I Pass The CMA Exam!

CMA Exam Grading and Result Dates

Deepak is our latest blogger from the UAE, and today he discusses CMA exam grading and exam results. He writes every Thursday.

My CMA Exam Progress

I’m happy to share how I’m preparing for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification. I’ll be sitting for my Part 1 Exam soon. As expected, I’m feeling pretty nervous.

As of now, my score on the multiple-choice questions (MCQs) has only averaged 65%. This number is surely below par. Our practice exam score should be a minimum of 80% on the MCQs to gain an upper hand during the real exam.

So, yes, I’ve got limited time left to study. And, I have to work on gaining confidence and a higher score. But I also need to practice the essay part.

Let’s be honest. It’s often not easy to balance studying for the CMA exam with all of life’s other responsibilities. That being said, I haven’t been down. As I said, I’ve just been nervous as I’m unsure whether or not I’ll be able to meet the deadlines. However, at the end of the day, I’ll be moving forward and closer toward earning my CMA certification. Ultimately, I’m excited to see my final CMA exam results.

CMA Exam Cost/Benefit Analysis  

After my introduction, you may be asking yourself, “If the CMA certification really worth it?” The short answer: yes.

I want to dive deeper into the logistics of the CMA exam including the CMA exam dates and CMA score release. As CMA candidates, it’s important to understand how we will be evaluated and graded. However, I also realize the stress that can come with preparing for the exam. Because of this, I think it’s equally important that we keep the benefits of earning the CMA in the back of our minds.

The CMA certification is one of the most highly respected accounting designations available. As a CMA, we’re showing employers and peers that we have a concrete understanding of the most complex accounting topics. We have tangible proof of our skillset. Our knowledge and skills position us well for career advancement opportunities and bigger paychecks. Globally, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) reports that CMAs earn 55% more than non-CMAs.

Simply put, the CMA certification gives us a way to stand out in our industry. As CMA candidates, it’s true that we have to put time and effort into earning the certification. But that time and effort are more than worth it once we have that certificate on our resume.

CMA Exam Overview 

As you may know, the CMA exam is a two-part exam. For each part, we’ll have to answer 100 MCQs and answer two essay questions. We’ll have 3 hours to complete the MCQs and 1 hour to respond to the essay questions. Technically, we’ll have 30 minutes for each essay question.

But as an important note, we’ll have to answer at least 50% of the MCQs to proceed to the essay portion. Overall, the MCQs are worth 75% of the weight of your total CMA exam score (more on that in a bit).

Specifically, here’s what each 2019 CMA exam part covers:

CMA Exam 2019 Format 

CMA Exam Part 1: Financial Reporting, Planning, Reporting, and Control CMA Exam Part 2: Financial Decision Making 
External Financial Reporting (15%) Financial Statement Analysis (20%)
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting (30%) Corporate Finance (20%)
Performance Management (20%) Decision Analysis (20%)
Cost Management (15%) Risk Management (10%)
Internal Controls (15%) Investment Decisions (15%)
Professional Ethics (10%)

However, we should also be aware that the CMA exam changes will occur in 2020. In brief, here are the changes to expect:

CMA Exam 2020 Changes 

Exam Part  Updated Title Updated Content Removed Content 
Part 1: Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics Technology and Analytics, Integrated Reporting Internal Auditing
Part 2: Financial Decision Making Strategic Financial Management Business Ethics, Sustainability and Social Responsibility Off-Balance Sheet Financing, Bankruptcy, Tax Implications of Transfer Pricing

CMA Exam Schedule and Score Release Dates 

With some accounting or auditing certifications, we are able to schedule and sit for the exam at any time. The IMA follows a different approach with the CMA exam. Specifically, we are given defined time frames to take the exam. Because of this, we have to pay close attention to the CMA exam dates. Otherwise, we run the risk of missing our window and having to wait or greatly reducing our study time.

The IMA offers three testing windows each year for the CMA exam. Fortunately, these testing windows are released far in advance.

Below is the IMA schedule for the CMA exam and CMA exam score release for the rest of 2019 and 2020.

CMA Exam Dates and Results 2020 

Testing Window Score Release Date Range 
September 1, 2019 to October 31, 2019 2nd week of Oct – 2nd week of Dec
January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020 2nd week of Feb – 1st week of Apr
May 1, 2020 to and June 30, 2020  2nd week of Jun – 2nd week of Aug
September 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020 2nd week of Oct – 2nd week of Dec

Why the Wait for CMA Test Results? 

We can expect to receive our CMA exam score release 40 days or 6 weeks after the end of the month in which we took the exam. So, if I take the exam in February, I should receive my CMA results in mid-April. And, it doesn’t matter if I take the test at the beginning, middle, or end of February. I would still receive my results in mid-April. 

Understandably, six weeks can seem like a long time to wait for our exam results. Essentially, the wait is due to the essay portion of the exam. The ICMA (the certifying body of the IMA) grades the essays offline. So, it takes time for the official score to be released. We’ll have to exercise some patience! 

How Does the ICMA Grade the CMA Exam?

At a high level, the CMA exam scoring breaks down as:

  • MCQ section accounts for around 75% of the total score or 375 points.
  • Essays account for 25% of the total score or 125 points. 

CMA Exam Grading 

Type Score Pattern  Score 
MCQ 75% 375
Essay 25% 125
Total 100% 500

As I noted earlier, to be able to sit for the essay section in the exams, we must score at least 50% on the MCQs. However, we don’t need to score high on both the MCQ and essay sections in order to pass the exam. The total score is actually what matters. 

As we prepare to sit for the CMA exam, it’s worth noting that we aren’t penalized for incorrect answers. Therefore, we should select an answer choice for each question. And, no single MCQ question is weighted more than others. So, again, answer each question. 

Essays are awarded partial credit. Each essay question will actually contain multiple questions. Similarly, we should never leave a question unanswered. Consequently, since essays do earn us partial credit, it’s important that we always show our work.

But There’s a Catch 

Now, in order to proceed to the essay section, we need to score 50% in the MCQ section. But note that 50% scoring is actually 250 marks (50% of 500 total scoring points) and not 188 points (which is 50% of 375 MCQ). This means we need to get a score of 66.67% (250 /375) on the MCQ section. Yes, it’s a weighted score but we need to be keeping the same in mind.

As Stephanie notes in her explanation of CMA exam grading, the scoring is likely more complicated than the straight formula I provided above. The IMA uses a process in which raw results are converted into a scaled score (0 to 500). But the general idea remains the same. 

Minimum Scores and Pass Rates 

In order to pass the entire CMA exam, we must score 360 out of 500. This scaled scoring allows candidates like us to know how we performed in relation to the passing standard of 360.

Let’s be honest: many CMA candidates don’t pass the exam on their first try. The current pass rate for Part 1 of the CMA exam is 40%. Somewhat better, the current pass rate for Part 2 of the exam is 50%.

If there’s one thing we can take away from the current CMA pass rate, it’s that preparation is truly key! Therefore, it’s important not to skimp on purchasing proper study materials.

CMA Performance Reports 

Following the exam, we’ll receive an official score report. This report comes out 6 weeks from the end of the month in which you take the exam. The IMA will email us with the CMA exam results. However, the results will be available in our personal myIMA transcript.

Then, if we don’t pass the CMA exam, we’ll receive a second report. This report is called the “Performance Report.” The IMA emails this report to candidates who failed the CMA exam approximately 14 days after the initial score report goes out. 

The Performance Report indicates our performance on each key topic area in the MCQ section and our overall performance on the essay section. The Performance Report is structured using the same content areas as the Content Specification Outline. If you’re unfamiliar, the Content Specification Outline explains what is on the CMA exam. So, the reports details each content area and assigns a performance. 

Specifically, the IMA uses three performance ratings:

  1. Satisfactory – S: This is the score we want to aim for on the exam. An “S” rating reflects a solid understanding of the exam content. Of course, an “S” may still mean we missed a few questions but when it comes to studying for the second round, we wouldn’t need to spend as much time on these content areas.
  2. Marginal – M: An “M” ratings means we have just barely passed the content area. We may grasp the basic concept but haven’t developed a deep enough understanding to apply the concept at a higher level. We should spend adequate time on these content areas as we are close, but not quite there with mastering the topics. 
  3. Unsatisfactory – U: A “U” rating is tough. But when it comes to the next round of studying, these ratings give us a clear roadmap. We can determine what content areas need our utmost focus. 

The IMA assigns performance ratings to the MCQ and essay sections of the exam. 

CMA Study Prep

I would be remiss if I didn’t address about CMA exam prep — especially after discussing the Performance Report. And, after all, the entire point of taking the CMA exam is to pass the CMA exam. 

As a starting point, I recommend signing up for the free e-course through this site. The course offers critical information related to the CMA certification and exam. From there, you can choose from one of many high-quality CMA review courses. Read through the reviews, check out the available discounts, and I’m confident you’ll find a course that works well for you. 

Note from Stephanie

Thanks a lot Deepak for your sharing!

I included a scan of the actual performance report below for those who wonder what it is and how it looks. Special thanks to a reader of mine who shared his report with us.



cma diagnostic report 2


About the Author Deepak S

Hi, I am Deepak. I work in UAE as a Financial Analyst in the jewellery industry, looking to further enhance my knowledge with the CMA qualification.

Leave a Comment:

Vishal says July 4, 2021

So , If we enter the essay window , then can we assume that we have scored minimum of 250 and not less than it.

    Stephanie Ng says July 21, 2021

    It’s best not to make any scoring assumptions. Some CMA MCQs are pre-test questions and won’t count toward your overall score, but they may count toward moving you into the next section of the exam (essays). Also, some MCQs are weighted higher than others, particularly if they are more difficult, so your score may be higher based on how many difficult questions you answered correctly. It’s best never to guess at the ICMA’s scoring model, but rather, target getting as many MCQs correct as possible so that you can move on to the essays.

Jay says April 13, 2020

Hi, I scored 250 is part 2 but my essay section did not open, as per 50% rule why my essay section did not open?

    Stephanie Ng says April 14, 2020

    Hi Jay! If you believe your exam score should have allowed you to enter the essay section, please reach out to the IMA directly for assistance. They can review your specific information and help!

JAY says August 27, 2016

I am Jay from UAE
Which course if more tough to pass ? CMA or CPA

    Stephanie Ng says August 28, 2016

    Hi Jay, it depends on your own expertise, but the difficulty level per part is similar. Since CPA has 4 parts and CMA has only 2 parts, you can expect to double your effort to pass the CPA exam. The REG exam in particular covers US tax rules and it could be completely new to most non-US candidates. You might want to check out this page as well: https://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-exam-difficulty/

    Regards, Stephanie

Sarang says March 4, 2016

Hi Deepak, It was nice of you to share this info. How was your exam? Best wishes for the good result.. ‘
Were you using Gleim for preparations? They use Adaptive question paper setting in MCQs. SO you will face more questions which you attempted wrong in previous attempts. It it their way of helping you improve on your weak areas. If so, you do not have to worry about final exam score as you will face just normal questions.

    Deepak S says March 5, 2016

    Thanks buddy, exam went out well.
    Now just need wait for Results

sandeep says February 20, 2016

i want register in the month of February. can you say which documents are required to submit to ima

    Deepak S says February 24, 2016

    Do you mean you want to register for Exams or you want to become member of IMA?

    For registering for Exam, you dont need any documents. You just have to make the payment for the Window in which you want to appear.

    visit http://www.imanet,org

    Stephanie Ng says February 24, 2016

    Hi Sandeep, you can submit the transcripts etc later I believe (before you ask for the actual certification), so you may not need to sumit documents at this stage. Please double check on IMA website. They are very clear in terms of what you need to do during the registration process.

Deepak S says February 19, 2016

Amazingly the scanned performance report above almost reflects my score last time, I attempted it.

    Stephanie Ng says February 24, 2016

    Is it 😉 Deepak, if I remember correctly this reader is also from the Middle East.
    With the overall all pass rate, I am sure many candidates have similar score. The important point is how to get better next time!
    Regards, Stephanie

    hikmat says August 3, 2016

    Regarding the below paragraph that is mentioned in your article, my question is :what is the source for the same and is it valid ??

    Now, in order to proceed to essay section we need to score 50% in MCQ Section. But note that 50% scoring is actually 250 marks {50% of 500 total scoring} and not 188 marks {which 50% of 375 MCQ}.

    That means we need to get a score of 66.67% {250 /375} in MCQ section.

    Rohan says August 8, 2016

    Hii deepak rohan here..i wanna ask is it 50% of 500 to qualify for essays..cause i gave exam in june 2016 of part 2 i got to essays n wrote both essays very comfortably..

Add Your Reply

Taking the U.S. CMA Exam? Get the info you need now!

Sign up below to get started: