CMA Part 2 – Your Syllabus in a Nutshell

CMA Part 2

CMA Part 2 – Your Syllabus in a Nutshell

Now that you’ve mastered CMA Part 1 thanks to our syllabus breakdown, it’s time to deep dive into all the intricacies of CMA Part 2.

Similar to Part 1 of the Certified Management Accounting exam, CMA Part 2 has a less-than-ideal pass rate. The average CMA pass rate for part 2 is just 45%, which means more than half of the candidates who sit for this exam will have to retake it.

To help you join the half that does succeed — and hopefully, pass the CMA exam on your first try — let’s talk more about Part 2 and what it entails.

Originally published on March 24th, 2020, this article was updated and republished on March 1st, 2023.

In this article:

  1. Skills Required to Pass CMA Part 2
  2. CMA Part 2 Study Time
  3. CMA Part 2 – Your Syllabus in a Nutshell
  4. Content Specification Outlines for Part 2
  5. CMA Part 2 Grading
  6. CMA Part 1 vs. Part 2
  7. Passing the CMA Exam Part 2

Skills Required to Pass CMA Part 2

Skills Required to Pass CMA Part 2

As I outlined in our post on Part 1, CMA Part 2 requires candidates to have a level C understanding of all Content Specification Outlines (CSOs).

The ICMA (Institute of Management Accountants) classifies “level C” as understanding six skill levels:

  1. Knowledge: Ability to recall material you previously learned
  2. Comprehension: Ability to interpret and explain material
  3. Application: Ability to demonstrate the use of material in a situation
  4. Analysis: Ability to break down material or recognize relationships between components and identify critical elements
  5. Synthesis: Ability to form hypotheses from different parts of material to create new operations
  6. Evaluation: Ability to criticize, justify and come to conclusions on material

If you can tick the box for each of these skills, you are well on your way to a successful CMA career.

CMA Part 2 Study Time

The IMA recommends 130 hours and between 8 and 11 weeks of study time for the second part of the CMA exam. This is significantly less than tha 170 hours recommended for part 1. In both instances, the estimate may not be attainable for professionals with a full time job. 16 weeks per part is the ideal timeframe.

My 16-week accelerator program helps students shave weeks of time off their study schedules by focusing on the exact information required to pass on the first try.

I’m very proud of my students’ results: CMA Exam Academy students have a pass rate that is nearly double that of the global average. If you’re considering taking the CMA exam, check it out! It’s guaranteed to help you pass the exam.

CMA Exam Part 2 Syllabus

CMA Exam Part 2 Syllabus

While the CMA exam follows the same format for both parts, the topics are different.

CMA Part 2 is all about Strategic Financial Management. In this 4-hour long exam, you will have to complete 100 multiple choice questions and two essay scenarios.

To make it to the essay portion of the exam, you will have to earn at least 50% on the multiple-choice section.

There are six topics covered in CMA Part 2:

  1. Financial Statement Analysis – 20%
  2. Corporate Finance – 20%
  3. Decision Analysis – 25%
  4. Risk Management – 10%
  5. Investment Decision – 10%
  6. Professional Ethics – 15%

Content Specification Outlines for Part 2

Content Specification Outlines for Part 2

To better understand each topic for part 2’s CMA exam questions, let’s break them down even further.

Financial Statement Analysis

  • Basic Financial Statement Analysis
    • Common size financial statements
    • Common base year financial statements
  • Financial Ratios
    • Liquidity
    • Leverage
    • Activity
    • Profitability
    • Marketing
  • Profitability Analysis
    • Income measure analysis
    • Revenue analysis
    • Cost of sales analysis
    • Expense analysis
    • Variation analysis
  • Special Issues
    • Impact of foreign operations
    • Effects of changing prices and inflation
    • Impact of changes in accounting treatment
    • Accounting and economic concepts of value and income
    • Earnings equality

It’s pretty clear that for this topic you will have to understand what financial statements are, and how to perform fundamental analysis on them.

You should be comfortable with the concepts of accounting ratios, including liquidity, leverage, activity, profitability, and market; as well as profitability analysis as it impacts things such as income and revenue.

Your financial analysis abilities need to extend further than standard operating procedures. Make sure you can identify their impact on foreign operations and inflation, and comprehend the relationship between accounting and economic concepts of income and value.

Corporate Finance

  • Risk and return
    • Calculation return
    • Types of risk
    • Relationship between risk and return
  • Long-term financial management
    • Term structure of interest rates
    • Types of financial instruments
    • Cost of capital
    • Valuation of financial instruments
  • Raising Capital
    • Financial markets and regulations
    • Market efficiency
    • Financial institutions
    • Initial and secondary public offerings
    • Dividend policy and share repurchases
    • Lease financing
  • Working Capital Management
    • Working capital terminology
    • Cash management
    • Marketable securities management
    • Accounts receivable management
    • Inventory management
    • Types of short term credit
    • Short term credit management
  • Corporate restructuring
    • Mergers and acquisitions
    • Other forms of restructuring
    • International finance
    • Fixed, flexible and floating exchange rates
    • Managing transaction exposure
    • Financing international trade

Corporate Finance is an important topic, as it covers 20% of the exam material in Part 2.

To nail this section of the CMA certification test, you will need to get familiar with risk and return, and long term financial management, such as term structures for interest rates, cost of capital and various types of financial instruments.

Understanding the concepts of how to raise capital will be incredibly helpful. For example, how to raise capital via financial institutions, leasing, dividend and share policies, and more.

Working capital management also covers several content topics specific to cash management, credit management, and general working capital terminology.

This section will also touch base on corporate restructuring, and again, the importance of foreign Finance.

Decision Analysis

  • Cost/volume/profit analysis
    • Breakeven analysis
    • Profit performance and alternative operating levels
    • Analysis of multiple products
  • Marginal analysis
    • Sunk costs, opportunity costs, and other related concepts
    • Marginal costs and marginal revenue
    • Special orders and pricing
    • Make vs. buy
    • Sell or process further
    • Add or drop a segment
    • Capacity considerations
  • Pricing
    • Pricing methodologies
    • Target costing
    • Elasticity of demand
    • Product life-cycle considerations
    • Market structure considerations

Making up the most substantial portion of CMA Part 2, Decision analysis makes up 25% of your total exam grade. This section covers three main topics:

Cost, Volume, Profit Analysis

Here you will want to know how to calculate the break-even analysis; the point where total costs and total revenue are equal.

You will also need to know how to judge profit performance and be comfortable analyzing multiple products.

Marginal Analysis

Marginal analysis is essentially “make vs. buy” decisions that take into consideration sunk and opportunity costs, special orders and pricing, capacity considerations, and more.


Pricing methodologies and product life cycle considerations will be covered in this section. Additionally, you should feel confident in your knowledge and understanding of target costing, the elasticity of demand, and market structure considerations.

Risk Management

  • Enterprise Risk
    • Types of risk
    • Risk identification and assessment
    • Risk mitigation strategies
    • Managing risk

This section makes up a meager 10% of your exam and focuses on enterprise risk. This means understanding the different types of risk and how to assess them, as well as knowing how to mitigate and manage the level of risk.

Investment Decisions

  • Capital budgeting process
    • Stages of capital budgeting
    • Incremental cash flows
    • Income tax considerations
    • Evaluating uncertainty
  • Capital investment analysis methods
    • Net present values
    • Internal rate of return
    • Payback
    • Comparison of investment analysis methods

Another relatively small section, investment decisions makes up 10% of your mark and will require your understanding of the capital budgeting process and capital investment analysis methods.

If you understand incremental cash flows, tax considerations, rate of return, and payback, then you should be good.

Professional Ethics

  • Business ethics
    • Moral philosophies and values
    • Ethical Decision making
  • Ethical considerations for management accounting and financial management professionals
    • IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice
    • Fraud triangle
    • Evaluation and resolution of ethical issues
  • Ethical considerations for an organization
    • Organizational factors and ethical culture
    • IMA’s Statement on Management Accounting, “Values and Ethics: From Inception to Practice”
    • Ethical leadership
    • Legal compliance
    • Responsibility for ethical conduct
    • Sustainability and social responsibility

Finally, ethics makes up 15% of your mark and closes out the CSOs for Part 2.

Not only will you have to understand basic business ethics, but you should be familiar with ethical considerations for both an organization, and for accounting professionals.

This includes knowing the IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice, and their statement on Management Accounting, “Values and Ethics: From Inception to Practice.”

Some other key topics include the fraud triangle, legal compliance, and ethical leadership.

CMA Part 2 Grading

The grading structure of part 2 of the CMA is similar to part 1. The test has a multiple choice section, which is worth 75% of the grade, and an essay section, which is worth 25%.

While the test asks each candidate 100 questions, only 90 of those questions are used in the grading process. The other 10 are used to create future tests.


Multiple Choice


CMA Exam Part 1

  • 100 questions (Only 90 are graded)

  • 3 hours

  • 1 point per correct answer

  • 75% of overall grade

  • 2 essay scenarios

  • 4-6 questions per scenario

  • 1 hour

  • Scored by experts

  • 25% of overall grade

CMA Exam Part 2

  • 100 questions (Only 90 are graded)

  • 3 hours

  • 1 point per correct answer

  • 75% of overall grade

  • 2 essay scenarios

  • 4-6 questions per scenario

  • 1 hour

  • Scored by experts

  • 25% of overall grade

In order to proceed to the essay portion of the exam, you’ll need to get at least 50% of the multiple choice questions correct.

The highest score you can receive on the CMA exam is 500/500, but to pass, you need a score of 360.

CMA Part 1 vs. Part 2

Assessing and comparing the difficulty of part 1 and part 2 of the CMA exam isn’t going to yield consistent results. This is because the difficulty will depend — as with any test — on your personal mastery of the subject matter.

From an objective standpoint, the pass rates on each part are the same: part 1 has a 50% pass rate and part 2 has a 50% pass rate. This means some may find part 1 or 2 easier. With an equal pass rate, it is likely that the parts are similar in difficulty.

Both parts have 100 multiple-choice questions and an essay portion. Each section also must be completed in the same amount of time.

If your experience falls under the realm of accounting, you may find part 1 easier. If your specialty is in finance, you may prefer part 2.

There is no definitive answer for which section will be easier. So long as you dedicate an equal amount of time to studying for each part, you should be well-prepared to pass with flying colors.

Passing the CMA Exam Part 2

Passing the CMA Exam Part 2

Just like our overview post on Part 1, this article has given you a lot of information to digest. The key is to organize your studies, so you sit for the exam on your chosen CMA exam date with a clear understanding of the core concepts identified in the CSO and are able to identify the subtle differences between them.

Study plans and practice exams will be your best friend. After all, practice makes perfect, and so does organized studying.

Top-notch CMA review courses like CMA Exam Academy are great because they provide candidates with the tools and resources they need to study for success.

I know from personal experience that getting started can feel a little overwhelming, so if you aren’t sure where to begin, be sure to drop a comment below.

Here’s to crushing CMA Part 2 and being one step closer to earning that coveted designation!

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!

13 Comments on “CMA Part 2 – Your Syllabus in a Nutshell”

  1. Hello Nathan,

    I’ve been using Gleim to study for the exams. I took Part 2 a couple of weeks ago but do not feel confident about passing it. I think the actual questions are different than Gleim’s MCQ. That being said, how are your test bank questions generated and what’s the level of difficulty of the questions? Unpopular opinion but I think Gleim’s MCQs are less difficult than the actual exam.


    1. Hi Vince,

      Our test bank questions, including the final simulation, are a combination of retired exam questions and questions written by our CMAs.

      Keep in mind that the exam questions on the real exam are going to be always new as the IMA doesn’t recycle retired exam questions.


  2. I’ve cleared Part 1. I did self study. I wanna apply for part 2. Is there a possibility for applying only for part 2?

  3. I graduated seven years ago with an accounting degree but honestly am not familiar again with most of the modules. My fair is what the possibility for me to pass this exam

    1. Hi Ben,

      CMA candidates often come from varying backgrounds, and we’ve had students with no previous accounting background who successfully completed our program and passed the exam.

      Our combo course also includes a Fundamentals of Accounting textbook which helps candidates to refresh their knowledge before starting the course.

      If you’d like to learn more about our program and how we can help you ace the exam on your first attempt, check it out here:


  4. I have given Part 1 exam twice and was unable to pass even 50% MCQ’s both times. I’m afraid that it will remain my dream to be CMA. Kindly help what should i do and how to study

  5. Hi Nathan,

    I am a diploma Holder in Electronics after 10+2. I have built a career in IT working as as a Business Intelligence Analyst and part of my job has been developing Finance Dashboards based on Corporate Finance. I’ve taken an immense interest in Finance and would like to do CMA. But I see that the minimum eligibility criteria is Graduation. Is there any alternate way for me to qualify for the course?

    Thanks & Regards,


    1. Hi Nigel,

      I would recommend reaching out directly to IMA to verify if they’re able to exempt you from the education requirement. They may do that on a case-by-case basis.

      However, even if you don’t meet the education and experience requirements for the CMA, you can still take the CMA exam and fulfill the requirements within 7 years of passing the exam to get certified.

      Good luck!


  6. Dear Sir,

    I am quite confused while reading CMA part 2 as i am studying this course for first time, Could you please tell me how should start to study the topics and how much time it should take to complete 1 topic i study about 10 hrs per day and i am able to finish only 12 to 13 pages i have only scored 52% in,i am a average student , is 150 hrs sufficient to complete the entire part2 please advise.

    1. Hi Sachin,

      I can help guide you step-by-step on what, when, and for how long to study to achieve the best results through my coaching course.

      I also recommend the SQ3R technique to help you study more effectively. I explain how it worked in this YouTube video.


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