CMA Exam Changes: Changes Coming to the CMA Exam in 2020

Breaking news, Certified Management Accountant (CMA) candidates: The CMA exam is changing soon! The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) recently announced the CMA 2020 exam changes, and if you plan to earn the CMA certification in the next year or so, you need to know about them. To help you know what to expect and determine when you should take the exam, I’ve explained all the details. Learn everything you need to know about the CMA exam changes now.

Reasons for CMA Exam Changes

Every 5-7 years, the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) completes a series of studies to assess the job responsibilities of Certified Management Accountants. In these studies, the ICMA asks CFOs, controllers, and other accounting professionals for their opinions on the knowledge and skills individuals need to succeed in management accounting. With the results of these studies, the ICMA determines whether to update the content of the CMA exam.

The changes coming to the CMA exam in 2020 are the outcome of a comprehensive job analysis the ICMA recently completed. The ICMA decided that they must adjust the content of the CMA exam so that the exam can continue to be current, relevant, and valid. Therefore, with the information gained from their recent survey, the ICMA will update the exam with several significant changes.

Specifically, these changes will help new CMAs be equipped to perform better in the ever-evolving profession of accounting. With recent advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotic process automation, and blockchain significantly altering the industry, today’s accountants must be able to operate in an innovative working environment. Therefore, they need a new set of skills, and the new CMA exam version will assess them for these skills. By doing so, the CMA exam will remain applicable to accounting.

Dates for the 2020 CMA Exam Changes

The updated English language exam will appear on January 1, 2020. The updated Chinese language exam will come out in April 2020.

Therefore, the last testing window to use the current English version of the CMA exam will be the September/October 2019 window. The final day to take the current Chinese version of the exam will be November 9, 2019.

You can purchase an exam registration for the new English exam version any time after February 16, 2019, and any time after November 11, 2019, for the new Chinese exam version.

2020 CMA Exam Changes Dates

Exam Language

Release of New Exam VersionEnd of Current Exam Version

Registration for New Exam Version


January 1, 2020

September/October 2019 window

After February 16, 2019


April 2020

November 9, 2019

After November 11, 2019

Overview of the 2020 CMA Exam Changes

What Is Changing

The ICMA is modifying the titles and content of both parts of the exam.

The new keyword for Part 1 is technology. The ICMA explains that technology is transforming the profession, so CMAs must be equipped to use it. Therefore, this exam part will receive a new title and a new content section in order to expand its coverage of technology and analytics.

The ICMA wants Part 2 to ensure that accounting and financial professionals have the skills they need to make ethical and strategic decisions in the digital world. For this reason, the ICMA is expanding the Professional Ethics and Decision Analysis sections of Part 2.

2020 CMA Exam Changes

Exam Part

New TitleNew Content

Deleted Content

Part 1: Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control

Financial Planning, Performance, and AnalyticsTechnology and Analytics, Integrated ReportingInternal Auditing

Part 2: Financial Decision Making

Strategic Financial ManagementBusiness Ethics, Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Off-Balance Sheet Financing, Bankruptcy, Tax Implications of Transfer Pricing

What Is Not Changing

The 2020 CMA exam changes will only affect the content of the exam, not the structure. The changes will also not affect the following:

  • Exam administration
  • Exam fees
  • Eligibility and registration
  • Testing windows
  • Number and types of exam questions
  • Skill level coverage
  • Total testing time
  • Exam scoring and passing score

2020 CMA Exam Changes to Exam Content and Structure

In order to add additional content areas to the CMA exam without requiring increased testing time and question counts, the ICMA has altered the coverage percentages of about half the exam’s content areas.

The content specification outlines (CSOs) reveal the following changes to the content and structure of each exam part.

CMA Exam Part 1 Content Specification Overview Comparison

Current (2019) CMA Exam Version

New (2020) CMA Exam Version

Content Areas

Coverage PercentagesContent Areas

Coverage Percentages

A. External Financial Reporting Decisions


A. External Financial Reporting Decisions


B. Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting


B. Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting

20% (-10%)

C. Performance Management


C. Performance Management


D. Cost Management


D. Cost Management

15% (-5%)

E. Internal Controls


E. Internal Controls


F. Technology and Analytics


CMA Exam Part 2 Content Specification Overview Comparison

Current (2019) CMA Exam Version

New (2020) CMA Exam Version

Content AreasCoverage PercentagesContent AreasCoverage Percentages
A. Financial Statement Analysis25%A.  Financial Statement Analysis20% (-5%)
B. Corporate Finance20%B. Corporate Finance20%
C. Decision Analysis20%C. Decision Analysis25% (+5%)
D. Risk Management10%D. Risk Management10%
E. Investment Decisions15%E. Investment Decisions10% (-5%)
F. Professional Ethics10%F. Professional Ethics15% (+5%)

As you can see, Part 1 content area B. Planning Budgeting, and Forecasting will be reduced by 10%, and the coverage percentage of content area D. Cost Management will also be decreased by 5% to make room for content area F. Technology and Analytics. This section will cover the following topics:

  1. Information Systems
  2. Data Governance
  3. Technology-enabled financial transformation
  4. Data analytics

The new content area in Part 1 will even out the number of content areas in each part, giving each 6 for a total of 12.

In Part 2, both content area A. Financial Statement Analysis and E. Investment Decisions will be lessened by 5% so that content area C. Decision Analysis and F. Professional Ethics can grow by 5%.

Additional Information about the 2020 CMA Exam Changes

If you finish the CMA exam in 2019, you do not have to worry about the changes coming in 2020. However, if you begin the exam in 2019 and are not able to complete it until 2020, you will need to prepare for the changes coming to the exam part(s) you have left to take.

If you need to take one part of the new exam version in 2020, you can combine credit for that part with the credit you received for passing a part of the current exam version, so long as your entrance fee is still valid, and you pass both parts of the exam within 3 years of each other. Credit for exam parts lasts for 3 years, so you don’t have to pass both parts in the same version of the exam.

Even after the new exam version arrives, candidates must complete the CMA program within 3 years from the date they paid the CMA entrance fee.

The IMA will also continue to provide the CMA Exam Support Package for the new version of the exam. However, as always, these materials on their own are not enough to prepare you for the exam. Therefore, you should still purchase CMA exam prep for your review. All the most popular CMA review providers will update their courses for the new exam version, so you can get all the help you need to pass.

Preparing for the 2020 CMA Exam Changes

So, how will the upcoming CMA exam changes affect you?

If you have already begun the process of becoming a CMA, you could try to finish before the changes come so you don’t have to worry about them at all. Candidates who have already passed one part have plenty of time to pass the other part before 2020, so avoiding the changes should be no trouble.

Furthermore, if you begin your CMA exam journey in 2019, you could aim to pass both parts this year and avoid the changes as well. The IMA recommends 150 hours of CMA exam study time for each part. So, by studying for only 15 hours a week, you can finish your studies for 1 part in 10 weeks (just under 3 months).

And even if you waited until the last testing month of the year to take your final exam part (October), you still wouldn’t have to start studying until August. Therefore, candidates who start the exam in 2019 still have enough time to pass both parts before the new version launches.

However, candidates who don’t start the exam in 2019 still have nothing to fear. You will have to take the new exam version, but there will be CMA exam prep to guide you, of course. And, you will be gaining all the knowledge and skills you need to succeed as a CMA based on the ICMA’s survey results.

Benefiting from Access Until You Pass

The coming CMA exam changes make the access length of your CMA review course one of the most important features. Specifically, your course access length can save you a lot of money and spare you a lot of stress if it is until you pass.

Using a course with access until you pass enables you to receive free content updates for as long as you’re studying even if the exam changes. So, if you purchase a course with access until you pass now and don’t finish the CMA exam until after the 2020 changes arrive, you won’t have to pay for new study materials because your review provider will automatically update your course for free. Consequently, you’ll get 2 courses for the price of 1!

Such unlimited access also prevents you from having to pay to renew your course access if you can’t finish the exam as quickly as you wanted to. In the event that you pass a CMA exam part in 2019 and can’t pass the other part until 2020 or later, having access until you pass will mean that you don’t have to cover a fee for more course access. On the other hand, you may have to pay again if you bought a course with just 12 or 24 months of access.

So, as you can see, getting access until you pass with your CMA review course should be one of your biggest priorities at a time when the CMA exam is about to change.

Interview with Brian Hock Discussing the 2020 CMA Exam Changes

brian hock cma

I’d like to thank Brian at Hock International CMA for providing me with his insight regarding the upcoming CMA exam changes. He’s thoughtfully answered all of my questions so that you can have even more helpful information about the new version of the CMA exam!

Q: The ICMA changes were made to the 2020 CMA exam syllabus to meet the growing needs of employers and the expanding roles of accountants. What value do you believe the changes to the CMA exam syllabus will add to both employers and accountants/CMA candidates?
One of the main benefits for candidates of gaining a professional certification is recognition of that certification in the market. By changing the content of the exam to more closely reflect the work that is needed in the accounting and finance professions, the IMA has ensured that the CMA Exam will remain relevant going forward. For employers, this continues to show that the CMA Exam is a valued qualification and they know that it can continue to be part of the long term strategy for staffing their accounting and finance teams.
Q: Do you believe the material being added to the CMA exam is complex and challenging and could cause pass rates to decline?
It is certainly challenging, like it should be. But, it should not cause pass rates to go down. Because the IMA provides a detailed syllabus candidates and material providers know what the new coverage includes (and, perhaps just as importantly, does not include). The content that has been added is probably at about the overall difficulty level of the existing content, so I do not think that it will change the pass rates. In fact, candidates who have more experience in the content that was added, may find the exam a bit easier because of the newly added content.
Q: What is your advice for candidates wanting to use materials that were purchased for the previous exam version (assuming they do not have access to the updates because their course did not include them)?
If a candidate has materials for the 2019 exam, but does not have access to free updates to the 2020 materials from their provider, there are a couple of options. The first is to buy 2020 materials (and if your current provider does not provide free access to their 2020 materials, I would suggest looking for another provider). You may not need to purchase the full set of materials, but I would at least purchase a Textbook so that you have access to the content that has been added. The second option is to try to study the materials from freely available sources. The IMA provides a reading list for the exams, so you could try to get access to those books (but some of them need to be purchased). This would not be a very efficient option as a CMA Textbook will have filtered out the things that are not on the CMA Exam. I would recommend that you purchase 2020 materials from a provider to keep your studies focused. And if you need to purchase 2020 materials after purchasing 2019 materials, explain your situation and ask for a discount. I know that we would give one in that situation.
Q: When will Hock CMA’s materials be updated for the 2020 exam? And are those updates free? Do candidates need to do anything to request these updates?
Yes, our materials are updated for 2020. As I am writing this, there are only a few videos that need to be completed. For candidates who purchased HOCK in the past, you have free access to the 2020 materials. If you bought the materials planning to take the exams in 2019, but were not able to, you have free access to the materials you purchased for the 2020 exam. The 2020 materials are all in our My Studies page and they are there for you to access, you do not need to ask for access – you already have it.
Q: Should candidates wait to take the exam after the first window of 2020 in order to let the dust settle?
There is no need to wait! Candidates should take the exam as soon as possible. The best time to start preparing for the exam was a year ago. The next best time to start preparing is today! We know what is covered in the new content so  we are able to develop material that covers the new content. If you have decided to become a CMA there is no need at all to wait because of the syllabus change. Also, remember that the new content is not a very large percentage of the content. So, to delay starting over fear of the new syllabus is unnecessarily delaying getting the benefits that you will get from passing. So, do not delay, start today!
If you still have questions about the 2020 CMA exam, please leave a comment on this article so that I can help! And if you have a Hock-specific question, feel free to ask your question below as well. In this case, I’ll ask Brian to respond or I’ll forward you his response.

Help with Passing the CMA Exam

If you’d like to pass the exam before the changes come, use my CMA review discounts to save on your study materials. And learn how to pass the CMA exam on your first attempt with my free CMA course. You can sign up for it below!

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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  • islam says:

    and what if I passed part 1 2019 old version
    part 2 will be new or old version 2020

  • yousuf says:

    Should i plan to give the CMA exams in this year itself or wait for next year?

  • Burhan says:

    I am planning to start my CMA journey. Based on my professional and personal responsibilities, I am pretty sure I wont be able to complete both parts this year.

    The changes in part 1 (technology and analytics) are very relevant to the current times and if I plan to pass this part in 2019, I will miss out on an important opportunity to learn and it will effect my career prospects. The changes in part 2, however, I am not very clear about. So, I will probably take part 2 first and hopefully clear it in 2019.

    My question is this: if i buy a prep course now, will that be adjusted for changes in curriculum? if not, what do you suggest i should do in terms of prep courses because it is not economical for me to buy a prep course now if it does not cater to changed 2020 curriculum?

    • Hello,

      Some prep courses include access until you pass and free updates once the exam changes. I can send you a list of these courses, as well as relevant discounts, so please send me an email at stephanie[at]

  • Resh says:

    Hi. If i take up part one in last window of 2019 and part 2 in 2020 with syllabus changes. will my ooart 1 be valid??

    • Hello,

      Yes it will be valid. I recommend getting a CMA review course with access until you pass as you’ll be able to get free content for both the 2019 and 2020 exams. You won’t have to pay another penny to receive updated materials. This is not true of many other courses and packages, so please take note of this.


  • Thanks for providing valuable information.

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