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Does Age Affect CMA Exam Results (Are You Too Old for this)?

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age affect cma exam resultsI’ve got questions from readers on whether age is a factor in getting the CMA certification — in other words, does it get difficult to pass the CMA exam as we get older, and secondly, does the impact of the CMA title increase or decrease as we age?

Is it Harder to get the CMA Title as We Get Older?

It is fair to say that, for any professional exams or any examination for that matter, the younger you are, the easier you pass. This is because examinations often involve memorization, and that when candidates are fresh out of college (or during college), the “book-smartness” is generally higher than those who are out of school.

At the same time, the skill that we gain as we enter the workforce — the experience and expertise gained in the field, is not tested in the exam. It is not that the examiners do not care about this skill set, but that it is pretty hard to “test” your experience…

In other words, the answer is yes, taking the exam later rather than soon is likely a disadvantage.

Are Most People Taking the Exam During College Then?

Based on the above logic, most candidates would have taken the CMA when they are in college or right afterwards. Is this true? I don’t have the statistics, but I bet that most people are actually taking the exam years after college.

The average age of a US CPA candidate is around 29 years old. CMA is a different qualification, but the background of candidates is very similar.

Another reference point: IMA has a “Young Professional Award” and the cut-off age is 33, more than 10 years after most people get their bachelor degrees.

What is the Advantage or Disadvantage of Getting Certified Later?

There isn’t a distinct advantage or disadvantage that I can think of, but if you believe that the CMA title can help you make more money as shown in IMA annual salary survey, then yes, your opportunity cost is higher if you postpone your plan of getting certified.

Having said that, the Middle East salary survey has shown that the impact of the certification is the biggest in higher position, and therefore, it is still worth the effort to take the exam and get the designation even when you pass your 30th birthday.

Here is a Summary in Video Format

What Do You Think?

Do you think age is a big factor for this exam? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more information on the CMA exam as well as tips on study strategies, please consider signing up to my e-course which is completely free. You can learn about the mini e-course here or sign up directly below:

Join us if you want to get tips on how to plan,
study and pass your CMA exam… on your first attempt!

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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  • mike says:

    Great article Stephanie, and it confirms what I have thought myself on when most people take it.

    Minor typo in the paragraph right below the “Are Most People Taking The Exam During College Then?”

    The last line of that paragraph reads ” most people are actually taking the exam years after the exam.” I’m guessing that is supposed to be “years after college.”

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Glad you find the article useful, Mike. And thanks for spotting the typo! stephanie

    • James Novack says:

      Actually I’m 57 years old and I intend to take this exam. Am I too old to benefit from this certification? I don’t know. Am I too old to pass this exam? I don’t think so. But I will take this exam.

      • Stephanie Ng says:

        Hi James, not sure about the CMA exam but on my CPA exam site I have readers who have been taking the exam at their 70s. One of them have passed 3 out of 4 parts. It would be tougher than most people, I believe, but it is definitely never too late 🙂

        • Keith D Lorino says:

          that is impressive. i think it is great Jamea you are taking the exam most people do not help themselves or better themselves. good luck in passing the exam.

      • Rosidah Nordin says:

        Hi James,
        I’m coming to 53 and I also plan to take this exam. It’s good to know that there’s someone else who is in my age group attempting this exam too! I don’t think it’s too late as whatever I learn from studying for the CIA helps me to identify and where possible, fill the gap in my roles and responsibilities as Internal Audit Manager. So if nothing else, it’s one way to improve the quality of my work. I’m still in Part 1 and yes, retaining what we read is an issue but if other people who are older can do it, why can’t we right??
        All the best James!

  • haris says:

    Great article.. my age itself 31 and I found my memorising skills affected much compared to my college days. But reasoning skill and practical application skills much better now. I beleive it is the degree of desire》decision》determination factor is the key to success.

  • Manoj says:

    Very interesting topic. I am 36 old student from Middle East now started studying for CMA. Two three years back i think my age was over after then i happened to see my friend passed exam even after their 40s.

  • Larry Merkel says:

    I was 61 when I took Part 1 on the CMA Exam and scored a 320. I was disappointed since the other 2 members of our study team passed. I think my effort needed improvement and more study time in between our group study times. Our group met twice a week for a total of 5 hours but I did not put in the extra time to reinforce my learning skills. The same process was used for part 2. I took the CMA Exam, a year apart due to my work schedule. Again, same results, I did not pass while the other two members did pass. I was 62 when I took part 2.

    The other 2 members of our study group were younger and both working in the accounting field as controllers or CFOs.

    I have a history of not scoring well on standardized tests. Back in 1967 or 1968, when I took the SAT, my score was 850 out of 1200 or 1500. I graduated from Xavier University with a MBA in December 1981. MY GMAT scores were around 400 out of 800. I had to take the test twice in order to graduate. The facility used for the GMAT was not air conditioned and I took the exam both times in July, The room was hot and uncomfortable and I know I gave up on the reasoning section dealing with a lengthy paragraph and the various questions associated with the topic. I believe Xavier was just wanting to confirm my GMAT score because I had passed all of my courses.

    Another factor that I believe has affected my ability to retain info is I have had 10 medical procedures since 1996 involving the use of anesthesia. In 2003, the was extensive use of anesthesia and coma inducing drugs.

    I have made some inquiries with the IMA and finally besides giving me a “M, S or U” grade for the various sections and essay, I was able to get a % grade like 50% or low 50% for a section. It would be nice to know more details about the exam results but IMA is not budging, especially on the Essay section. the IMA could loosen up their information feedback on results without compromising their integrity and code of Ethics. The cost for the Exams is high too begin with so more detail feedback would help the CMA Candidates.

    I will not be able to retake parts 1 and 2 without re-registering for the Exams. I am well aware of IMA code of ethics but with the fees paid for exam taking, one would expect a detailed scoring report.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Larry, thanks a lot for your detailed sharing. It is frustrating not getting enough information on how you can improve yourself, but seems like it is an “industry-trend”… the CPA diagnostic report used the similar format with little information (stronger/comparable/weaker).

      Anyway, how did you do on your practice questions? Maybe this time you can focus purely on practice questions and make sure you understand the concept behind each question? Stephanie

      • Larry Merkel says:

        I know my problem was not getting a high enough score on the practice questions. I was around 60% on most of my practice tests. some people I know that passed were in the 80’s%. So, that was my downfall. Have to do better next time.

  • Federico says:

    Aged 39, I took the CMA 1 exam last week, and will probably take CMA 2 during June.
    This feels just like studying in college… I guess it’s important to be very motivated, since hours are long.
    I think work experience does help a lot, if it is related to the exam topics.

  • Joy says:

    The earlier the better…that’s my conclusion. I resorted to self study and cleared the Part 1 examination. I would be taking the Part 2 this May 2014, however I strongly feel that my retention ability is going down day by day. Moreover, employers have a fetish for PQE (post qualification experience) and hence, the qualification acquired after 10 years of work experience in mid-senior does not quite entice them.

  • RAHUL says:

    i have working experience of more thn two years in Chartered Accountant Firm as Senior Accountant in India delhi india in mid size firm which have only indian private limited clients does this experience is eligible for CMA URGENT please give me feedback…

  • RAHUL says:

    Thank You
    Stephanie Ng
    Yes i have Statutory Auditing Experience and also lots of Accounting ,Project Report ,Balance Sheet for Loan Purpose Experience ………I am mailing IMA

  • RAHUL says:

    Stephanie Ng

    I have mailed in the official ima email but i have got only the default email from ima abt information and instruction i am still in confusion whether mine experience is valid of CMA or not plz Help me..

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      hi Rahul, IMA is the administrator so if they can’t answer you, I am afraid I can’t be too helpful. I wonder why though, they are often quite helpful and direct with their answers. Maybe you can call them up and see? sometimes it is easier to communicate by phone. Stephanie

  • Ivan says:

    I’m 37 now and appearing for the part 1 soon. I believe that it would be easy to study when you complete your college / degree as your commitments are low being a student.

    Now I’m really feeling the pinch as i have to balance the personal and professional time for the study.

    Few days to go….wish me good luck.

  • Venkat says:

    I am 55 with 34 years experience in Banking. I took voluntary retirement 6 months ago. I am planning to do CMA, maybe this year. I have other professional qualifications and CMA would be a good addition. I don’t think age has anything to do with studies. It is only your passion, will, commitment and sheer hard work to get through CMA.

    I admire Mr. Larry Merkel for his perseverance. I believe that he should not worry about marks and instead concentrate on getting 100 % correct answers in objective questions. Maybe he will have to hone his skills in essay section. In both the cases, mock tests will be of great help and he should try out maximum mock tests to get a grip on the subjects. Maybe he can visualise himself as an examiner / member of the IMA board and conceptualise an approach to evaluate the examinees by evolving keys to questions and perspectives on essay subjects. I am sure Mr. Larry Merkel would pass CMA with laurels in his next attempt.

  • Raed Abu Shamat says:

    It is never too late ,age is not a problem ever
    The knowledge is not limited to specific age
    And I beleive as you go older you need to make your brain to operate well

  • Saurabh says:

    Hi Stephanie

    It really doesn’t matter how old one is. Yes, I agree, the earlier we start in our career, the more benefits we reap. If we have a strong determination and will to achieve something, age can never be a barrier for any kind of learning. It is never considered late.

    Also, I personally feel experience does help to some extent… especially in the essay section when we are required to recommend solutions in the given scenario as a CFO or a Cost Accountant. Correct me if I am wrong but this is what I feel.

    Well, at present looking forward to write my Part 2 in a week’s time.

    Thanks for your support!

    Saurabh

  • Mary Benvenuto says:

    Hi Stephanie – I started my CMA review “journey” at 51. While it was not easy for me, I was able to pass the first time by taking a CMA Review Course through Cleary University in Michigan (on-site). I have not worked in accounting much in my career and had been out of school for 30 years when I started. But good things came to me immediately! I passed the first time and I became invovled as a volunteer with my local chapter. My employer recognized me with a nice payraise too. So, while I wish I had pursued this when I was much younger – the benefit is still there for even at a later stage of life. Since then, I’ve passed two parts of my CPA and working on REG now.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Mary, what a great story! I am so happy that you share your journey so far, as many of my readers need this type of motivation. It’s a very good point that you get involved in your local chapter and volunteer there, as I always try to tell my readers that the CMA certification isn’t just for credentials; it’s also for networking and personal development. Of course, getting the pay increase that you’ve had is always nice!

      Best of luck to REG. It’s a beast but I am sure you’ll beat it!

    • Lawrence Merkel says:

      Good for you.

      I am over 10 years your senior. I was not so fortunate in passing the CMA, I failed both part 1 and part 2. I having only myself to blame for my performance.

      After not passing part 2, I lobbied IMA administration for better score reporting that would not compromise the integrity of the Exam. I did not achieve my goal. I do believe providing a more detailed grade report would not hurt the IMA mission ethically. I did not request the IMA for a release of questions, just a more detailed performance report on how one scored.

      Does everyone know that getting to the essay section of the CMA, does not guarantee passing CMA part 1 or 2. Everyone that gets a 50% or greater score on the M/C section will have a chance to take the essay part of the CMA exam. However, 50% on the M/C and a 100% on essay = only 313 points, passing is 360 points. 60% on the M/C and a 100% on the essay = 350 vs 360 needed to pass. 100% on the essay section is a possibility if one is extremely intelligent but highly not probable of the CMA. Scoring a 65% on the M/C and 93% on the essay section will equal a passing score of 360. Scoring a 70% on the M/C and 78% on the essay section will equal a passing score of 360. This is a real possibility.

      The two times I took a CMA exam it was towards the end of the testing cycle. With the slowness of the IMA organization to report final grades really shortens the time frame for re-taking a failed section especially if one’s schedule does not permit a re-take.

      Just think if college professors used the same grading format on a college term paper. One would go to the professor and ask for further explanations. What if one did not get a detailed answer, how is one to improve. Through the college evaluation process one could give the professor a poor rating and through “Rate my professor” give feedback for other students to avoid taking the professor’s class. This avenue does not exist with the IMA.

      Just starting over with IMA and taking the 2 exams again will cost over $2500, to join IMA again, register and take exams and buy the EXPENSIVE study materials.

      My final gripe is the IMA and Prometric not putting a pause in the testing cycle for one to have a restroom break.

      Even said

    • Paul says:

      I agree with Mary. Im also 50, and Im considering sitting the CMA exams. With the knowledge and experience I gained over the years by working, I first tried to answer a sample of 20 CMA multiple choice questions, answering based on logic, knowledge, and experience, I scored just over 55 % on first attempt, without reviewing any CMA text book or refreshing my knowledge on forumla, concepts, theories. I dont believe a CMA young graduate would advance significantly straight out of college into the work force, experience and skill does count- a lot!

  • Philip says:

    Hi Stephanie

    I am at 48, I don’t feel age factor will become a hindrance for the CMA success journey. only thing need to be fully dedicated and concentrated when you spend time for study.

  • Muhammad Diljan says:

    Hello Friends!
    I have recently joined CMA program but now feeling very weakly motivated towards its exam. The reason is that I am 32 and MBA but still didn’t get any job which include preparation of financial statements or financial decisions. What i did in past 6 years were just upto maintaining cashbook and departmental accounts and preparing project cost sheets and fund review (review of cash payments for site offices) in a very relax environment (no heavy workloads). In the company (minerals exploration) I worked for last time there were 210 employees total. So at this stage what will be career benefits for me by doing CMA. Please help me out by your expert comments.

    Thank you all !
    Muhammad Diljan
    Pakistan

  • Claudio says:

    Congratulations for this interesting article, Stephanie.
    It has been researched than studying is not different than other ‘physical’ skills therefore it requires regular practice. In my case I’m happy to have studied accounting quite late, finishing in my mid 30s coming from another tough field (Law). I’m pointing this because to me it’s quite obvious that experience and age can actually make you smarter. In addition, having worked in management accounting for a while definitely helps for passing CMA. There is an initial mental “adjustment’ for your not-so-efficient practices or misconceptions but content is so consistent that you can easily get convinced and find connections between different tools/topics. In practice, though starting CMA in my early 40s, I’ve managed to finished it quite quickly, shortly after finishing CIA (another quick one). Now I’m finishing my CPA in Australia very fast too, surely taking advantage of exam-related experience and skills now. I’m proud to say that CMA’s Part 2 is the hardest exam I have ever passed in accounting, including uni (Financial Reporting of CPA is the second).
    As some have pointed here, motivation is definite a key successful factor. Just wanted to add two others to my view; studying skills and some experience in management accounting.
    Regarding industry recognition, at least in Australia, there is an obvious gap between the skills acquired in college/uni compared to what is expected in most complex organisations now and definitely specific certifications like CMA/CIMA (UK’s version) greatly help to address this.
    All the best for you and the candidates out there.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Thanks Claudio for sharing your story and for your insightful comment! It’s definitely encouraging to know. Sounds like you are doing very well, happy for you. Cheers, Stephanie

  • Natalia Procopio says:

    I started studying for the CMA exam earlier this year and thought it would be easy as I have lot of experience in the field. But I quickly learned the opposite. Many things just simply need to be memorized. I am 35 and my memory is not as sharp as it was in college. Unfortunately, I never heard of CMA until about a year ago; otherwise I would have taken it right after college. I always knew about CPA but wasn’t interested in the public sector. Anyways, I am determined and devoting 1 hour a day to study will help me pass the exam, hopefully!! I must say I am learning a lot from study material that could be applied to my job to perform better.
    Thanks for all your tips, they are helpful!

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Yes definitely Natalia. I really like the fact that the exam content is more practical when compared to most other accounting and finance qualifications. Our book-smartness fades as we age, but you’re still pretty young at 35! Glad to know you are determined to do this. Best of luck! Stephanie

  • Rob says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I want to take a moment and thank you for your site, as it provides valuable tips, insights, and motivation.

    As for me, I am an atypical from the usual CMA candidate – I am older (55 Y.O.), and have managed/run/owned/flipped companies in the course of my career(s); most successfully, some not so much so, and at one time, was even an Investment Banker. Of course at one time I was also young, a soldier, a geneticist, an environmental specialist, and have held numerous other titles along the way.

    My reason for looking at the CMA certification is really nothing more than professional growth. As one ages and matures in their chosen profession, they tend to become specialized in the 20% portion of what 80% of their day entails, and thus limited in some ways. As for me, I like variety and challenges and have found that I have lost some of what I have learned in the typical MBA classes i.e., Finance, Accounting, and Statistics, simply because I had others to focus on those tasks, while I focused on Strategic and Tactical solutions.

    So, since I may have a different vision than what may be typical, or perhaps simply because I am aware there is much I have forgotten, I am taking the time to review my MBA text books, after which I will likely take your recommendation and sign up for one of the online courses.

    Again, thank you.

    Regards and best wishes,
    Rob

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Rob, it’s very nice of you to share your story. While it may not be typical, I’ve read stories to yours. It is also a big encouragement for those who have the same thoughts and are contemplating whether to go ahead. Picking up the MBA books is a good idea — and let me know if I can be helpful in your journey! stephanie

  • siddharth says:

    hi Stephanie
    I do not believe age is a barrier for acquiring further education. In fact, for an exam like CMA, where concepts are the key and rote learning would not guarantee success at all, with age and work experience a candidate can handle stressful situations much better like time management in exam. also, with experience, one develops a rational and balanced view of the overall scenario hence he would view a certification as an additional tool for his career progression because he knows at the end of the day, performance matters over anything in the corporate world.

  • Squeeaccountant says:

    I am 49, and I am studying for the CPA exam. I really don’t have much of a choice. I have been a Controller for 12 years, and I make enough money that nobody will hire me anymore because I make too much money for an uncertified controller. I actually make more than most CPAs. However, it becomes a problem when the company goes up for sale. What do you do? The first company went up for sale, and I was lucky and got my current job. However, this company has been for sale for 2 years, and nobody will touch me. Additionally, employers won’t hire me for anything above a Controller position. The only hope for a good professional future is to become certified.

    But, studying is also a challenge because I have been out of school for 27 years, and I really have to teach myself everything all over again. It’s not like I only graduated from college last year.

    It’s tough, but I will pass.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hello, thanks for your sharing. That’s the spirit! I have quite a few readers in your situation. Your practical experience does help in the exam. Best of luck! stephanie

  • Joan P. Manseras says:

    Hi, age is not a big issue in passing the CMA Examinations. I am 30, running 31, by May 2016, and I took CMA examinations last February 2016. I passed both parts in 1 try with less than 3 months full time preparation. I passed CPA exams before at the age of 25. But surely, there are changes in the study behaviors and priorities as you get older; but nonetheless, they do not affect me that much. For as long as your drive and focus are still the same as you were in the early twenties, you will still get your goal. In fact, taking CMA at an older age will give you more advantage than the others given that you, most probably, have more than enough work experience needed to get a very good grasp of the business concepts and practices. These hard earned lessons will give you extra edge to pass!

    Again, never let age hinder your goal. Aim high!

  • Mucahit says:

    Hi Stephanie, firstly I would like to thank you for making a great website.

    I am now 25 yrs old Bachelor of Business Management graduate and working as an accounting specialist in a multinational company in Turkey and I have an experience of 14 months straight in my current company (10 months in Saudi Arabia and 4months in Turkey). My future plan is to work in New Zealand or Canada after getting this certificate. I have just started thinking of getting this certificate and I would like to ask you where exactly to begin and what are your suggestions to me?

    Thanks and Regards,

    Mucahit

  • T says:

    Stephanie, I just had to respond to your inquiry as to if one can be “too old” to go for a CMA. I am 38 and have worked for the same municipal corporation for the last ten years. I can say unequivocally that starting my journey toward a CMA certification has been one of the best post college career choices for me. Even if I do not pass the exam what I have learned is valuable, and I have already put into practice at my job some of the skills I have gleaned from the study material.

    I highly recommend going for it no matter your age! Especially if your goal is life-long learning.

  • Waleed says:

    Hey stephanie .i have 31 years old i worked for 7 years at local copmany in egypt. when i decide to look for new company i found my experience is not enough to have a new job with good comoany.badlyi worked like a data entry and a little accounts like acc recievable expenses.stock inflow & outflow and inventory.which mean i have no experience at the core of accountant like preparing b.sheet or income statement Etc. So i decide to start CMA .so plz answer even ur answer against my desire .do i have chance to pick a good job when i finish it.or factors of age and experience will effect.i’m very disappointed and cofussed .plz answer me.thank you

  • RAVINDRA DAUNDKAR says:

    I am 46 yrs old giving I and II PART of the exam since last 4 years but not getting too much focus on the study because of more pressure of work, but I can understand the study around 75 % clearly because of 20yrs of experience. but not able to clear the exam.
    My second query is that I am getting very shyness while going to exam and getting nervousness . your suggestion will help me

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Ravindra, I admire your perseverance! It sounds like focus is the key. First, focus on either Part 1 or 2, not both. Pick the one you are better at. Then, focus on the study — to be honest everyone here has pressure and stress at work so you just have to work around it, or sacrifice some personal or even family time to get this done. If this is not acceptable, I would rather give up and not doing a little bit in between.

      Since you are 75% there with the experience, I would just give a big push this time and see if it works.

      In terms of getting nervous at the exam site, again this is something everyone faces, but I can say if one is more prepared, one is more confident. Also, if you focus and pass one of the two exams, you know you can do it and this also helps build up your confidence as well.

      So stay strong and do find time to get this another go. Best of luck! Stephanie

  • Anthony says:

    Actually, I think work experience is helpful. Im currently in my 50s and studying for CMA, I was told by the Institute there is no age limit- and why should there be? I can relate a lot of the material to my practical work experience (over 30 years) which includes working in different countries, and multi national corporations, manufacturing, service and non profit companies. While memorizing can get harder as you age, comprehension, logic, application – can get better with practical experience. A good tip while studying, make notes in the order of the topics, this is particularly helpful for quick refresher and memorizing formulas etc.

  • Oluwafunmilola says:

    It is true that a young person (say 25 in school and unmarried) can easily memorise and remember his courses better than an older person. He will also have a lot of time to study and less issues to bother with. However he may not have enough real life practical experience to back up his study materials. To that extent, the topics are more of theoretical.

    On the other hand, an older person may have more responsibilities to handle (either at work, managing staff) and in the home front (managing the children, stewards etc) , and all these can affect his rate of assimilation and time of study, but there is a possibility that these can be replaced with the practical experience he has gained over the years in addition to his limited study time in the field.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is true that the pendulum can swing either way! I have studied for exams close to graduation and further from graduation, and I will say that I have been more prepared for the certification exams later in life. I think this has to deal with maturity levels, life experience, and being more serious. But I can see how it would be an amazing benefit to take these exams in school as well!

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