is, if you are studying for the CMA exam, or retaking the CMA exam, you can learn from my mistakes.

1. Not Having a Study Plan for the Whole Syllabus

not using a study plan for the whole syllabus

The first mistake I made, and one that I’ve seen a lot of other people make, is not having a plan to study, both for parts one and two of the CMA exam.

You should know that this test is a doozy, and you have a significant quantity of conceptual ground to cover. Whatever CMA study guide you follow, make sure it’s comprehensive.

I made my own through trial and error, and then had to revise and refine it. It would have been an immense benefit for me to have that roadmap from day one, then follow it.

2. Live Classes That Last Less Than 10 Weeks

live classes that last less than 10 weeks

Mistake number two for me was underestimating how long it takes to study for the CMA exam.

Remember, you’re not just covering topics at a high level. You have to dive deep, engage with the material, memorize a lot of information, and aim for maximum retention if you hope to pass.

My CMA prep course is accelerated and still lasts 16 weeks for each exam part. Any less than that, and you’re probably wasting time and money.

3. Not Getting CMA Coaching Support

not getting cma coaching support

Enlisting the help of a CMA coach is an invaluable investment, and one I sincerely wish I had made.

Honestly, I’m not sure that CMA coaches were really available to me when I was studying for the CMA. But they are now. If you’re studying for the CMA exam now, take advantage of this resource and join a community or even hire a tutor.

I spun my wheels trying to find my mistakes, self-identify gaps in my knowledge, and access better answer explanations. This frustration is, in part, why I launched my own program.

Any way you slice it, you’ll do better with a little help from a friend (or, more accurately, an expert).

4. No Set Study Schedule

no set study schedule

This perhaps should go without saying, but I wish someone had said it to me: you can’t wing it and pass the CMA exam. This isn’t a shallow test.

I pretty quickly realized that not having a study schedule for the CMA exam wouldn’t work. Once I course-corrected, I started going to the same coffee shop every day after work.

Getting consistent made my life a lot easier, but I wish I had started out that way.

5. Not Sharing Your Goal to Become a CMA

not sharing your goal to become a cma

This may sound a little trite, but there is a lot of validity to this and psychological evidence that social skills help us achieve goals. You’ll get where you want to go faster and more easily with social support.

I think I may have been a little worried that I would fail the CMA exam. Whatever my reasons, I wasn’t vocal about my goals, and missed out on having a support system through my journey.

Eventually, I figured out how to become a CMA, passed the exam, and achieved my goal.

But life is easier when you share the load, and the people in your life want to support you.

6. No Rest From Study

no rest from studying

A second issue with my lack of soft skills impacted me internally: I didn’t take breaks or rest nearly enough while I studied.

I worked seven days a week and got burned out and stressed out.

This is definitely not a great headspace to be in as you prepare for the CMA exam, or really any major challenge. Productive study breaks are an important way to prepare for exams, including the CMA.

7. Not Managing Health

not managing health

Just as mental breaks are important to your success, so are physical breaks. For me, I stopped working out and I didn’t eat right during my exam prep.

This lack of healthy habits did major damage early on, impacting my ability to focus and maintain the energy I needed to both work and study.

Once I put a little focus on myself, and took time to manage my own health well, I saw immediate improvements in the quality of my study time.

8. Not Knowing When to Use a Test Bank

not knowing when to use a test bank

Not knowing how and when to use various types of CMA study materials is a big issue.

The resources available to prepare for the CMA exam have improved a lot, but even when I was studying, I didn’t use them all as best I could.

A CMA test bank is an essential resource that will help you get familiar with the test structure, and ensure you are covering every topic you need to. Using timed CMA practice tests, you can work on speed and accuracy, and discover how ready you are to take the real exam.

Do not ignore all of the many sources of information and guidance out there that can help you prepare for this test.

Learn From my CMA Mistakes

Love to learn from other people’s mistakes? Smart. I like that.

If you have any questions about what you’re doing right (or wrong) as you prepare for the CMA exam, drop them below and this community will help you out!

Nathan Liao

Hi, I’m Nathan Liao (aka the CMA Coach)! For the last 10 years, over 82,000 accounting and finance pros came knocking at my door seeking guidance and help. If you’re also aiming to conquer the CMA exam on your very first try—without wasting away time or money—you’ve found your ultimate guide. Dive in deeper to discover more about me and the dedicated team that powers CMA Exam Academy. Click here and let’s embark on this journey together!

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