I Pass The CMA Exam!

CMA Online Coaching vs Live Class: Which is Better?

cma online coachingAre you thinking about taking a CMA prep course in live classes or as online self-study? There are so many different ways to study for these accounting exams and it can seem a bit overwhelming if you are researching. This is why I hope to give you the information in this post so that you can make an informed decision about online coaching or a live class for the CMA.

Here are the pros and cons, as well as my personal opinion. First, let’s take a look at the benefits to live classes.

Pros on Live CMA Classes

Some people just learn better in a classroom setting. We all learn differently and have varying learning styles. While one person may be good at self-study and keeping themselves motivated and on task, another might need a more structured environment in order to achieve the same goals. If a structured classroom environment works for you, then you may consider live CMA classes to help you prepare for the exam vs. a self-study program.

There are benefits of taking a CMA prep course in a classroom setting. Let’s take a look at them now.

First, you get to meet other candidates who can potentially be great study buddies. Next, It is easier to interact with your peers and lecturers and is especially helpful if your lecturer is able to go through the concepts with you in person.

Third, for some people, it is easier to focus and pay attention when in a live classroom setting. You can take notes, and many people absorb the information better in this type of setting.  Now, let’s take a look at some limitations to this type of CMA study prep.


1. Quality of Lecturer Not Guaranteed

In reality, these live classes may not be as ideal as one might imagine. First of all, it is not easy to actually form study groups with fellow students, because of various commitments. In addition, people just don’t know (and trust) each other in the first place.

This comes from the first-hand experience when I attended a live class for my CPA exam, as well as from numerous readers asking for help in getting study buddies when they are already taking a local class. It’s the type of thing you spend more time trying to organize than you do actually benefitting from it.

More importantly, the quality of the lecturer is not guaranteed. Most of these live classes use CMA prep course materials from major providers (mostly Wiley, but also Hock and Gleim) and hire people as lecturers. You don’t know that the people giving the lectures are experts in the content they are teaching. They are mostly junior accountants who want to earn extra income from part-time jobs in the evening and weekend.

There are obviously some great lecturers out there, but the majority of them are – to put it bluntly – no better than you, other than the fact that they may have obtained the CMA certification a couple of years earlier.

This is a typical email I got from a reader:

Dear Stephanie, thanks for your mail. My story is very sad. I had joined CMA in Jan 2013 and till today I have failed 2 times and little bit demotivated as to how to proceed further.
Please let me know shall I proceed with X only and should not buy any other review course, or I should take coaching again from any institute and then I should sit in the exam. I had taken coaching but unfortunately I didn’t find that good and everything I had to prepare my self which I did but unfortunately failed so by changing review course I can pass?”
(X refers to an Indian coaching institute whose name is hidden for protection of its reputation)

Sometimes, instructors may even lack integrity as shown in this sharing from a reader:

Dear Stephanie

I started to study indeed because I’m planning to enter the exam in May. I was surprised that CMA topics are the same that I studied in the faculty of commerce.
Yesterday I compared the material written by our instructor (in CMA preparation course) with The Accounting Principles Book written by Weygandt Kieso Kimmel (which I took in commerce classes) . It was identical in text. It is obvious that my instructor copied and pasted that in…

Actually I regret that I didn’t study by myself. Anyway I would be pleased to be on your CMA newsletter. It makes me feel better.”

Fellow reader Yasin also left a comment asking for help, because he didn’t understand Part 1 concepts even after taking a local private coaching class. Yasin is not alone. This is so common and it’s one reason why I put so much time and energy into this site and creating these helpful pages for you.

I got emails and comments like this on a weekly basis. The list goes on and on. I know how hard some candidates have struggled to get properly prepared for the CMA exam and I know from firsthand experience what kind of help is out there (and what doesn’t work.

2. International Candidates: The Issue of Learning the Materials in Local Language

Now let’s look at another issue that international candidates face. One of the major reasons for students taking a live class is that the course is taught in their local language. Although I agree that it is most efficient to learn in a language you are most comfortable with, bear in mind that the US CMA exam is available in English only (except in China, where the exam is available in Mandarin). Therefore, you will have to take the exam in English.

By mixing the learning experience in two languages, you are not as familiar with the technical terms as you could be. In my opinion, by not hearing and using enough of the terms in English, you increase your disadvantage of being a non-native English speaker. This is why many international candidates cannot complete the test on time because they take too long to comprehend the questions in English. They didn’t realize this issue until the exam day. It was clearly too late.

Conclusion: Is Online Coaching or Live Classes Right for You?

There are obvious benefits to taking a live CMA class. However, you must do extensive research on the quality of the lecturer you will be getting. Do they have a passion in teaching? Do they know the materials? Do they care about their students? Or are they mediocre part-timers who try to earn a living on the side?

If you are not sure, I would stick with CMA online coaching or self-study courses, because all lecturers in the major online courses have extensive experience in both accounting and teaching, especially in professional exams.

They help people pass the CMA exam on a global basis, not just in your local community. If they don’t deliver excellent products, people (like me on this site, other bloggers, and forum members) write about it so they always work hard to maintain the good standard. There are links on these providers at the bottom of this page.

Choosing a Live Class as a Non-Native English Speaker

If you are a non-native English speaker, I understand the frustration of going through the tedious studying, and it is very tempting just to sign up for a course that would go through all materials and multiple choices in your local language.

For most candidates, this would be a mistake.

I would do the opposite and take the opportunity to immerse myself in English as much as possible. If you don’t understand the accounting terms, learn them. In addition, if it takes too long to read an English paragraph, start reading the New York Times or Wall Street Journal to improve your reading and comprehension. If writing is an issue, start writing your journal in English today.

It takes time, courage and commitment. But it’s worth it.

Improving your English ability makes sense for your short term goal (passing the CMA exam) and long-term aspiration of becoming a respected accounting professional in your country and beyond. Ultimately, the purpose of getting a US qualification such as the CMA is to improve your international profile, your mobility and chance to work anywhere in the world.

Allow me to share a story from a blogger to help you see this more clearly.

Yen Wiley CMA Review customerMy Blogger’s Experience

Find out what my blogger decided and how things worked out. Did Yen choose live coaching class or self-study at the end?

Yen is from Vietnam and joins our blogger community after completing her CMA exam in Sep 2015. Yen reflects on her 2-year journey with her posts every Thursday.

As mentioned in my last post, my goal is to write down the important decisions and milestones of my CMA journey. I hope my experience can help other candidates currently studying for the exam.

Should You Enroll in a Class or Self-Study for CMA?

Have you ever considered enrolling in a CMA class or go for self-study?

At first, I registered for the CMA course. We have to study 3 hours per day and three days per week after working hours.

Teachers maybe give students a lecture note, some tips and I can get knowledge from them faster. But please take note IF YOU GET SOMETHING EASY YOU LOSE IT EASY TOO.

From day 1, I was passionate about learning. However, my diligence did not remain long. Sometimes I couldn’t go to class because of many paperwork; I can’t leave my office on time. In fact, there are many reasons that prevent you come to the evening class.

Sometimes I present in class but not concentrate. I don’t know what the teacher was talking about. I lost my motivation, and I know that I cannot study when my brain and my body get tired. CMA became something to suffer me a lot, and I gave up after three months of studying like this.

Three months (again) get out of CMA, get out of boring evening class, and I know I must restart. This time, I decided to read Willey book by myself. In the beginning, the huge and thick book suffer me with many new words. However, this time I got over. Reading a book takes me so much time but I enjoy whenever I found out useful knowledge by myself.

That is only my experience. In fact, many students pass the CMA exam by studying for an evening class. Human is different, and we are not in the same condition. If your workload is not heavy, you don’t have the habit of reading, entering class should be the best choice for you.

Thanks for your reading,


Note from Stephanie

Hello, Yen! Your blog post is unique because you have passed the exam and your sharing is a reflection of a completed journey. It is interesting because it gives us readers a different perspective.

I especially like what you said, “IF YOU GET SOMETHING EASY YOU LOSE IT EASY TOO.” Self-study (either reading a textbook or taking an online course) is the way to go in the US. However, I believe “coaching classes” are still popular in other countries.

In these classes, the instructors often teach in the local language and give you lecture notes that suit the style of local candidates. They are trying hard to help, but what candidates didn’t realize until too late is that this is a US Exam: you cannot pass unless you read, learn, write and breathe in English for a few months.

As Yen said, there are people who pass taking evening live classes, of course, but I’ve seen too many failures among my readers. So I feel the need to speak up.

If interested, I have a more elaborate discussion here.

Do you have more questions about the CMA exam, about review courses and programs, or online coaching that I have not answered here? Please leave a comment and let me know so that I can answer it for you. My goal is to make this site as comprehensive as possible to help CMA candidates in every aspect of their CMA certification.

Further Reading: 

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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Leave a Comment:

nikita says February 18, 2019

Hey Stephanie,

I plan to take part 1 in September and Part 2 in January.
I understand that the curriculum will change between the 2 parts.
Will it work out okay? or should i stick to 1 curriculum for both parts?


    Stephanie Ng says February 28, 2019

    It shouldn’t be a problem to take the exam as you have structured it. However, I would recommend that you try to take both parts in 2019 so you can avoid the exam changes 🙂 If you need help getting started or would like discounts on your exam materials, please email me at stephanie[at]ipassthecmaexam.com. Thanks!

Ranapratap deh says December 23, 2018

Looking for online classes of cma inter

    Stephanie Ng says January 16, 2019

    This site is for CMA US. I don’t think you’ll get any suggestions here.

ANIKET KUMAR says July 16, 2018

Hey Stephanie!

My name is Aniket Kumar, am from New-Delhi.
Due to low budget I cannot afford coaching for CMA US right now. From my friend I got HOCK 2017 December edition book for self preparation. Can I prepare from this book for Jan 2019 Part-1 exam?
Please reply as soon possible…..!!

Thanks and good wishes
Aniket Kumar

    Stephanie Ng says December 3, 2018

    I wouldn’t recommend studying with only the book unless you’re extremely well versed in the topics tested on the CMA exam. The CMA exam is costly, but it’s even more costly if you don’t have the right preparation materials and have to keep retaking it and paying new fees. Therefore, proper preparation in the beginning is the key. If you have any questions, please email me at stephanie[at]ipassthecmaexam.com

saanu says September 6, 2017

i am a mba finance graduate from a uk university . bt i dnt have basic accounting degree bcz i hv done my graduation in maths.. nw i am working as an end user of SAP fico … still i would like to cma course by self study to expand my career in finance field …. plz tell me its worth or not… and which one is the best online coaching centre in bangalore

    Stephanie Ng says September 8, 2017

    Hi Saanu,
    The CMA exam is a qualifying exam meaning there isn’t a “course” provided by the IMA to teach accounting. The review courses are helpful but they assume you have some basic accounting knowledge. So you might need to (self-)study for accounting before moving on to applying… you can certainly take some accounting courses somewhere first.

    Alternatively, you can sign up for the free trial from online review course providers (e.g. Gleim) and see if you are able to grasp the concepts. If yes, then good for you and you can give it a try. Good luck! Stephanie

Shalini says July 3, 2017

I am a non-accounting background professional, but need to have CMA certification. Request you to guide on the coaching I will require to clear exam in first attempt

    Stephanie Ng says July 17, 2017

    Hi Shalini,
    The process is the same, but you may need to brush up your accounting. Some people are ok by watching youtube and Khan academy websites, and spend more time going through each example. If needed you can always take a basic financial accounting and/or management accounting course, but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. Good luck! Stephanie

Lohitha says August 13, 2016

Hi ,
After attending one of the lectures I realised live training isn’t worthy for the fee they were charging .The lecturer wasn’t experienced .I would like to study on my own .please guide me .
I would like to begin with part one and then part 2

    Stephanie Ng says August 14, 2016

    Hi Lohitha, yeah, it largely depends on luck. It doesn’t need to be. Here are the top review course providers:

    Once you sign up, they will be the one guiding you (esp those with online study planners). For many of these courses, they aren’t 100% self-study. There is a way for you to ask for help, either through a personal counselor, or some kind of hotline or email access. If not, come back here and we are happy to help you out.

Bhaswati Bhattacharya says June 14, 2016

Dear CMA Aspiratns,

When it comes to choosing a CMA Coaching provider, check for the IMA authorized ones.

Follow this route:

http://www.imanet.org >Learning Center > CMA Instructor-Led Courses.

Select your preferable country.

This may make your choice easier and wiser.

Ram says April 22, 2016

HI This Ram

I want to know .. which course is better… in US CMA OR IFRS course.

because am average family & in future i want to settle in Chennai (India).
please guide me.. because i didn’t have any specific .

please help me

    Stephanie Ng says April 25, 2016

    Hi Ram, I am not familiar with the IFRS course you mentioned so not really able to comment. I guess ultimately, you want to have this enhance your credentials. You can ask your local recruiter and see which one is better in your area. Regards, Stephanie

RAM says April 18, 2016

HI Thanks for your valuable information.

    Stephanie Ng says April 18, 2016


RAM says April 15, 2016

Iwant to do CMA …I ma post graduate M.com..

i am Accountant in MNC.. can i know how much demand in india. especially in Chennai..

what will be the package.

    Stephanie Ng says April 17, 2016

    Hi RAM, it’s hard to generalize on the compensation package. I am quite sure it is different depending on the company and on individual’s background. But what you can do is do some online job search and get a general idea on how much demand for CMA is in Chennai, and what type of jobs are available for CMA-preferred positions.


P Krishnan Unni says June 14, 2015

Hey Stephanie,

I am a Chartered Accountant from India with 9 years of wide-ranging experience encompassing private equity, investment banking & finance and accounts. I am a CFA Level 3 candidate too and just appeared for the exam.

I have decided to enroll for the CMA program and have been researching various prep providers. Considering my background and experience, I would request you to recommend the best prep provider. My finances are a bit crunched right now due to the fact that I am hunting for a job.

Really appreciate your advice and assistance.


    Stephanie Ng says June 15, 2015

    Hi Krishnan,
    Thanks for your note. It’s great that you have finance and accounting experience. If so I recommend Gleim, because it usually works better for those who has basic knowledge in this field. It is also the most affordable among the major providers. Please check out this page for a comparison, and from there, if you like Gleim, you can sign up for a free trial. https://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-review-course/


Pavan Kumar says February 21, 2015

I have total work experience of 12 yrs currently working for a Finance company.

Job Role : Regional Credit Manager (Risk Management- Credit)
Designation : Asst. Vice President

Work Profile : Underwriting of commercial/mortgage loans for individual and Business firms.
Have 9 yrs experience in risk assessment of loan applicants through financial analysis of
individual/Business financials.
Also responsible for Risk Management for quality portfolio and
ensuring profitability of the company.Head -portfolio analytic’s team for assessment of Risk
appetite of the company and recommend Risk policy to Chief Risk Officer.

Request to let me know if the work experience would be considered as valid for CMA
certification so that i can register for June Exam for CMA-Part-I

    Stephanie Ng says February 23, 2015

    Hi Pavan, it looks good to me, but I highly recommend that you check with IMA directly, because they are the one to grant you the certificate. They can be reached wet ima@imanet.org.

    Regards, Stephanie

Muhammad Usman says December 29, 2014

Hi – I am working as senior pricing analyst for a manufacturing company in London for last 7 years. My educational background is B.Com from Pakistan and MA Business with Financial Management from a UK university. I am looking forward to add CMA to my skill set.

Generally speaking how long it takes to pass both levels and I have done some research but found no institutes who run classes here in London. Any information you could share will be helpful.

KR Muhammad

    Stephanie Ng says January 1, 2015

    Hi Muhammad,
    Most candidates (my readers at least) aim to complete the 2 parts of the exam within a year, but you are given 3 years to complete that.

    For classes, many candidates actually take online courses at the comfort of their home. This makes sense especially given the test itself is 100% computerized. There are of course pros and cons of live class vs online class as described above. Cheers, Stephanie

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