What score do you need to pass the CMA exam? Before taking the CMA exam, you should understand how the CMA exam is graded and how your score is calculated. After all, less than half of test-takers exceed the CMA exam passing score. Therefore, this post breaks down CMA passing scores and explains the CMA grading process.
The IMA CMA exam uses a scaled score, so candidates are sometimes confused about their final CMA scores. However, the system is easy enough to follow if you know the basics of US CMA passing marks.
But before going over an average CMA exam score, you must know the format of the exam and the types of questions.
The CMA exam is actually a two-part test:
The CMA exam format is the same for both parts, each with 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and two essays. So between Part 1 and Part 2, candidates must answer 200 MCQs and four essays.
On test day, you tackle the MCQs first. If you answer at least 50% of the MCQs correctly, you can move on to the essays. On the other hand, if you incorrectly answer 49% or fewer MCQs, you cannot attempt the essays and will automatically receive a failing CMA score.
Additionally, you are allowed 3 hours for the MCQs and 1 hour for the essay question. If you manage to finish early in the MCQ section, then you can use the extra remaining time on the essays. Once you confirm that the MCQ section is completed, you cannot go back and make changes.
In your final CMA scaled score, 75% of points come from the multiple-choice questions, and 25% are from the essays.
Nevertheless, the CMA pass mark isn’t as simple as correctly answering a certain percentage of questions. Why? Well, the IMA actually uses several different versions of the CMA exam each year to discourage cheating. Although the IMA tries to keep the difficulty level the same between the exam versions, some minor differences are possible. For example, the passing score could be 70% for one particular version but 65% for another.
As a result of the variations in exam versions, CMA exam scoring uses a scaled system. Basically, the IMA takes your raw score (the number of correctly answered MCQs and essays) and converts it to a uniform scaled score between 0 and 500. Furthermore, the passing score for the CMA exam is 360.
However, because of the scaled system, don’t assume that a 360 means that you answered 72% of the questions just because 360/500 = 72. In other words, if you get a 400, it doesn’t mean that you got 80% (400/500) correct, either.
The CMA exam score scale was developed to ensure that scores accurately reflect candidates’ potential as Certified Management Accountants. Here are a few tips for reaching a passing grade:
Although each CMA exam part has 100 multiple-choice questions, only 90 are graded and included in your score. The other 10 questions are being tested for future exams. But don’t try to guess which MCQs are the test ones and skip them. Instead, the best way to get a high CMA score to pass is to answer each and every MCQ.
Some candidates struggle with the CMA essays, but they aren’t as intimidating if you practice the essays in your review course first. Plus, keep in mind that candidates are awarded points for each correct partial response. So even if you don’t answer an essay 100% correctly, you can still build toward a CMA pass mark. You should show your work, too, because that can help you receive partial credit.
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The IMA relies on both computer algorithms and human graders to determine your CMA score. First, your MCQ answers are analyzed by a computer, and your raw MCQ score is calculated. Then, specially trained graders review your essays. All essays are graded simultaneously to ensure fairness and consistency in the CMA test scores. What’s more, the graders first examine a selection of sample essay responses to make sure they have accounted for all possible solutions. In fact, they even re-examine essays on the pass border to make sure candidates receive the correct CMA score.
Your raw score on the MCQs is added to your raw score on the essays to equal your total raw score. But remember, the MCQs account for 75% of your raw score, while the essays are worth 25%.
The IMA doesn’t make any additional information about the CMA exam score scale public except to say that your raw score is converted to a scaled score between 0 and 500.
No. Each question on the CMA exam is equally weighted, unlike the CPA Exam, which has adaptive questions based on your performance. Besides, since each MCQ on the CMA exam has the same weight, “easy” questions count toward your score the same as “hard” ones.
I don’t think you need to dwell on analyzing the CMA exam score and grading system. In any case, it is robust enough to give you a fair score. Having said that, there are test-taking strategies that you can use based on this particular scoring mechanism:
There is no penalty for wrong answers. Therefore, you should attempt all questions — even blind guessing if you run out of time.
You don’t need a passing mark for BOTH the multiple-choice and essay sections, but this means that you need to do relatively well on both. In terms of study strategy, you should pay attention to the multiple-choice questions AND to answering the essay questions properly. The post “Part 2: How the Essay Section Is Graded” gives you everything you need to know to CMA passing marks on your essays.
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CMA test scores range from 0 to 500, with 500 being the highest.
The US CMA passing score is 360 out of a possible 500 points.
Yes! The CMA Part 1 passing score is 360, the same as the score needed to pass Part 2.
The CMA exam includes both multiple-choice questions and essay scenarios with 4-8 questions per scenario.
The most important thing to remember is that you must correctly answer at least 50% of the multiple-choice questions before moving on to the essays. Plus, if you take several practice tests in your CMA review course, you’ll better understand what it takes to pass the exam.
The CMA US pass marks are comparable to other accounting credential exams, such as the CPA Exam. For instance, the CMA exam pass rate is about 45%, just under the CPA exam pass rate average of about 50%.
The CMA exam passing score has historically been 360 out of 500 points on a scaled system. Furthermore, it does not seem that the IMA plans to change the passing score for the CMA exam anytime soon.
Here is an overview of the CMA exam grading system and testing strategies:
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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.