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
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
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
Part 4, Business Applications, may only be taken upon successful
completion of Parts 1, 2, and 3.
Part 1 Business Analysis (3 hours, 110 questions)
|Financial Statement Analysis
Part 2 Management Accounting and Reporting (4 hours 140 questions)
|External Financial Reporting
Part 3 Strategic Management (3 hours 110 questions)
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
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
Important additional information about the content specification outlines
and the examinations is listed below.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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,
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
( Based on the personal experience of PQA's Sr. Consultants, and adapted
from the Institute of Certified Management Accountants' resource guide).