CMA Exam Essay Questions – Everything You Should Know

CMA exam essay questions
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When you think of the CMA exam essay questions, do you stress out?

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Hello CMA Candidates, welcome to another episode of the Free CMA Exam Mastery Course.

In case you missed it, I’m giving away 1,000 test prep textbooks for the CMA Part One exam. Hundreds have been claimed already but there are some left still so if you want your free textbook for the Part One exam go to and enter your shipping address and I’ll get it out to you right away. All I ask is that you help with shipping and handling charges. That’s it and the textbook is yours. There’s no catch or strings attached. I’m doing this because I’m celebrating the release of my textbook. After listening to this episode go and claim your free copy before I run out.

This episode focuses on the widely feared, stress-invoking essay section of the CMA exam. Many candidates worry about this portion of the exam, but knowing exactly what to expect will help you feel more at ease. I will give you an overview of the whole exam, including the percentage each section counts for, and then tell you what you can expect of the essay section in terms of content, structure, and feedback.

Holding the Exam Under the Loop

The exam is designed to test your knowledge and skills in 2 ways, through multiple-choice questions and essay questions. Let’s break it down.

Part 1 – Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control

The specifics: 4 hours in total, 3 hours for 100 multiple-choice questions (75% of the exam), and two30-minute essay scenarios (25% of the exam).

External Financial Reporting Decisions (15% of the exam)
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting (30% of the exam)
Performance Management (20% of the exam)
Cost Management (20% of the exam)
Internal Controls (15% of the exam)

Part 2 – Financial Decision Making

The specifics: 4 hours in total, 3 hours for 100 multiple-choice questions (75% of the exam), and two 30-minute essay scenarios (25% of the exam).

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

Knowing what to expect will be a great help to you on the day of the exam. Therefore, you should know in advance what the rules are, how your answers will be graded, and what the lay-out looks like.

What Can You Expect on Exam Day?

Four hours may seem like a long time, but believe me –it’s not! Before starting the essay portion, you have three hours to finish the multiple-choice question section. If you finish that section before the three-hour limit, the remaining time is carried over to the essay section. Otherwise you only have one hour to complete the essay questions. If you take into account that both essay questions present a business scenario with multiple questions, you will start to realize how valuable your time is!

Every essay question focuses on testing your ability to understand certain business concepts and apply them to specific scenarios. The essay section centers around written and quantitative analysis and responses. Therefore, all CMA candidates should be well versed in word processing and electronic spreadsheet programs.

Be careful! If you don’t score at least 50% on the multiple-choice section, you can’t start working on the essay section. If you are not directed to the essay section during the exam, it means you failed the multiple-choice questions.You can’t return to the first section once you’ve advanced to the essay section. In other words, you have to be both fast and accurate.

How Your Essay Responses Will Be Scored

The evaluators use a grading guide to score your essay responses, in which there are more points than can actually be awarded. For example, where 120 possible points are available, only 100 can be awarded to you. The evaluator’s goal is not to deduct points from your essay answers, but to award points.

Bear in mind that partial answers also provide points. For example, if you had to calculate 10ratios but were only able to calculate 6, the experts will award you partial points for your answer. In other words, if you get a tough essay question, try to complete as much of it as possible and be sure to display your calculations. Even if you can’t finish it, you will still get some points.

What Does an Essay Question Look Like?

Below you can see an example question of the essay section. You are supposed to type your response into the text box. If you are familiar with MS Word, this module won’t be an issue at all, since it is even easier. As you can see, the module displays the number of questions in the top left-hand corner and your remaining time in the top right-hand corner.

Knowledge Is Power

The essay questions can be daunting, but with the right preparation and information, you will be able to fulfill them successfully. Don’t worry too much about what can go wrong, but focus on what you know and be aware of what you can expect.

How to Crush Your Essay Questions

The time crunch can be daunting, but don’t let it get to you. By learning a few exam strategies, you’ll be much better equipped to tackle the essay questions. I will provide you with first-rate preparation advice, a vital strategy, twelve unbeatable essay hacks, and one ultimate piece of advice. With the right tools you will ace the essay portion.

What You Can Do to Prepare

The following tips will make your preparation solid as a rock:

Practice, practice, practice. Understand the content of essay questions and practice answering them. It’s very easy to go on a tangent on a response, so practice staying focused.

Calculate what is actually asked of you, not what you think is asked of you. For example, if you are asked to calculate liquidity ratios, don’t calculate activity or solvency ratios because you think they’ll be needed. Stay focused on the task at hand.

Know your formulas very well. You may need to calculate figures before you can begin to answer the question at hand. The best way to memorize formulas is to write them down and remain aware of them. Make sure not to daydream while you practice.

Get your hands on essay question samples to practice writing real essays.

Your Crucial Strategy

Each essay question has clues to guide you to the correct answer, but you need to pay attention to them. Keep an eye open for the following verbs, as they will help you determine the question’s requirements:


If, for example, a question asks you to calculate financial ratios, don’t try to interpret them (unless interpretation is a follow-up question).Your time is valuable, so it’s important to focus your energy on what the question asks you to do. A quick way to know if you are answering correctly is to use the same verbs in your essay. It confirms you are responding to what the question is asking you, and that your response is complete.

If you can prepare an analysis, elaborate on the main points of a specific subject, and examine its implications, you are ready for the essay portion.You’ll be required to support your answers with explanations and calculations, in order to demonstrate your ability to understand and apply your skills to the various scenarios presented on your exam.Don’t forget about the clues mentioned above – they will guide you to the correct answer!

The 12 Ultimate Essay Hacks

Want to avoid hot flushes and minor panic attacks during the exam? These hacks will help you!

Stay positive and stop fearing the essay section.
Write down your calculations, work, and assumptions. It will earn you partial credits.
Expect three to six questions for each essay scenario.
Scroll between questions and scenarios within the essay section before you start answering. It will help you assess how much time you’ll need for the responses.
Pay close attention to verbs. If you read compare or contrast, don’t spend your time defining something. Only do what is asked.
Read the entire question to understand all the requirements.
Focus on organization, clarity, and the use of Standard English.
Be aware that graders look for effective writing skills.
Be concise and to the point. Bullet points are okay.
Don’t leave questions blank. If you are running out of time, at least write an outline of your main points.
Make it easy for the graders to give you points by showing them what you have done.
Use all the time available to you, and use it well.

The Ultimate Piece of Advice

My number-one piece of advice for you is to understand the material you are studying. If you are just memorizing without understanding the why of things, it will be very difficult to pass the exams and do well in the essay questions – and that’s not why you’re doing this. The essay section will test your comprehension of the material in a real business scenario, so make sure you know what you’re talking about. It will be worth it.

Now if you haven’t already, please go to and leave a review of the show in iTunes.

Or if you are on an android phone, please go to and leave a review there instead. You’ll help spread the word about the show and help others learn about the CMA designation.

Before I sign off, remember to dream big and realize your full potential by becoming a certified management accountant, today.

Until next week.


For many candidates, this is the case. It sure was for me. 

The mere thought of it has your heart pumping a little faster, sweat forming on your brow and a pit in your stomach start to grow.

And why? Because it feels like such a daunting unknown.

My goal with this episode of The CMA Show is to help ease the stress of the CMA exam essay questions by talking about what you can expect on exam day, how you’ll be scored and everything else you should know about the essay questions.

You’ll walk away with actionable strategies to gain the most points possible during this section of the exam.

Ready to get more familiar with the essay section? Click the play button at the top of the page, download this in iTunes or listen on Stitcher.

Like what you hear? Give us a 5-star rating or leave a review!

Here’s What You’ll Learn About CMA Exam Essay Questions:

  • How to take part in my free test prep book giveaway
  • The two areas this exam is designed to test your knowledge
  • Setting realistic expectations for exam day
  • How to score the most points for your essay questions
  • Some rock solid essay prep tips you need to try
  • The strategy you cannot succeed without
  • 12 of my best essay hacks


  • CMA Test Prep Book — Listen in to find out how to get your copy FREE
  • — The most comprehensive online resource for CMA candidates
  • — The best online, Instructor-led CMA review course

Like what you heard? Be sure to share it with your friends, family or coworkers and join me for brand new episodes every week.




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12 Comments on “CMA Exam Essay Questions – Everything You Should Know”

  1. Hi Nathan,
    I just wanted to know that the eligibility to reach essay questions in exams is to score 50% of 375 (mcq) or 50% of total score of 500.

    Thanks & Regards
    Suyash Madkaikar

    1. Hi Suyash,

      You would need to answer 50 MCQs correctly to reach the essay section of the exam.


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  8. Dear Sir,
    I want the CMA Part 2 book as well which is prepared by Mr.Nathan. Is there a way that I can get the Part 2.

    Kindly assist me.

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