Did you ever have the impression that the CMA exam is easy (or easier)? If you look at these CMA exam pass rates, you will be surprised.
The CMA exam is divided into two parts:
- Financial Planning, Performance and Control
- Financial Decision Making
Here is the latest passing rates (January to October 2014) released by IMA. You can see that while there are some ups and downs in different regions, the macro picture is similar.
Source: IMA data (Jan – Oct 2014). 2015 data not yet released.
We analyze the performance in Part 1 and Part 2 in more detail.
CMA Exam Pass Rate: Part 1
Note: 2012 covers the 9-month period from Sep 2011 to Jun 2012; 2013 covers the 10-month period from Jan 2013 to Oct 2013; 2014 covers the 10-month period from Jan 2014 to Oct 2014.
The worldwide pass rate is a rather scary 31%-35% in this 3 year period, but if you exclude Middle East, the statistics looks much better. It is quite obvious from the above that if your native language is English or you have a chance to learn English in your country (notably Europe, and to a lesser extent, Asia), you have a higher chance to pass.
Asia pass rate is higher possibly because Chinese candidates can take the exam in their local language.
Why English Could be a Major Factor in Pass Rates
The CMA exam tends to have wordy and complex questions which could be a challenge for those with slightly weaker comprehensive skill in the English language. Also, the CMA exam comprises not only multiple choice questions but also an essay section that are graded by human examiners.
One evidence can be found in China where candidates can choose to take the CMA exam in English or in Chinese. The pass rate in China on the English version is 46%, but the pass rate in China on the Chinese version is 59%. The 7 points difference is statistically significant.
In light of this, international candidates should therefore work on practicing English writing as part of the exam preparation.
CMA Exam Pass Rate – Part 2
The data reveals that the pass rate of Part 2 is considerably higher, and even more significant in the non-English speaking regions.
The year-on-year improvement is also encouraging, with the Middle Eastern region reaching all-time high of 37%.
What We Can Learn from These Passing Rate Statistics
Before these low pass rates scare you away, let me try to explain how we can analyze the data.
1. Diversified Pool of Candidates
First, while CMA exam welcomes candidates from all over the world, the exam format is US-centric. Candidates outside of the US may not be familiar with how the multiple choice questions are written and also, if their native language is not English, it is hard to score well in the essay section.
2. Low Barrier of Entry Attracts Casual Takers
Second, IMA (the exam administrator) makes it very easy for anyone with a bachelor degree to apply, unlike, for example, the CPA exam where candidates must take a substantial number of accounting and business courses.
The low barrier of entry attracts candidates who just want to give it a try. These casual takers do not invest sufficient time, money and effort to properly prepare for the exam.
What Does It Tell Us?
- If you have a good command of English; or
- If you work hard and do lots of practice questions to get familiar with the style of the multiple choice questions…
… your chance to pass the CMA exam is much higher than this average statistics.
Here is a Summary in Video Format
I go through the analysis with more pictures and charts in this video:
Now, How do YOU Increase Your Chance of Success?
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