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CMA Exams

Page Contents

International CMA Content Specification Overview
Body of Knowledge for CMA Exams
Levels of Coverage for the CMA Exam
   Standard Setting
   Scaled Scores


International Certified Management Accounting (CMA) Designation is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (ICMA)

This page is about the CMA Examination Process to earn the CMA Designation.

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation was developed by the ICMA in 1972 to provide an objective measure of the individual's knowledge and competence in the field of management accounting. Only the CMA program recognizes the unique proficiencies required for success in this challenging profession.

There are over 70,000 CMA's registered with the ICMA, approximately 7,000 in Canada, 35,000 in the United States and 28,000 from over 119 different countries around the world. ICMA currently has eight international chapters throughout Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Other international chapters are being considered for the near future and will be announced as they become chartered.


Candidates seeking certification must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in Canada and/or United States or the foreign university equivalent or score in the 50th percentile or better on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
  • Acquire two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting, financial management, management consulting, business research or general business management – logged either prior to or within seven years of passing the exam.
  • Submit two character references.
  • Comply with the IMA Standards of Ethical Conduct.
  • Be a member of the Institute of Management Accountants.

Candidates for the International Certified Management Accounting designation are required to take the exam in four parts - Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Part 4, Business Applications, may only be taken upon successful completion of Parts 1, 2, and 3.


International CMA Content Specification Overview


Part 1 Business Analysis (3 hours, 110 questions)

Business Economics 25% Level B
Global Business 20% Level B
Internal Controls 15% Level A
Quantitative Methods 15% Level B
Financial Statement Analysis 25% Level B


Part 2 Management Accounting and Reporting (4 hours 140 questions)

Budget Preparation 15% Level C
Cost Management 25% Level C
Information Management 15% Level A
Performance Measurement 20% Level C
External Financial Reporting 25% Level B


Part 3 Strategic Management (3 hours 110 questions)

Strategic Planning 15% Level B  
Strategic Marketing 15% Level A  
Corporate Finance 25% Level B  
Decision Analysis 25% Level C  
Investment Decisions 20% Level B  


Part 4 Business Applications (Level C) (3 hours)

All topics from Parts 1, 2, and 3 plus: Organization Management Organization Communication Behavioral Issues Ethical Considerations


Candidates are responsible for being informed on the most recent developments in the areas covered in the outlines. This includes understanding of public pronouncements issued by accounting organizations as well as being up-to-date on recent developments reported in current accounting, financial and business periodicals.



This program is designed for personal and/or professional development.  It is not designed to provide instruction in the skill and knowledge requisite for employment in any vocation.  Therefore PQA is not registered under the Private Career Colleges Act in Ontario, Canada.

PQA has developed and can provide you with all the teaching materials, sample CMA exams, tips for writing CMA exams, and professional mentoring necessary for you to pass the CMA exams.

Content specification outlines representing the body of knowledge that will be covered on the International Certified Management Accounting examinations as well as the text material, chapter summaries, Power Point slides and multiple choice testing of the text material for each subject matter for the first three exams are available from Process Quality Associates.

We have a data bank of over 3000 relevant accounting multiple choice questions including analysis of correct answers.

In addition, we have developed a number of simulated exams based on the same format as the International Certified Management Accounting examinations to prepare you for your final CMA exams.

The fourth exam is a written response exam for which a number of business situations faced by professional mangers will be presented. PQA has not only a great variety of cases used on past CMA exams but also the marking scheme employed by the CMA examination markers.

Our pass rate for CMA candidates that we have trained has been above 80% every year and as high as 92% one year on candidate’s first attempt of the exams.

Important additional information about the content specification outlines and the examinations is listed below.

  1. The coverage percentage given for each major topic within each examination part provides above represents the relative weight given to that topic in an examination part. The number of questions presented in each major topic area approximates this percentage.
  2. Each examination will sample from the subject areas contained within each major topic area to meet the relative weight specifications. No relative weights have been assigned to the subject areas within each major topic. No inference should be made from the order in which the subject areas are listed or from the number of subject areas as to the relative weight or importance of any of the subjects.
  3. Each major topic within each examination part has been assigned a coverage level designating the depth and breadth of topic coverage, ranging from an introductory knowledge of a subject area (Level A) to a thorough understanding of and ability to apply the essentials of a subject area (Level C). Detailed explanations of the coverage levels and the skills expected of candidates are presented below.
  4. The topics for Parts 1, 2, and 3 have been selected to minimize the overlapping of subject areas among the examination parts. The topics within an examination part and the subject areas within topics may be combined in individual questions. Questions within Parts 1, 2, and 3 will only cover subject areas outlined in the respective content specifications. The exception is Part 4, Business Applications, which may include any of the subject areas tested in Parts 1,2, and 3.
  5. With regard to Federal income taxation issues, candidates will be expected to understand the impact of income taxes when reporting and analyzing financial results. In addition, the tax code provisions that impact decisions (e.g., depreciation, interest, etc.) will be tested.
  6. Candidates for the International CMA designation are expected to have a minimum level of business knowledge that transcends all examination parts. This minimum level would include knowledge of basic financial statements, time value of money concepts, and elementary statistics.
  7. Parts 1, 2, and 3 are 100% objective and consist of carefully constructed multiple-choice questions that test all levels of cognitive skills. Parts 1 and 3 are three-hour exams and contain 110 questions each. Part 2 is a four-hour exam and has 140 questions. A small number of the questions on each exam are being validated for future use and will not count in the final score.
  8. Part 4, Business Applications, consists of several essay questions and problems that are delivered in a computer-based format. Both written and quantitative responses will be required. Candidates will be expected to present written answers that are responsive to the question asked, presented in a logical manner, and demonstrate an appropriate understanding of the subject matter. It should be noted that candidates are expected to have working knowledge in the use of word processing and electronic spreadsheets.
  9. Ethical issues and considerations will be tested on Part 4, Business Applications. At least one question in this part will be devoted to an ethical situation presented in a business oriented context. Candidates will be expected to evaluate the issues involved and make recommendations for the resolution of the situation.


Body of Knowledge Required for CMA Exams

In order to more clearly define the topical knowledge required by a candidate, varying levels of coverage for the treatment of major topics of the content specification outlines have been identified and defined. The cognitive skills that a successful candidate should possess and that should be tested on the examinations can be defined as follows:

Knowledge:    Ability to remember previously learned material such as specific facts, criteria, techniques, principles, and procedures (i.e., identify, define, list).

Comprehension:    Ability to grasp and interpret the meaning of material (i.e., classify, explain, distinguish between).

Application:    Ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations (i.e., demonstrate, predict, solve, modify, relate).

Analysis:    Ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure can be understood; ability to recognize causal relationships, discriminate between behaviors, and identify elements that are relevant to the validation of a judgment (i.e., differentiate, estimate, order).

Synthesis:    Ability to put parts together to form a new whole or proposed set of operations; ability to relate ideas and formulate hypotheses (i.e. combine, formulate, revise).

Evaluation:    Ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose on the basis of consistency, logical accuracy, and comparison to standards; ability to appraise judgments involved in the selection of a course of action (i.e., criticize, justify, conclude).


Levels of Coverage of the CMA Exam

The three levels of coverage can be defined as follows:

Level A: Requiring the skill levels of knowledge and comprehension.

Level B: Requiring the skill levels of knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis.

Level C: Requiring all six skill levels, knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.



Standard Setting

The International CMA examinations are criterion-referenced tests, meaning that they are used to determine whether a candidate meets a certain threshold or standard of performance. Accordingly, the Institute of Certified Management Accountants uses an accepted procedure designed for the purpose of determining the level of performance on the tests that actually constitutes passing. This procedure involves the collective judgment of a panel of subject matter experts within the fields of management accounting and financial management. Separate passing scores are established for all parts of the exams, and all pass/fail determinations are final.



Since the actual items on the ICMA exams are different from test form to test form, the different forms of the exam will vary in difficulty, in that some forms may contain somewhat more difficult questions than others. The same standard for passing the test is applied to all candidates, regardless of which form of the test they take. Thus, in order to maintain consistency in standards, the ICMA uses techniques of statistical equating to determine the equivalency of exams. The purpose of equating is to ensure that the passing scores on all forms of the exams are equivalent in terms of levels of difficulty. In this way, the same standard is maintained for all candidates, regardless of when and which test form they take.


Scaled Scores

All scores on the ICMA exams are expressed as scaled scores, ranging from 200 to 700, with the passing score set at 500. The raw scores on the test (i.e., the number of items correct) are transformed to this scale for the purpose of maintaining uniformity and consistency in the way scores are reported, regardless of which test forms a candidate may take.



How many questions are on the exam?

There are 110 questions on the CMA exam parts 1 and 3. The CMA exam part 2 contains 140 questions. The CMA exam part 4 contains no fewer than four questions on any given exam and no more than seven questions.

How much time will I have to complete the exam?

You have three hours in which to complete the CMA exam parts 1, 3, and 4. You will have 4 hours to complete the CMA exam part 2.

When I take the exam, will I receive my score immediately?

Yes, for the CMA exam parts 1, 2, and 3 you will receive a pass/fail notification and a scaled score on the computer screen, as well as a printout which will be embossed at the site attesting to its authenticity. The ICMA does not send a separate score notification until all required exam parts are completed.

The CMA exam part 4 written-response questions will not be graded on-line and, therefore, you will not immediately receive your grade on part 4. The questions will be graded by subject matter experts and partial credit will be given. For example, if you are asked to give three reasons why a selected alternative action is good for a business and you provide only two correct reasons, you will receive partial credit for these two responses, likewise for questions requiring a calculated response, partial credit will be given for a correct formula even though a mathematical error may have been made in the final number. Grades will be mailed to candidates approximately 30 days after the end of each testing period.

May I receive more detailed information on my test results?

If you do not pass the CMA exam parts 1, 2, and 3, you will automatically receive a Detail of Performance report. The report is provided at no additional charge and shows performance by topic for the exam part taken. This information is intended to help you identify subject matter areas where. further study may be needed. In addition, an Advanced Exam Performance Report, which breaks the exam down to subtopics and follows the Content Specification Outlines, is available for a fee.

How do individual multiple choice questions on the exam affect the score I receive? Are some questions weighted more heavily than others?

Individual questions within the CMA parts 1, 2, and 3 are not weighted in the sense that one question is worth more points than another question. All questions are of equal point value. The individual questions do determine the relative difficulty of the entire set of questions, or “form,” of the exam. When you take an exam, a set of questions is randomly selected. Each question included in the set of questions has a “difficulty rating” that, together with all the other questions, determines the relative difficulty of that particular set of questions. This relative difficulty determines the number of questions that must be answered correctly in order to pass. A more difficult exam will require a lower number of correct answers to achieve a passing score than an easier exam.

Should I guess if I’m not sure of the correct answer to a question?

There is no penalty for incorrect answers. Therefore, in the CMA parts 1, 2, and 3, you should select an option that seems reasonable rather than leave an answer blank, particularly if you can eliminate one or two of the options as being incorrect.



The best preparation you can make for taking the exam is thoroughly studying the material and content covered by the examination. These study materials covering all topics in the four ICMA exams as well as a number of simulated exams are part of the training program available from PQA. Beyond that, however, there are several strategies you can use while taking the test that will help to maximize your performance.



Another possible source of anxiety is not knowing what to expect at the exam site. The ICMA uses Thompson Prometric to administer the exams. Prometric has an extensive network of U.S. and international testing centers. These Prometric Testing Centers (PTC’s) are permanent computer-equipped testing facilities with testing hours available daily (except Sundays and holidays) in the U.S. Internationally, testing times are set in accordance with local laws and customs. All U.S. PTC’s are handicapped accessible and conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The PTC’s offer private, modular testing booths with ample workspace, comfortable seating, proper lighting, and ventilation. The computer workstations employ state-of-the-art technology with high-clarity screen displays to minimize eye-strain. Candidates may use either a computer keyboard or a mouse to enter test answers.

On request, candidates will be provided with scrap paper and pencils for use in making calculations. The scrap paper is counted by the test center personnel and all paper is collected at the end of the exam. Candidates are allowed to bring a small battery or solar powered electronic calculator with no more than 6 functions:- addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square root, and percent. The calculator must be non-programmable, must not use tape, and memory must erase when the calculator is turned off

Candidates are not permitted to bring personal belongings, such as purses, briefcases, and jackets, into the testing room. Small lockers are available at the test centers for storage of personal belongings.

At the start of the test, you will be taken through a short tutorial that introduces the testing screens and shows you how to select answers, mark questions for review and get on-line help if needed. The tutorial can be repeated if you wish; however, total tutorial time is limited to 15 minutes. Following the tutorial, the exam begins. The time remaining to complete the exam is displayed in the upper right corner of the screen. The tutorial does not affect the three hours allowed for the exam part being taken.

Submit your Application for PQA's Coaching & Tutoring for CMA Exams

( Based on the personal experience of PQA's Sr. Consultants, and adapted from the Institute of Certified Management Accountants' resource guide).

File: http://pqa.net/intstudent/cma_exams.htm

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