There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to taking the CMA exam to become a Certified Management Accountant.
For starters, what is the CMA exam passing score? To pass the CMA exam, you’ll need to score at least 360 on the multiple choice section. You do not necessarily need to pass the essay section, provided you do well on the MCQ section.
What kinds of exam questions can I expect?
Do I have to take a CMA course in order to pass?
If you want to become a CMA in the USA, passing marks are a must.
Studying for the exam while working to meet the other Certified Management Accountant requirements is hard enough, so let’s take one stressor off your plate: the CMA exam passing score.
Originally published on May 25, 2020, this article was updated and republished on May 26, 2022.
How to Crush the Exam and Get a CMA Exam Passing Score
Let’s talk numbers.
The global average CMA exam passing rate is not exactly great. The passing rate for Part One and Part Two is 45%.
The exam is scored on a sliding scale from 0 to 500. The passing score is 360. So as long as your score is 360 or higher, you’ve passed the exam. There isn’t much difference between getting a 360 and getting, say, a 490. A pass is a pass.
And while these exam results aren’t exactly great, it is possible, with the right study plan and CMA review course, to teach you ahead of time how to pass the CMA exam on one of the upcoming CMA exam dates. Read my guide – best CMA review course comparison – for choosing a great course that aligns with your preferred study style.
CMA Exam Structure
The CMA exam format consists of two separate parts:
Part One covers the following material:
- External Financial Reporting Decisions 15%
- Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting 20%
- Performance Management 20%
- Cost Management 15%
- Internal Controls 15%
- Technology and Analytics 15%
Part Two consists of the following:
- Financial Statement Analysis – 20%
- Corporate Finance – 20%
- Decision Analysis – 25%
- Risk Management – 10%
- Investment Decision – 10%
- Professional Ethics – 15%
How Many Questions Are on the CMA Exam?
Each part of the exam is comprised of 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and two essay scenarios.
Candidates are given 3 hours to complete the MCQ section and 1 hour for the essay portion. What’s great is that if you finish your MCQ section before the allotted 3 hours is up you can roll your remaining time over to the essay section. Once you have decided to move forward you cannot go back and change any MCQ though, so keep this in mind.
As far as scoring goes, 75% of your overall score will come from the MCQ section and 25% from the essay section.
In order to even make it to the essay section candidates must score 50% or over on the multiple-choice questions. If you score 49% or less you will have to retake the exam in the next exam window.
The grades from both sections will be put together to give you your CMA exam passing score.
Common Multiple-Choice Scoring Questions
Are multiple-choice questions weighted differently?
No. Unlike other exams, like the CPA exam, for example, each multiple-choice question on the exam is scored equally.
Your raw score is converted to a uniform scoring system between 0-500.
Passing the exam requires getting a minimum score of 360.
Do you lose marks if you answer the question incorrectly?
No. You will not earn any points, but you will not be penalized with a negative mark for answering a question wrong.
If you are running out of time it is better to guess blindly than to not answer them at all.
Do you need to pass both the MCQ and Essay portion to get a CMA passing score?
In order to get a CMA exam passing score, you need to perform well in both the MCQ and essay sections. As I said earlier, you do need to get at least 50% of the MCQ correct in order to move on to the essay portion, but if you score significantly higher on the MCQ section than the essay, you can still receive an overall CMA passing rate.
Scoring the CMA Exam Essay Section
When it comes to the essay portion of the exam, you will have to answer two scenarios. There are typically 4 to 6 questions within each essay scenario. Your responses are recorded using a simple word processor.
Some essay questions may require computational answers which can be created using the table function on the word processor. You can use the table to show calculations.
If you are not comfortable with this sort of task I highly recommend getting familiar with the testing environment and doing as many CMA practice questions as possible beforehand. The majority of candidates who struggle with the exam tend to have one thing in common – they did not practice enough. Don’t make that exam mistake. Take as many Certified Management Accountant practice tests as you can.
All essay questions are scored by experts and not through a computer algorithm. You will be graded on your knowledge of the exam content, your ability to apply concepts clearly and logically in real business situations, and candidates who write English proficiently will get extra points.
Expressing Your Knowledge of the Exam Content
In order to crush both the MCQ and essay sections you will need to truly understand the exam content. Being able to apply your knowledge and choosing the right question is critical for passing the exam.
The best way to test your knowledge is by using an online CMA test bank like that found in the CMA Exam Academy review course.
It helps you to focus on the material that you are struggling with instead of wasting time on content you already understand.
Apply Concepts Clearly in Business Situations
There is a difference between knowing and understanding the content. You can memorize information, but if you don’t know how to apply it in a real scenario then it cannot help you pass the exam.
Before you begin tackling your essay question you should start by reading the entire question word by word. Take the time to fully understand what is being asked of you.
Next, identify the concepts that are being tested in that particular essay question. Whether you like mind mapping or writing out lists, make sure you know which key terms you are going to elaborate on in your essay.
Don’t over complicate your answers. Remember, the goal is to be clear and coherent. This includes using correct English grammar and spelling.
Avoid slang or unnecessary exclamation marks. You should use business writing principles, not colloquialisms.
Structure your essay the same way you were taught during your bachelor degree years- with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Your first paragraph should introduce how you will be explaining the question. Throughout the middle paragraphs, expand on your points with as many applicable facts.
As always, with the conclusion make sure to summarize your key points and tie up any loose ends.
The Best Way to Ensure a CMA Exam Passing Score
Want to increase your odds of passing the exam on your very first try? The best way to make sure you get a CMA exam passing score is by choosing a review course.
Review courses cover all the material you will be tested on and provide you with additional study resources like formula guides and audio reviews.
CMA Exam Academy offers everything from our unique PassRate technology, one-on-one coaching, weekly support calls, and accountability check-ins among many other things.
With my 16-week study plan, you can become a CMA in as little as 8 months.
If you are interested to learn more about CMA Exam Academy and how I can help you ace the exam, click here.
Still have a few questions about how to get a CMA exam passing score? Pop on down to the comment section and fire away.
More from Nathan:
Hi, I’m Nathan Liao (aka the CMA Coach)! In the past 8 years, over 37,000 CMA candidates came knocking at my door seeking guidance. And just like them, I’m here to show you how you can pass the CMA exam on your first attempt without wasting money or time. Click here to learn more about me and the awesome team behind CMA Exam Academy.