How to Pass the CMA Exam in Your First Attempt (Guaranteed!)

Preparing for the CMA exam doesn’t come cheap. From IMA membership fees to exam fees to CMA review courses, your total CMA exam cost adds up – quick.

The investment is absolutely worth it in the end of course with CMAs earning on average $130,000 per year. A CMA certification can be even more lucrative than other accounting subspecialties. If you compare CMA vs CPA salaries in most regions of the world, CMA comes out on top.

Who wouldn’t want that type of ROI on their investment?

When I prepared for the exam, it took me a total of 6 months and thousands of dollars without really knowing if I would pass the exam. There was a big chance I’d fail since the average pass rate at the time was only 35% globally.

The hardest part was choosing the best CMA review course that would work for me. There were many options and none offered me a guarantee that made me feel confident in my purchase.

Some offered a 30-day money-back guarantee while others offered unlimited access.

At first glance those seemed fine, but…

I didn’t want to invest 30 days of my life “testing” out a course to find it sucked. I was a very busy professional and didn’t want to waste my time this way.

And for sure I didn’t care for an “unlimited access guarantee”. What’s the point of “unlimited access” anyways?

I don’t think anyone wants to study for the rest of their lives. Unlimited access didn’t assure me I’d pass the exam which was my ultimate goal. I know it’s yours too.

Why “Pass or Full Money-back” is the Right Guarantee


When I launched my instructor-led prep course, CMA Exam Academy, I began offering different guarantees. Started with the standard 30 days money back to 14 days money back, to unlimited access.

But I realized that none of them were enough.

Why offer these guarantees, like other CMA prep courses do, when I didn’t care for them back when I had to purchase one?

I asked myself, “what guarantee would I have wanted from a course back then?”.

14 days money back? 30 days money back? Unlimited access? Pay for my exam re-take if I failed?

These seem like good choices on the surface, but…

Ultimately, I wanted a course that would help me pass my CMA exam the first time or I’d get my money back.

This guarantee does two things:

  1. It puts a lot more pressure on me and my team to deliver quality courses that will guarantee your exam success.
  2. It gives you confidence in your purchase and zero monetary risk.

There’s only an upside for my students.

Why pay for a course that promises you exam success if it’ll keep your money if you fail?

It doesn’t seem fair to me. This is why I’m changing the guarantee of CMA Exam Academy as of the date of this very post to our CMA exam blog.

If a student fails the exam after completing the entire course with me, I don’t deserve to keep their money.


Here Are My Top 10 Tips for Passing the CMA Exam on Your Very First Try!


As I’ve said before, earning your CMA is an investment. Not only a financial one but also an investment of your time. And if you are like many candidates, you are a full time, working professional who has limited time to spare.

So while a Pass Guarantee is great, I want to offer you more than that.

I want to offer you some behind-the-scenes, learned-it-cause-I-lived-it knowledge on how to pass the exam on your first try; guarantee or no guarantee!

So without further ado, here are some of my CMA study secrets and top tips on how to pass the exam on your very first try!

1. Learn Your Study Style


Did you know that not everyone learns the same?

That’s right. Some individuals learn by reading or hearing, while others learn by watching or doing.

Just as people do not learn the same, not all review courses are designed the same. For some people, reading CMA textbooks is the most effective way to learn and retain information.

For other people, the information they read just doesn’t quite stick, but they learn well from videos and audio podcasts.

This means you should be investing time and energy into discovering your personal style of learning so you can choose a review course that suits you.

Here are a few quick tips on how to identify your personal study style:

Visual Learner — Learn by best by seeing things and tend to:

  • Be good at spelling
  • Like charts and graphs
  • Prefer taking notes or making lists
  • Use flashcards or highlight, circle or underline as they read

Auditory Learner — Learn best by hearing and often:

  • Read out loud
  • Listen to podcasts or audiobooks
  • Like oral presentations and are good at explaining things
  • Work well in study groups

Tactile Learners — Learn by doing things and:

  • Are good at sports and have good hand-eye coordination
  • Learn by doing quizzes or tests
  • Tend to have poor handwriting skills
  • Enjoy building things and participating in live classes

Understanding your personal learning style can help you figure out how to study for the CMA exam in a way that works best for you.

The good news is, CMA Exam Academy accommodates every type of learning style thanks to its comprehensive textbooks, live coaching calls, cutting edge test bank technology, and mock exams (to name a few!).

2. Don’t Just Buy a Review Course – Use It


Review courses aren’t designed to sit on your shelf (or laptop!) and collect dust.

In order to actually see results you must dedicate hours of studying and follow along with the review course syllabus.

CMA Exam Academy, for example, comes with a 16-week CMA review course that walks you through all the essential course material, while holding you accountable to a realistic timeline.

By utilizing this study guide and all the other study essentials included you will be fast on the path to success!

3. Give Your Brain a Break


Too much of one thing is not always a good thing.

And when it comes to studying, even more so.

It is imperative that you give your brain frequent breaks to digest all the new material you will be devouring over the next several weeks.

Scheduled downtime may seem counterintuitive, but I promise you it isn’t.

One of the best study hacks I used when preparing was to study uninterrupted for an hour and then take 10 mins downtime. I would get up, walk around and enjoy a change in scenery.

This mini mental break allowed me to relax and reset so I could hit the books again for another uninterrupted hour.

4. Get a Study Buddy


If things start to become tedious, perhaps it’s time to shake things up a bit. As I mentioned above, not everyone learns great in groups, however, the occasional co-study session can be helpful.

For starters, studying in a group or duo can add a new sense of accountability to your efforts. Now, instead of just holding yourself up to your study schedule, you have someone else to consider.

Additionally, studying with others can give you a sense of moral support and boost your enthusiasm, especially when you are feeling down.

It also might be helpful to study with someone who can test you verbally or help you understand core concepts from a different perspective.

5. Simulate the Exam Experience


Whether you’re a tactile learner or not, there is no better way to feel comfortable and confident on exam day, than by taking mock exams. Anxiety is the number debilitating factor that can lead you to fail even though you know all the material.

The good news is, the best review courses will offer mock exam scenarios that allow you to get the real exam experience.

By setting a timer and taking the mock exam seriously, you can start to identify your weaknesses while overcoming your fear and anxiety.

6. Make the Multiple Choice Section Work For You


Let’s be honest, CMA exam multiple choice questions can be deceiving. More often than not, CMA candidates complain about how they lose marks on MCQs because they overthink their answers.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you avoid multiple-choice failure:

  • Jump between questions and answer the ones that feel easiest to you first
  • Eliminate answers that you know to be wrong. If you still don’t feel certain about the answer take your best guess – NEVER leave a question unanswered
  • Go with your gut – it’s often right!
  • Read the root of the question and be conscious of double negatives
  • If you have time left over, review the questions – you never know what information will pop to the front of your brain once you’ve had a little time to think it over

7. Dominate the Essay Section


Essays can be tricky when you’re on the clock because we tend to move too fast and forget key details. The best way to succeed with the essay section is to show all of your work (or assumptions) and at the very least, earn partial credits.

For each essay scenarios, expect to answer 4-6 questions. Be mindful of the verbs used in each essay scenario.

For example, one essay scenario may ask you to compare or contrast particular concepts. In this case you do not want to spend all of your time defining topics. Again, the question asked you to compare, not define!

Make sure you don’t forget about proper English grammar. Graders are looking for effective writing skills. Avoid colloquialisms and slang.

8. Focus on Your Health


Studying can be exhausting. It can also make for a great excuse to stop focusing on your health because you “are too busy.”

This could not be a bigger mistake.

Your health is your wealth, my friend.

In order to get the most out of your studies you need to take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and taking mental breaks. Every aspect of your being will be tested while you prepare for the CMA exam, so do not let your health slip.

Instead, make it a priority and enjoy all the benefits; mental clarity, energy to study, and motivation to keep on track!

9. Downsize Your Priorities


The reality is, many CMA exam candidates begin studying while either holding down a full-time job or balancing family life.

In order to be successful at the exam, you must learn to manage your priorities and where possible, downsize.

This may mean cutting out drinks with your co-workers after work, saying no to a round of X-Box with your buddies, or not signing up for that pottery class you’ve been dying to try.

There will be plenty of time to do all the things you love, but you must make studying a priority. Again, this is not to say you don’t need (and deserve!) downtime, but it should be managed so that you can achieve your end goal; earning your CMA certification!

10. Eliminate Your “Plan B”


We wear lifejackets on a speedboat “in case” of an emergency, but when it comes to taking the CMA exam, having a life preserver can only sink you.

Knowing that you have a Plan B or back up plan can be detrimental to your study efforts and mess with your mindset.

Once you become fully invested in the process and aware that there is no alternative, you will be a million times more likely to work harder at accomplishing your goal.

CMA Review Course You Can Count On


Are you feeling motivated to dive into the CMA exam yet?

I bet you are!

So let’s address the elephant in the room – how can my strategies and CMA Exam Academy guarantee to help you achieve success?

I know what you’re probably thinking… “Sounds too good to be true. Why would Nathan offer that?”

The truth is that my team and I believe in our CMA review course that much.

In fact, we’ve had people come to us after failing with other BIG name programs, that are finally able to pass using our methods.

We think that you’ll benefit so much from this different method of teaching and understanding, that we will guarantee you’ll pass the CMA exam on your first attempt, or we’ll pay you back all of what you paid us.

We have put in years of effort to make these courses, so our only requirement for this guarantee is that you completed all of the course material before your official exam date.

Feeling confident that we’re the right fit for you? Explore our course options here.

Got questions? Drop them in the comments below.

Rooting for ya!


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32 Comments on “How to Pass the CMA Exam in Your First Attempt (Guaranteed!)”

  1. Hi, Nathan Liao,

    Thank You so much for your opinion. Feeling motivated and to take clear decision.

  2. Currently , am doing CA- Intermediate. Am decided to do CMA Side by side. Is there any exemption doing CA – Intermediate and CMA.
    My query are-
    1) Whether I will do CMA after completing my CA or else i start now , am in Chaotic Condition?
    2) After completing CA any exemption is there to do CMA.

    Kindly give me some opinion. it is useful for my career.

    Thanks in Advance.

    1. Hi Ashwini,

      I don’t know of any exemptions for CA professionals who are pursuing the CMA, but you could check directly with the IMA just to confirm.

      Deciding whether to study for both certifications simultaneously really depends on how much time you can carve out for your studies each week. If you can devote 15 hours each week to your CMA exam prep while you’re completing your CA, and not feel overwhelmed, then go for it!

      But if your feel it would be a struggle to find time to prepare for both, then it may be a better idea to take one at a time so that all your focus goes into one exam and you’re not distracted by other pressing deadlines.


  3. My name is Sri malini I want to be a chartered accountant. Pls say the course to be a CA. after 12th. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sri! Currently, I don’t offer any CA courses, but I can help you if you decide to pursue the CMA certification 🙂

  4. Hii,
    I am currently working as an accountant, but I would like to pursue CMA (US). Kindly give me some advice regarding the self-study techniques as I am not able to involve in my learning process 24*7 due to my strict working schedule.
    Thank you
    Kripa R. Krishnan

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  7. Hii
    I am 11 class student and I want to do CMA in future. I am felling very confident about about it. Your all suggestions are very motivating for me .i will definitely follow all your suggestions for becoming a CMA.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Shweta,

      That’s so great to hear! I’m sure the CMA will benefit your career and your life in many ways, it’s a great goal to aim for and I’d love the opportunity to guide you in your CMA journey when you’re ready start 🙂


  8. I have done inter CA and appeared for CA final but didn’t clear.
    I want to do cma but the money constraint is there.

    1. Hi Jigar,

      I’m currently running a promotion on our CMA review textbooks which you could take advantage of to save some money on your CMA materials 🙂

      You can order both textbooks for free and only cover shipping charges at checkout: $35 if it’s a US order and $69 for an international order.

      Here’s the link where you can order them. This promotion expires in 2 days.


  9. HI,

    I am B. Com Fresher and dropped one year for the preparation of MBA entrance. Now planning for CMA. Please advise how tough to get the job after CMA for fresher.

    1. Hi Rahul,

      The CMA will give you a competitive edge over your non-certified peers which will help you land a better job and advance faster to a management accounting position. It’s definitely worth the effort 🙂

      If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to hit reply!


      1. I was a science student and now currently planning to do cma .can u please help me by telling how to do and the process


        1. Hi Kritika,

          Absolutely. I’ve compiled a CMA Exam Roadmap here, please check it out to learn everything about the process of becoming a Certified Management Accountant.

          But the first step in your CMA journey is to enroll in a review course. If you’d like to study with me, you can enroll in my coaching course here. It’s designed for candidates at all accounting/finance levels, even beginners 🙂

          Within this course, you will be guided step-by-step through your entire CMA journey, and with our unlimited coaching support my team and I will be always there for you to answer any questions you may have throughout the course to help you fully grasp the material so that you feel confident about your exam.

          If you have any other questions about this program, please don’t hesitate to hit reply.

          Thank you,

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  11. I want to do this course but I am worry about money and time beacause of i am middle class and what I do for my future plz help me

    1. Hey Sonal,

      The CMA certification takes dedication and also time and money investment, but the benefits and opportunity potential will make it all worth it.

      The CMA designation will help you stand out in the industry, boost your career, and your specialized skillset will make you an asset to large companies who need candidates with a strong understanding of planning and analysis.

      Finally, this certification is well worth it when you realize how in-demand you are. Companies are desperately seeking the knowledge and skills offered by CMAs, and the best part is we are in low supply, so now is the time 🙂

      If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to hit reply. I’ll be happy to clear them up for you.


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  14. Thanks for the response Nathan, I have coaching online.

    Also when can I find myself ready for exams ?
    As per your above study hours it’s for single part right ? Or is it for writing both parts together ?

    1. Hi Alex,

      Yes, 15 hrs/week for a period of 16 weeks is the amount of time you’ll need to prepare for one part of the exam.

      You’ll know you’re ready for the exam when you’re consistently scoring above 86% on the exam simulation inside your test bank.


  15. Hi Nathan,

    Good day

    I am joining this March for CMA US, taking part 2 first .. I am a working professional with lot of constraints in time, could give please suggest me how many study time I should allot each week and when I could take the 2 exams in 2020…
    Could you ease suggest me some strategies in studying and when do you think I will find myself ready for exams ?

    I am taking an online course from Wiley provided by Miles Education

    1. Hi Alex,

      The study time depends on the course you choose to prepare for the exam.

      If you opt for a coaching course that provides a study plan with clear and measurable goals and assignments, along with unlimited coaching support so you can reach for help when you feel stuck, you’ll only need to study for about 15 hrs/week for a period of 16 weeks.

      But if you self-study, you may need to study as much as 20-25 hrs/week for a period of 16 weeks per part.

      For study tips, please check out the SQ3R technique here and my podcast on how to combine a full time job with your CMA exam prep here.

      If you have any other questions, please let me know.


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  17. Hello Nathan,

    hope you are doing well!

    I am doing the CMA course right now and I was planning to do it on Feb 28 2020, and the question do I still have time to study for part 1 as I have maximum 2 to 3 hours a day of study.


    1. Hi Bayrouti,

      If you self-study, it may take you longer to navigate through the material and prepare for the exam. I would recommend pushing your exam until the May/June testing window to give you more time to thoroughly study the material and practice on exam simulations.

      If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

      Thank you,

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