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? Here is a pros and cons, as well as my personal opinion.

Pros on Live CMA Classes

There are benefits of taking a CMA prep course in a classroom setting. You get to meet other candidates who can potentially be great study buddies. 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.


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, and that people just don’t know (and trust) each other in the first place.

This comes from 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.

More importantly, the quality of 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. 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.

I got emails and comments like this on a weekly basis. The list goes on and on.

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

One of the major reasons of 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).

By mixing the learning experience in two languages, you are not as familiar with the technical terms as you could have. In my opinion, by not hearing and using enough of the terms in English, you worsen 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 comprehending the questions in English. They didn’t realize this issue until the exam day. It was clearly too late.


There are obvious benefits in taking a live CMA class. However, you must do extensive research on the quality of the lecturer you will be getting. Do they have 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.

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; 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 improve your international profile, your mobility and chance to work anywhere in the world.

Yen Wiley CMA Review customerMy Blogger’s Experience

Did Yen choose live coaching class or self-study at the end?

If You Really Need CMA Online Coaching…

I’d recommend Nathan Liao at CMA Exam Academy.

cma online coach by Nathan LiaoCertainly not the most affordable option out there, but this is a decent choice for those who look for 1-on-1 CMA coaching online. I also like the 12-week program and his weekly accountability coaching via email. Check it out today!

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.

follow me on:
  • Muhammad Usman says:

    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:

      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

  • Pavan Kumar says:

    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

  • P Krishnan Unni says:

    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:

      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/


  • RAM says:

    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.

  • RAM says:

    HI Thanks for your valuable information.

  • Ram says:

    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:

      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

  • Bhaswati Bhattacharya says:

    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.

  • Lohitha says:

    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:

      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.

  • Shalini says:

    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:

      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

  • saanu says:

    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:

      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

  • ANIKET KUMAR says:

    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:

      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

  • Ranapratap deh says:

    Looking for online classes of cma inter

  • nikita says:

    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:

      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!

  • >