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, too. 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 to 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, “Is the CMA certification really worth it?” The short answer is yes.

I want to dive deeper into the logistics of the CMA exam, including the CMA exam dates and CMA score release timeline. 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 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 2024 CMA exam part covers:

CMA Exam 2024 Format

CMA Exam Part 1: Financial Reporting, Planning, Reporting, and Control

CMA Exam Part 2: Strategic Financial Management

External Financial Reporting Decisions (15%) Financial Statement Analysis (20%)
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting (20%) Corporate Finance (20%)
Performance Management (20%) Decision Analysis (25%)
Cost Management (15%) Risk Management (10%)
Internal Controls (15%) Investment Decisions (10%)
Technology and Analytics (15%) Professional Ethics (15%)

CMA Exam Schedule and Score Release Dates

With some accounting or auditing certifications, we are able to schedule and sit for the exams at any time. The IMA takes a different approach to 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 2024.

CMA Exam Dates and Results 2024

CMA Testing Window First Exam Date Last Exam Date Last Date to Register Wait Time for CMA Score Results
January/February Jan. 1, 2024 Feb. 29, 2024 Feb. 15, 2024 6 weeks after the last day of the testing month
May/June May 1, 2024 June 30, 2024 June 15, 2024 6 weeks after the last day of the testing month
September/October Sept. 1, 2024 Oct. 31, 2024 Oct. 15, 2024 6 weeks after the last day of the testing month

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 follows:

  • 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, too. 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, nevertheless. 

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. After all, the current pass rate for Part 1 of the CMA exam is about 40%. Somewhat better, the current pass rate for Part 2 of the exam is about 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 the CMA exam results to us. However, the results will be available in our personal “myIMA” online transcript, too.

Then, if we don’t pass the CMA exam, we’ll receive a second report. This report is called a “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 in 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 report details each content area and assigns a performance. 

IMA Performance Ratings

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” rating 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 these ratings give us a clear roadmap when it comes to the next round of studying. 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 CMA exam prep — especially after discussing the Performance Report. After all, the entire point of taking the CMA exam is to pass the CMA exam. 

I recommend signing up for the free e-course through this site as a starting point. 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 sharing your experience!

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.

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