I Pass The CMA Exam!

How to Choose a CMA Exam Prep Course

Once you’ve decided to take the big plunge and become a certified managerial accountant, your next question might be, “How do I study for the CMA Exam?” Or even, “Do I really need a CMA review course to pass the exam?” I’m going to help you answer some of those questions today and find the best CMA exam prep.

If you’re still asking yourself, “What is CMA certification,” hop over to my free CMA Exam Course.

Why You Need a CMA Exam Prep Course

According to the Institute of Management Accountants, the global CMA pass rate is about 50%. Therefore, most CMA candidates spend 100+ hours studying. In my experience, most people who do not study with some sort of CMA test prep do not pass on their first attempt…or even their second attempt. However, the CMA certification cost is worth the investment in the long run, in my opinion. But still, you don’t want to pay to take the CMA Exam several times if you could just properly study and pass the first time.

Therefore, I recommend enrolling in CMA classes or finding a CMA course that fits your learning needs. I’m going to compare several CMA prep courses with very different approaches, tools, and price points. Moreover, I’ll point out the strengths and weaknesses of companies like Wiley CMAexcel, Gleim CMA, Hock CMA, and Surgent CMA. Since most companies offer different levels of classes, I’ll review the premium package for each. I hope this will keep my assessment fair. As a result, I hope my unbiased opinion helps you find the right fit.

CMA Exam Prep Course Comparison


Wiley CMAexcel Platinum Review Course

Gleim CMA Premium CMA Review 2020

Hock CMA Review Complete

Surgent CMA Review Ultimate Pass

Access Length Until You Pass Until You Pass Unlimited Until You Pass
Interactive Learning Platform? Yes Yes No Yes
Test Bank / MCQs 5,000+ 3,000+ 3,532 3,945+
Essay Questions 16 137 66 65+
Video Lectures 66 hours 45+ hours 62 hours 60+ videos
Audio Lectures No Yes Yes No
Textbooks Print and digital Print and digital Print and digital PDF only
CMA Practice Test Unlimited Unlimited 4 Unlimited
Price (before discounts) $1,800 $1,599 $1,249 $1,699

Brief Course Overviews

Wiley – A leader in CMA exam prep

Wiley CMAexcel is one of the leading CMA Exam prep courses available. The Platinum Review Course comes with 5,000+ MCQs, 16 sample essay questions, and 66 hours of video lectures. The “Bite-Sized Lessons” delivered via Wiley’s Efficient Learning System are short but effective. You’ll also get an interactive study planner, instructor mentoring, and an unlimited number of full-length practice exams. And don’t forget about the Partner Until You Pass Guarantee.

Wiley’s learning platform constantly tracks your progress and recommends study material based on your content weaknesses. You can even access material online or via an app. Plus, Wiley CMAexcel includes an “11th Hour Final Review” that helps you reinforce tricky concepts in the final weeks before your exam date.

In addition, Wiley CMAexcel is the official CMA test prep for IMA. No other company on the market can make that claim.

Gleim – High quality study material

Gleim CMA has been providing exam reviews for over 40 years. The Premium CMA Review 2020 Edition includes 45+ hours of video lectures with in-depth discussions, audio lectures, and 3,000+ MCQs and essay questions. Additionally, you’ll receive both hard copy and digital CMA books. Plus, the study planner will keep you on track. The package also comes with an access until you pass guarantee, too.

The Gleim online practice exams are designed to look and feel like the “real” exam. Furthermore, the online course uses the SmartAdapt system. In short, this adaptive learning platform continually assesses your improvements. Then, it directs your studies toward material you have yet to master.

Gleim’s practice questions are especially high quality, in my opinion. However, if you don’t have an accounting background, you might need to brush up on your accounting concepts. Otherwise, some areas of the course might be hard to follow.

Hock – A favorite for international candidates

Hock CMA is especially popular with international students. After all, Hock offers high quality CMA study material at a more affordable price point. With the Hock CMA Review Complete package, CMA candidates receive access to 62 hours of video lectures, 66 sample essay questions, and a test bank with 3,532 MCQs. In additional, Hock delivers hard copy or PDF books, digital flashcards, 4 full mock exams, and a personalized study planner. Plus, students benefit from unlimited access to the materials.

Additionally, Hock’s guarantee will pay for you to re-sit the CMA Exam if you complete their course but don’t pass the exam. And really, you can’t beat that kind of customer service.

Surgent – Another strong choice to consider

And last but certainly not least, Surgent CMA Review is another highly rated course that has bite-sized video lessons

PDF textbooks; 60+ hours of video lectures; 3,945+ MCSs with full explanations to answers; 65+ essay questions; printed flashcards; free content updates; full practice exams; and virtual coaching sessions. Surgent uses an AI personalized learning software, A.S.A.P. Technology, to create 100% customized study plans based on your individual learning needs. According to Surgent, this platform reduces the number of hours needed to study to successfully pass the CMA Exam. In fact, they claim that the average Surgent user only studies for 61 hours!

Course Inclusions

Every CMA Exam review provider uses different tools to get you to the same goal line. Therefore, I’ll assess some elements that I think a good CMA course should include.

Adequate access length

Some CMA courses only give you access to materials for a certain among of time. For example, let’s say you chose one that gives you access to their online platforms for a limited time—18 months is typical. Right now, 18 months might sound like plenty of time to study. But life happens, you know? In fact, a lot of events in your personal and professional life can temporarily delay your studies. Likewise, you don’t want to be rushed to study the materials. Plus, what happens if you fail one or more sections of the exam? If you don’t chose a provider with unlimited access, you might consequently have to pay additional fees that quickly add up.

Therefore, I suggest a provider like Wiley, who offers a no-gimmick Partner Until You Pass Guarantee. Gleim CMA also includes an access until you pass guarantee with the Premium CPA Review System.

Example essay questions

The CMA Exam is only comprised of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and essay scenarios that each include 2-7 questions. In these essays, you must evaluate complicated situations, chose your solutions, and explain your justifications. Many CMAs report that essays are the most difficult part of the exam, however. After all, you have to show your work and outline your answers in a clear and concise manner. Therefore, I suggest practicing as many sample essays as you can.

For instance, Gleim CMA gives students an incredible 137 example essay questions. By working through this many problems, you’ll be better prepared for the CMA Exam.

Test bank and MCQs

Each year, IMA releases the questions that appeared on the previous year’s exams. Then, review providers collect these questions and add them to test banks. Afterwards, you can use these questions to practice your skills and make sure you understand the nuances of complicated concepts.

In fact, some students devote the bulk of their study time to going through test banks. For this reason, you should pick a review provider that offers a lot of questions. However, some providers give you a relatively limited number of questions. Gleim CMA, for example, has about 3,000+ MCQs in their test bank.

That might sound like a lot. But over the course of those 100+ hours you might spend studying, you’re likely to go through all of those questions. I promise that you’ll want access to lots and lots of questions. Companies like Wiley CMA, on the other hand, offer you more CMA test questions. In fact, Wiley’s Platinum Review Course has 5,000+ MCQs. If you work through that many practice MCQs, you are going to be much more prepared for the CMA Exam.

Learning platform or performance tracking software

You may be familiar with technology-based e-learning platforms that are becoming more popular in K-12 and college settings. Many CMA review providers have similarly developed their own platforms that can personalize your learning experiences.

Here’s an example of how these tools usually work. First, the platform gives you a quiz to test your overall knowledge of material likely to be on the CMA exam. The platform assesses what you already know (and therefore don’t need to study) and what you don’t. Next, most platforms will develop a customized study plan that leads your studies through concepts that you need to review. Consequently, this approach maximizes your study time.

Take Wiley’s Efficient Learning System, for example. Wiley’s innovative content delivery system tracks your progress. Then, it suggests study material to help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Without these tools, you might be stuck studying pages and pages of information that you might already know.

Personal support

At some point in your studies, you will inevitably have questions about the material. Therefore, the best review providers give you access to CMA professionals. However, this contact can occur through either through personal mentoring sessions or access to instructors during live classes. Personal support can even take place through online forums and discussion boards.

Likewise, I really appreciate that some review courses now include one-on-one mentoring. The Surgent CMA Review Ultimate Pass, for instance, includes two one-on-one virtual coaching sessions. Gleim CMA’s personal counselors will mentor you when you’re struggling with your review. Besides the learning boost, this personal touch helps you stay on track.

Study planners

The CMA Exam covers so much material that you really need a study planner to help manage your studies. The idea of a study planner is simple. First, you pick your exam date. Next, you determine how many hours you have to study. Then, a study planner helps you determine what topics you need to study each week to cover all the material. Without a study planner, you can easily get side-tracked and have to cram too much information at the last minute.

Interactive, personalized study planners are best. For example, Surgent CMA Review uses its proprietary A.S.A.P Technology. This adaptive learning software that creates a customized study plan for each student. After taking an assessment, Surgent’s ReadySCORE approximates your potential CMA Exam score based on your current level of knowledge.

Video and audio lectures

Many CMA candidates rely on video and audio lectures for the bulk of their studies. Therefore, I recommend a review provider who has developed high quality lectures that thoroughly explain the material. Above all, I suggest that you find instruction that breaks down complicated concepts. And most importantly, the lectures should be interesting enough to hold your attention so you can absorb the content.

For example, Hock has posted a list of their videos. This list will help you learn more about what topics these videos might cover.

Wiley CMAexcel offers more video lectures than the other providers I’m reviewing for you. Most of Wiley’s videos are “bite-sized.” That is, they are less than 30 minutes. Plus, they incorporate text and other multi-media elements to keep you focused on the content.


Even with the innovative technology that we have now, old fashioned textbooks are still a great way to learn complicated concepts. In fact, I’m one of those people who still likes to read textbooks. I actually take margins in the notes and highlight important passages. If you are, too, then you will definitely want to consider the quality of each provider’s textbooks. Some courses come with hard copy books and access to online text. However, others might offer you one or the other based on your preference.

But remember, if you go with a provider that only gives you a PDF of their texts, you’re stuck with your nose in a screen for all of your studies. That is, unless you want to go to the time and expense to have that PDF printed.

Practice exams

High quality practice exams are a key component to successfully passing the CMA Exam on the first try. For that reason, once you’re ready to take the exam, sit down and take a practice exam. Practice exams primarily test your readiness in terms of your content knowledge. However, they also mentally prep you for the pace and feel of the actual exam.

Some providers give you a limited number of practice exams. For example, Hock CMA only comes with four. Therefore, I recommend a course with limited practice exams, like Wiley CMAexcel or Gleim CMA review.

What to Focus on When Selecting a CMA Class

With so many elements to consider when picking a CMA class, how do you narrow down the field? First, take a moment to think about your learning style. That is, how you like to study? Additionally, how much time you will have each week to devote to your course? And what’s your budget? Taken together, a little self-reflection will help you identify the components that are the most important to you.

Best ways to study

Most of us learn best when we can read material (either on a screen or in a book) and then follow-up by hearing instructors go over that material again in a lecture (audio, video, or live format). The material is even further reinforced when you can interact with the content and other students or mentors, through online discussions and forums, for example. This 1-2-3 punch (read, hear, and discuss) is the best and fastest way to conquer material. A CMA online course is the best vehicle to take advantage of these tools.

When you purchase a comprehensive review course, some of them come with the option to attend live classes; students meet in a traditional classroom setting with an instructor and other students and participant in lectures. In addition to their outstanding video lectures, Wiley, for example, has partnered with instructors across the globe to schedule live classes at colleges, universities, and professional learning centers. Other classes are online; students can watch pre-recorded lectures that are augmented by multi-media elements that reinforce learning.

Study on your time

You’re probably starting to wonder how you are going to carve 100+ hours out of your already busy life to study for the CMA Exam. Before you pick a review provider, carefully consider the amount of time you’ll have to study, how to best maximize that time, and when and where you plan to study.

Online full courses that come with videos, online text, and even online personal support have made studying much easier for busy professionals. With the use of mobile platforms, CMA candidates can access study materials any time and any place. Besides, you don’t have to lug around big books to study (that’s what I had to do!). Instead, you just need to open you laptop or your smart phone and start studying. For example, think about how many of Wiley’s Bite Sized Lessons you could watch over the course of a day; the ability to squeeze in little moments of study time add up over several months of test prep.

Budget Considerations

Let’s talk finances. Your budget has to be a consideration in your choice for a CMA test prep course. But don’t just look at a price tag and immediately think, “That’s too expensive for me.” Remember, investing in a CMA study guide is an investment in your future. With your CMA certification, you’re likely to earn a higher salary over your career.

Therefore, I strongly encourage you to consider the total cost of your CMA journey when picking a review provider. Evaluate the quality of the study materials, the learning platform, and the personal support. You often get what you pay for. Plus, if you choose course that has a low price point…does it include access until you pass? If not, and you don’t pass on your first time, how much will it cost you to re-enroll AND pay for the exam fees again? (If you need more information on the CMA exam cost or other CMA exam requirements, please go to IMA’s website.)

CMA exam prep promo codes

And remember, I have promo codes that will get you discounts and save you hundreds of dollars. Take the Wiley CMAexcel’s Platinum Review Course, for example. It’s slightly more expensive than the other courses I’ve reviewed for you in this article. However, it’s also a high quality course, has tons of MCQs, unlimited practice exams, and unlimited access to updated content until you pass the exam. (It’s still less expensive than the popular Becker CMA review courses, which I have also reviewed.) Once you add in my CMA promo code 2020, you can start to see the overall value in a provider like Wiley; check out my article for a CMA exam promo code.

I also have a Gleim CMA discount, if you think that’s the best course for you to prep for the 2020 CMA exam.

Why You Should Choose an Online CMA Class

Some CMA review providers offer live classes, similar to classes in a university setting. Others offer CMA online classes. Although both methods deliver certain benefits, I prefer online classes for several reasons.

Flexibility (and no traffic!)

First, online classes have a lot of flexibility. Live classroom settings can provide social benefits. Nevertheless, unless you live near one of the limited class locations, you’ll be spending a lot of your “free” time in traffic just getting to class. Those precious hours are more efficiently spend studying. However, if you opt for an online class, you can “go to class” on your time.

Manageable lessons

Have you ever wondered why TV shows are 30 minutes long? It’s because most people can really only devote 30 minutes to a topic before they need a break. When I was in graduate school, most of my classes met for 3 hours at a time! After an hour, my eyes just started to glaze over. It subsequently became harder and harder to concentrate.

Thankfully, most educators are catching up to research about how the brain learns. I prefer the CMA exam prep with shorter online lessons. In my opinion, they often offer the best CMA study material and are the best way to learn for most candidates. Not only can you squeeze short online lessons into your day—or even your lunch break—you’re also more likely to remember the material because short lessons aren’t overwhelming.

Wiley CMAexcel and Surgent CMA Review both offer bite-sized lessons that are usually less than 30 minutes. The Surgent videos are even linked to lecture notes so that you can focus on absorbing the material.

Learn at your own pace

If you enroll in live CMA classes, you will have to follow the instructor’s pace. However, most CMA candidates tell me this makes them feel rushed. After all, the instructors have to cover a large amount of material in a short amount of time. As a consequence, this inherently means that some content might be glossed over.

With online classes, you can study at the pace that is best for you. Furthermore, you can skim through material that you’ve already mastered and slow down when you reach new content. For me, this pace is one of the best reasons to choose online courses.

Course quality and consistency

In my opinion, online classes tend to provider greater course quality, consistency, and reliability. Course providers only need one instructor to cover the material for an online class. However, they might need dozens of instructors to cover live classrooms settings. When you only need ONE instructor, you can spend the time to find, nurture, and cultivate that instructor into delivering the very best lectures possible.

CMA Test Prep vs. Comprehensive Study Materials

You might have noticed that some CMA exam prep offers comprehensive courses that include books, flashcards, banks of test questions, live or online classes, video and audio lectures, etc. Other providers might sell these same sort of learning tools ala carte.

You might be tempted to purchase one of these individual products over a comprehensive course. For example, some CMA candidates only study with a test prep bank of CMA exam questions. However, I do not recommend this for several reasons.

First, a test bank is just that – a collection of questions that have appeared on previous exams. Some providers update these questions frequently, but some do not. Consequently, you might get stuck with questions that are no longer relevant in the CMA field and no longer covered on the exam.

You’ll benefit from personal support

Second, if you purchase individual CMA exam prep products, you won’t receive any personal support. To use our test bank example again, what happens when you come across a question and you don’t know the answer? How are you going to figure out the answer? Who can you go to for help? Unfortunately, it’s too easy to just skip the hard questions when you only use a test bank to study. In the end, you might end up reviewing the material you already know, which isn’t helping you efficiently study for the CMA exam.

Best CMA Review Course

I’ve reviewed four strong comprehensive CMA test prep courses for you. They all have their strengths and could be the right CMA exam prep for you based on multiple factors. However, if I have to name a “best” CMA review course, I’m picking Wiley CMAexcel.

Wiley has a strong industry reputation for innovative learning tools and test prep materials. I appreciate Wiley’s high quality instructional videos, the Efficient Learning System, detailed textbook, and access until you pass guarantee. Although I wish Wiley included more practice exams, Wiley’s MCQ test bank and 11th Hour Final Review are hard to beat.

Further Reading

Are CMA Tutors Necessary?

Free CMA Exam Resources: Find Free CMA Study Materials

Reviews of CMA Review Courses

About the Author S ML

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