What is a CMA Course? Your Ultimate Guide for What to Look For in a CMA Review Course
If you’re just delving into the fun and exciting world of finance and accounting, then you may be pretty new to the CMA certification.
What is the CMA certification? It’s a certification, with an exam you’ll need to take and pass, that will qualify you to become a “certified management accountant” — a subspecialty of accounting associated with strategic and managerial roles.
More so, you may be wondering what a CMA course is, since I talk about it so frequently.
It is my firm belief that there are no stupid questions, so if you’ve been asking yourself “what is a CMA course,” then this post is for you. I will be diving into what it is, why you need it and what makes one review course better than others.
What is CMA Course?
What is a CMA course? Simply put, a Certified Management Account (CMA) course is an online course used by candidates to help prepare for the required CMA exams.
In order to earn your CMA certification you must pass the CMA exams, fulfill 2 years of professional experience and sign up for an IMA membership.
The CMA exam is comprised of two parts which candidates can take during the allotted testing windows. There are four windows each year and it’s up to the CMA candidates discretion when they sit for the exam.
Unfortunately, the global pass rates for the exam are pretty low. In fact, the pass rate for Part One is only 35% and 50% for Part Two.
While some candidates may find these statistics discouraging, I do not.
Because with the right kind of review course I believe anyone can earn their CMA certification on the first try.
When it comes to choosing the right CMA review course, you have several options, however there are certain study materials and tools you should be looking for.
Here I am going to break down what to look for in a high quality CMA course so you get the most bang for your buck.
What to Look For in CMA Courses
Choosing a review course is largely dependent on your individual learning style, but there are core items that should be non-negotiable.
The following items are must-haves in solid CMA courses.
Instructor Led One-on-One Coaching
Most online review courses are designed to be self study. This means candidates have to teach themselves the material outlined in the course.
For many candidates this can be incredibly stressful, especially when they don’t understand a concept.
Unlike self-study courses, instructor led programming walks you through topic by topic. When questions pop up you have the opportunity to dive even deeper into them.
On top of all this, instructor led coaching holds you more accountable than self study courses. Rather than having to dig deep for the motivation to study, an instructor can help you streamline your focus.
Support and Accountability Check Ins
When you commit yourself to earning your CMA certification it can be tough. The amount of studying and preparing required can take you away from your family and friends.
More often than not people struggle to find adequate moral support.
A great review course should include some level of support. This can be anything from regular accountability check ins, study groups or simply encouragement when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
How will you know if your studying is paying off if you don’t receive any progress reports?
The reality is, you won’t.
Regular progress reports outlining your strengths and weaknesses can really help you streamline your study efforts.
After all, why spend hours studying concepts you already understand rather than the ones you’re struggling with?
In addition to that, CMA courses are often created around a certain study plan. You are meant to complete core subjects at specific times.
Progress reports can serve as reminders that you are falling behind or maybe even ahead of the game (woohoo!).
Bite Sized Video Tutorials
What is CMA course biggest mistakes I see? Perhaps the most common mistake is super long, overly complicated tutorials.
Great review courses, like CMA Exam Academy, offer bite sized video tutorials. Each tutorial is broken down in easy to consume sizes so you can tackle one topic at a time.
And don’t be confused with the term bite sized. Though short, each tutorial contains every important detail you will need to understand a concept so you don’t get caught off guard on exam day.
Multiple Choice Question and Essay Practice Questions
If you are unfamiliar with the format of the CMA exam then you may not be aware that it is mostly comprised of multiple choice questions. For each part of the exam you are allotted 4 hours total – 3 hours time to complete 100 multiple choice questions and 1 hour to complete 2 essay questions.
Many people struggle with multiple choice questions so having access to thousands of practice test questions can be incredibly beneficial.
The difference between an okay review course and a great one can be in the test bank technology. Adaptive technology, like that found in CMA Exam Academy, automatically chooses questions for you based on your level of understanding. That is to say that you will see less and less of questions for material that you have already shown an aptitude for.
The more practice questions you work through, the more tailored your future CMA test prep will become.
The absolutely best way to prepare for the exam is to run through a mock exam. Mock exams mimic the structure and format that you will find on the day of your actual exam.
In addition to getting familiar to the exam format, you will be timed so you can start to feel comfortable with the time crunch.
Textbooks (Hard Copy or E-book)
Hands down every review course should come with a textbook containing all the material needed to pass the exam.
Whether you opt for hard copy or e-book is up to you.
When I was preparing for the CMA exam, I found it really useful to have a textbook that was easy to understand. Not all textbooks are designed the same. Some require you to have an accounting background, and since many CMA candidates do not, this can be overwhelming and confusing.
There are interactive e-book options available which are the best of both worlds. Interactive textbooks allow you highlight and make notes on topics as you read. You can go back to these sections later and really dive into areas that need more review.
In order to pass the exam you will need to know all the formulas used by accountants and financial positions.
If you don’t know every formula you can get tripped up and lose a lot of points on your exam.
Study Hacks or Exam Prep Guides
I like to be organized and discovered that using a course with a clear study plan really helped me take my studying to the next level. A clear study plan gave me the structure I needed to make sure I was covering all the essential concepts and material.
Look, I get it. Some of us simply aren’t planners. We lack time management skills and the ability to stick to a study plan.
So in my opinion, choosing a review courses that offer a proven study plan and effective study hacks can come in handy.
Want to study on the go?
Washing dishes, folding laundry, commuting to work?
The truth is, most candidates live busy lives and are trying to balance work, family and studying.
Audio lessons are a great way to study on the go.
When it comes to audio lessons you want to make sure that the material covered in audio files is as detailed any video tutorial.
What Your CMA Course Needs to Cover
Not all cma courses are built the same, but there are fundamental concepts and topics that your course must cover if you want to pass the exam.
For starters, the CMA exam is a two part exam and each part covers different material.
Part One of the CMA exam covers:
- External Financial Reporting Decisions
- Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting
- Performance Management
- Cost Management
- Internal Controls
Part Two of the CMA exam covers:
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Corporate Finance
- Decision Analysis
- Risk Management
- Investment Decisions
- Professional Ethics
It is important that any cma review course you choose covers each of these ICMA Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) topics in depth.
What are the CMA Course Fees?
I’m not going to sugar coat it — cma review courses are an investment. The price for a review course varies depending on which provider you go with and how extensive the program is.
For example, you can purchase the textbook alone and try to self-teach yourself for as little as $200 USD per Part. Full blown review courses that offer everything I mentioned above can range from $699 to $1795 USD.
Like I said, this is an investment. But definitely one that can make the difference between passing or failing.
If you’re having a hard time swallowing the thought of spending almost $1800 USD there is one option to consider: asking your boss to cover the cost.
Let’s say you already have a job in the finance and accounting arena and want to rise the ranks of your current company. Why not ask your boss to consider covering the fee or at least partially?
There are some tactful ways to approach this subject, but as long as you go into it with the goal being to improve your knowledge and further the company itself, they may just go for it.
I wrote a post on how to make the ask — have a read here.
In my experience, I have found that a program containing all of the suggested materials above will give you the best possible chance of passing on the first try.
Ultimately it is your personal learning style that will determine what is CMA course right for you, but at least now you have a strong foundation to help you make that decision.
When it comes down to it, you don’t want to waste your time furthering your career. You want the quickest, most efficient path and choosing the right CMA review course can help immensely.