When discussing CMA exam study time, people often ask one another: how many hours do I need to study for the CMA exam? This is a great question. You want to pass the CMA exam, preferably on the first try, and this means you need to study properly. So, how long to study for the CMA?
Let’s figure this out together.
The IMA suggests at least 150 hours to study for each part of the exam (there are two parts). That comes out to 300 hours of study time total for both parts of the exam. This is, of course, a rough estimate, as we all have vastly different backgrounds, experience, and frankly, study efficiency and effectiveness. So, how long should you study for the CMA exam?
There isn’t a magic number that will guarantee you pass. Again, we’re all different. There are some guidelines to help you and the most important thing to be aware of is that you are studying efficiently. What’s 50 hours studying if you are using outdated material, or you’re multi-tasking while you do it and not really soaking up the information? No, your study time needs to be devoted and
To give you more helpful guidance, I created two CMA exam study planners based on the Wiley and Gleim CMA review courses. I highly recommend you get one of these to help you calculate how long you should be studying to pass the CMA. In the Gleim version, I recommend the following rough estimate of study hours:
|Part 1||80 hours||170 hours|
|Part 2||60 hours||120 hours|
“Minimum” refers to the time required to go through the Gleim CMA Review System. This includes taking multiple-choice quizzes, watching instructor-led videos, answering True/False questions, reading the textbook, answering 20 practice questions for each study session, and completing one practice exam at the end.
“Safe” refers to the above plus answering all the practice questions in Gleim test prep, plus the time needed to carefully review incorrect answers.
The amount of time you need to study also comes down to your study schedule. How much are you studying each day? Each week? If you were to study for 20 hours a week, you could prepare for both CMA exam parts in 3-4 months. Conversely, if you study for just 10 hours a week, you can finish your studies in 6-8 months.
Studying for 20 hours a week means averaging almost 3 hours a day, whereas studying for 10 hours a week means averaging about an hour and a half a day.
If you need to prep faster, then you need to put more time in each day.
If you are very familiar with internal audit concepts, you may skip the reading part (for both textbook and video). This would cut the study hours down by one-third.
On the other hand, if these concepts are mostly new to you, you’d need extra time to look up the various concepts in the textbook or on YouTube or email the personal counselor for help.
Feel free to download my CMA exam study planner, play around in the assumption pages, and work out your own customized version. Again, since every candidate is different, the study plan you need will be different. With the information and the materials I am providing you here, it’s possible to create your own personalized study plan with ease.
Now, you know that you need to study in order to pass the CMA, and we’ve already talked about how much time you need to study, let’s look into how to study for the exam. This is really where the time factor comes in for most people.
First, it’s important to know what you’re working toward. Take time to understand the CMA exam, how it is scored, and what you need for a passing score. For example, you need 360 out of 500 to pass. This means you don’t need to stress about getting a perfect score. You don’t need to go over one study unit again and again until you get it 100% correct.
Rather, a better tactic is to focus on the 80/20 rule. Shoot for at least 80% correct and then keep going to new practice questions. Don’t get bogged down with perfection when perfection is not needed (or practical) to pass the CMA exam.
Choosing the best study guide or review course is key to your success and reducing your study time. It is most important to pick a review material that fits your own background and learning style (not whether others say it’s good). I encourage you to:
Unless you are very tight in budget, always get the latest version so you don’t need to worry about missing a few points due to outdated materials. It’s absolutely worth it to pay the extra.
Once you have your study materials, it’s important to create a study plan. If you approach this haphazardly, saying “I’ll fit it in whenever”, then you’re not likely to get the proper study time you need to pass. Instead, you need to treat it very seriously and block out specific periods of time for your studies. If you are using a review course like Gleim or Wiley, then you have a structure to what you’re studying.
In addition to this, you should mark your study time on your schedule from Monday-Sunday. Whether it is one hour per day, two hours three days a week, or any other schedule you create for yourself, the point is to make the schedule and then commit to it. That commitment is truly the key.
When creating your study plan, it is always preferable to space out your study and prep time, rather than try to cram at the last minute. Not only is cramming stressful, it’s also not a very good strategy for this type of test. The CMA exam questions are not just about memorizing facts. Rather, it’s about knowing the information so that you can make a decision based on a real-life scenario that might happen in a job setting. It’s all about applying the knowledge you have.
Another excellent way to make the most of your study and prep time is to simulate with real test questions. Mock exams and practice test questions included in review courses will help you with this. You also want to simulate the environment that you will be in when taking the real test.
Try to practice in an environment similar to the actual exam. For example:
When looking at study tips and how much time you need to study for the CMA, it’s also important to make proper use of your idle time. In the months that you study for the exam, the CMA will be your life. Most study courses are digital these days so you can take the material with you, access it on your phone or tablet, and study from nearly anywhere with a Wifi or data connection.
This is a great opportunity for you to use your idle time in waiting rooms, riding the bus, or anywhere else you may find yourself with some spare time, to pull out your device and review the material, or take a quick practice quiz and see how you do on it. This doesn’t have to be factored into your scheduled study time as outlined above, but it will go a long way toward familiarizing you with the material.
To build on the tips above, here are 50 actionable tips to help you study for the CMA. I combined over four years of study research into this guide for you. You can use these to make the most efficient use of your study time. Here are some additional ways to reduce CMA exam study time.
Another big way to cut down the hours: make studying more efficient and effective. We’ve talked about how to study and what to study, but now let’s look at some tips to help you study better.
Here’s what you can do to achieve that:
Research has shown that multitasking doesn’t work. Period. It may be ok if one of the tasks is mundane or passive,
(e.g., washing dishes or watching a kid sleeping), but if we are talking about studying, you will at most get half of the efficiency for your time, and doing things half-half sounds like a waste of time to me.
A better alternative is to reduce the mundane tasks altogether by delegating and outsourcing (hire a temp helper or nanny, ask your parents to help for a month). If it is not possible, at least focus on one task longer to reduce the cost of task-switching.
It is better to learn in shorter sessions (e.g., watching 15-minute videos or going through practice questions for no more than half an hour). Why? Because your brain simply can’t handle too much information.
It is easier to make yourself concentrate for a shorter period of time, thus maximizing the efficiency in study sessions.
Between these bite-size studying sessions, let your body and mind rest. Pick a quiet place and do something that lets your mind be at peace. You could stand up and do some jumping jacks or jog in place to burn off excess energy and help your body relieve stress from study sessions.
If you don’t like flashcards, you can make your own notes in any format. This is a tried-and-true method of studying because it works.
I have readers who would go so far as to write out all the concepts or formulas, throw away the paper, and write again — multiple times. This is an extreme case, but it shows you how important it is for the concepts to go into your head through writing.
There are readers who like e-flashcards like quizlets. It doesn’t work for everyone, but you can check it out.
If this is too much for you, I suggest at least making your own highlights and scribbling notes in the margins of the textbook. It helps a lot for retention vs passively reading the book over and over.
I personally prefer a good old notebook, but you may consider making good use of today’s technology at the same time. As mentioned, quizlets are very popular these days. Mobile apps are also great ways to make use of idle time.
Passive learning is inefficient. Instead, you should constantly test your newly-acquired knowledge by testing yourself. At least stick to this rule: never skip the few practice questions at the end of each chapter even if you are not confident in getting them right. Accuracy is not the point. Quizzing is a way to force you to apply what you’ve just learned.
It is also super important not to skip the mock exam.
Don’t try Starbucks — it’s too much happier and livelier than a Prometric testing center.
The ideal place would be one that closely resembles the testing center — a quiet room with rows of workstations. If not, any quiet place with people around, such as a library, would be a good choice.
When you start on a new concept and get frustrated, remember this point:
Once you build up adequate knowledge of a subject, you remember better. This virtuous cycle continues to make studying easier.
How frequent should we go back to the books and review the concepts? This research has a suggestion here.
Keep telling yourself: it will be over once the exam is done. You can do it!
On exam day, try to visualize a successful individual with strong problem-solving skills who keeps his/her cool in a difficult situation. This simple trick works wonders for taking exams.
If you have additional questions that you don’t see answered here in this post, please leave me a comment. I want to help you make sense of your CMA study time and get the most benefit from the time you study. If I’ve left anything out, let me know.
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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