How to Improve Time Management During the CMA Exam

CMA Exam Time Management MCQs and Essay Strategies

Becoming a Certified Managerial Accountant (CMA) has many benefits. It can assist in advancing your career, increase your earning potential, and help you build a robust network of colleagues.

As you prepare to sit for your CMA exam, I have some tips and tricks you can incorporate into your studying and test-taking.

With CMA exam pass rates around 45% globally, it’s crucial to have a strategy for tackling each section.

Time management is your best bet to ensure you finish within the allotted time.

The Two Parts of the CMA Exam

Let’s break the exam into its parts and discuss how best to manage your time.

Part-One covers:

  • External Financial Reporting Decisions
  • Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
  • Performance Management
  • Cost Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Technology and Analytics

Part-Two covers:

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Decision Analysis
  • Risk Management
  • Investment Decisions
  • Professional Ethics

Those topics are presented in two ways: multiple-choice questions and essays. I’ll walk you through how to best manage your time for each section of the test.

The CMA Exam Academy is test prep built by CMAs for future CMAs. Check out our 10 Steps to Getting Certified post, it covers everything you need to know about the journey to becoming a CMA. 

How to Improve Time Management on the CMA MCQs

The CMA exam contains both conceptual and computational multiple-choice questions (MCQs).

For each part, you’re tasked with answering 100 MCQs and two essay questions.

With three hours allotted for the MCQs, you have around a minute and a half to spend on each question.

If you stick to this schedule, you should have about 30 minutes at the end to review any questions you passed on, or you can use it to move on to the essay section.

Let’s look at the best way to tackle each question so you can make it to the 100th.

How are the MCQs Scored?

The CMA exam is graded positively – meaning there are no penalties for incorrect answers. You need to get half of the MCQs correct to move to the essay section. This is why time management is a big deal.

You have to be an efficient test taker to earn as many points as possible.

The MCQs make up 75% of your final CMA score – so paying attention to the time and staying on schedule is essential.

CMA MCQ Structure

Test prep and mock exams are critical to understanding how the MCQs are structured and how best to eliminate wrong answers.

Each MCQ has four answers to choose from.

There’s only one correct answer for each question, though some may be “more correct” than others.

To determine the “most correct” answer, you need to read the questions carefully.

Let me explain that.

What Is the Question Asking?

Some questions may be phrased in a confusing way, so it’s crucial for you to read carefully and make sure you understand what’s really being asked.

To answer questions effectively, break them down into two parts: relevant information and non-essential details.

MCQs are made up of the stem, which identifies the actual question, other key information that helps you identify the best answer, and distraction information that needs to be separated from the rest.

Read each question, identify the stem, and disregard all distractors.

Make an Educated Guess

Remember, wrong answers do not remove points from your final score.

If you find that one question is taking too long or if you’re running out of time – make an educated guess.

If you can eliminate one answer you know is incorrect, you increase your chances of a correct guess, and if you can eliminate two wrong answers, you have a 50% chance of making the right choice.

This is a solid strategy to ensure you can complete all 100 questions, giving you the chance to score as many points as possible.

How to Improve Your CMA Essays Time Management

Moving onto the essay question section of the CMA exam is a relief. It means you scored at least 50% on the MCQs, and you now have an hour to answer two questions. Much of the time management strategy recommended in the multiple-choice section is also relevant to the essays.

Tip: Using these sample questions from the IMA, you can see that the questions are based on scenarios that require critical thinking and analysis. 

Let’s look into the details of the essay questions and the best ways to tackle them.

How Are the Essays Scored?

Your essay answers are scored by humans using a grading guide. You will not have points deducted, only awarded.

This means partial answers are worthwhile because your goal is to earn as many points as possible.

What Is the Question Asking?

Your first step should be to read the question thoroughly, ensure you understand what’s being asked, and then get to work.

While the questions are usually straightforward, they can also be complex. Missing any part could cause your logic and work to be incorrect.

CMA Essay Answers

When answering the essay questions, you need to complete as much as you can and show your work in the computer’s exam simulation, not on paper. The scratch paper used during your exam will get thrown out after you leave the testing center.

Making your work as comprehensive as possible can demonstrate your thinking was on the right track even if you don’t have time to answer completely.

Go into as much detail as necessary, ensuring you use all of the given time – more details mean more avenues to show your critical thinking skills.

Additional Time Management Strategies with CMA Exam Academy

During your CMA exam prep, you need to familiarize yourself with the test format. Then you can work on pacing yourself through practice. You’ll get the cadence for how quickly you must move through each question.

I have plenty of resources to help you master time management during the CMA exam.

Let me know if you have additional questions in the comments below, and check out our online test bank to get familiar with the structure.

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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