Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Exam – Background and Resources

In my last post, I wrote about the credentialing process that I went through in order to fill a perceived gap in my undergraduate curriculum (formal project management).

While my undergraduate degrees in Finance and Economics covered many foundational topics, including Financial and Managerial Accounting, my focus was primarily Investment Finance.  The Accounting courses that I took as part of my major focused more on the principles of External Financial Reporting and less on Management Reporting & Analysis (e.g., Budgeting & Forecasting, Detailed Cost Accounting, etc.).

With that, as a junior management consultant supporting process improvement initiatives across Corporate Finance and Accounting Departments, I felt that it was very important to supplement my on-the-job learning and Firm-sponsored training with the self-study responsibilities to come when preparing to earn a new professional credential. 

Given the subject matter that I wanted to learn, my research highlighted the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), a professional credential managed by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

Included below are a few details which I hope you find useful in determining whether the CMA is right for you.  

What is it?

The IMA describes the CMA as an exam that is ‘designed to measure the advanced skills required to be an effective member of finance and accounting teams within organizations and to create value in today’s complex and challenging business environment.’


To apply for/attempt to earn the CMA program, ‘candidates must be members of IMA…pass both exam parts and fulfill the following education/experience requirements.’

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university AND…
  • Two continuous years of experience in management accounting/financial management

The CMA Handbook provides additional detail concerning eligibility requirements and the processes for both joining the IMA and applying for the CMA Exam.

What do the CMA Exams Cover?

Part I – Financial Planning, Performance and Control

  • Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting
  • Performance Management
  • Cost Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Professional Ethics

Part II – Financial Decision Making

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Decision Analysis and Risk Management
  • Investment Decisions
  • Professional Ethics

A detailed ‘Content Specification Outline‘ is available from the IMA.

Study Resources

During my research, it seemed that there were three primary companies providing CMA study materials.  My observations on each are included below for your reference.

  • Hock International – I’m using CMA materials from Hock International to prepare for the CMA Exams (successfully passed Part I) and have found the resources to be very clear and thorough.  They offer a wide range of materials to support all types of learning styles (e.g., traditional ‘textbooks’ and flashcards, practice questions/exams, online Q&A forums, classroom recordings, etc.).  Their materials are also available on/compatible with iPhones/iPads.  From what I understand, the Hock Materials are the most detailed and comprehensive in the marketplace (perhaps more than is needed to pass the exam in certain areas). 
  • Gleim – During my research, which included reading several reviews on CMA-related blogs/forums, it appears the Gleim resources are geared more toward those who already have a very strong Finance & Accounting background (education and professional experience), whereas the Hock materials are better suited to those earlier in their careers.  Without much academic exposure to the subject matter, or relevant work experience, several people suggested that you’d need to supplement the Gleim materials with a review of Management Accounting textbooks, etc.  As with Hock, Gleim delivers their resources across a variety of mediums (e.g., traditional textbooks, practice questions, audio recordings, etc.). 
  • Institute of Management Accountants – The IMA offers an Exam Support Package which ‘includes downloadable/printable multiple-choice and essay practice questions, along with an online assessment tool with multiple choice exams for Parts I and II.’  After many hours working through the questions I received from Hock International, I used the online IMA question bank to ensure that I wasn’t just memorizing how to solve questions based on how they were posed by Hock and that I was truly learning/understanding the core concepts.  I found the ability to review additional questions to confirm this point to be very valuable, though using the IMA resources alone, in my opinion, wouldn’t be sufficient to adequately prepare for the exam.        

Why the CMA?  Why not a CPA?

As I started researching potential professional credentials to bolster my Finance and Accounting knowledge, I naturally considered the Certified Public Accountant (CPA); however, I soon realized that it wasn’t the credential that would best fit my needs, for the following reasons…

Subject Matter – My interest in pursuing additional education was to become more familiar with topics related to Management Accounting, Reporting & Analysis.  While the CPA requires knowledge of the Business Environment (covered in one exam), it is much more focused (as should be expected) on External Financial Reporting (e.g., Regulations and GAAP Concepts, etc.) and the Auditing process.  As such, while the CPA is a world-class, highly recognized credential, it wasn’t the best fit for me at this point in my career, nor is it particularly aligned with the career path I expect to take.


  • Engagement Acceptance and Planning
  • Entity and Internal Control
  • Procedures and Evidence
  • Reports
  • Accounting and Review Services
  • Professional Responsibilities

Financial Accounting and Reporting

  • Financial Accounting and Reporting Concepts
  • Accounts and Disclosures
  • Transactions
  • Governmental
  • Not-for-Profits


  • Ethical and Legal Responsibilities
  • Business Law
  • Federal Tax Process
  • Gain and Loss Taxation
  • Individual Tax
  • Taxation of Entities

Business Environment and Concepts

  • Corporate Governance
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • IT
  • Strategic Planning
  • Operations Management

Requirements – While the CPA Exam largely covers topics outside my area of interest, if I had been interested in pursuing it, I wouldn’t have been eligible, given the education requirements of 150 semester hours of relevant university education (Master’s-level Accounting Coursework including Auditing and Taxation, etc.).  While it isn’t the right fit for me right now, I suppose I’ll never rule it out, as having a CPA is very valuable in a number of different fields, not just Public Accounting.

Hopefully this post helps to provide you with the information and resources necessary to determine if the CMA Exam is right for you.  Best of luck studying for the exam! 

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Did you enjoy this post?  If you did, please consider following me on Twitter, subscribing to my RSS Feed or sharing it with your networks using the buttons below. 

I welcome and look forward to your comments!

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18 Responses to Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Exam – Background and Resources

  1. shabz8 says:

    Thank you for your review. It is very thorough and encouraging.

  2. ehab says:

    Good Day

    im trying to get the cma but im worry about 2 years experience requirements

    I graduated in accounting information system

    1 year ago and i never work in accounting

    so will that count ?

    can i make the exam with out experience and if so would that affect my career i mean can i find a job in accounting with good salary
    thanks in advance

    • Hi Ehab,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for leaving your question / comment.

      In short, the guidance from the CMA is as follows (please follow the link below for additional information)…

      “Candidates must have two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management. This requirement may be completed prior to or within seven years of passing the examination.”


      With that, no worries about not having two years of accounting experience before taking the exam…you can earn it later.

      Also, please note that the experience requirement can be satisfied across a number of areas of finance and accounting (see below)…

      Financial Analysis
      Budget Preparation
      Management Information Systems Analysis
      Financial Management
      Management Accounting
      Auditing in Government, Finance or Industry
      Management Consulting
      Auditing in Public Accounting

      Your limited experience may (initially) keep you from obtaining a more senior-level position; however, with a CMA credential and a demonstrated desire to succeed in the field, I think you’ll have very few issues in findings a great job that aligns with your interests and long-term career goals…with a nice salary as well!

      Hope that helps.

      If there is anything else that I can do to be of assistance, please let me know!



  3. Pingback: CMA Study Guide Reviews: Geoffrey Lennon » CMA Database

  4. Mirza says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I am thinking to take CMA and I have seen the programs from IMA website. Would you be able to show or recommend few links that consist mock exams/something similiar. The investment to enroll the CMA test is pretty expensive and I just need to see if I am capable to take it.

    How about the Hock material prep, is it really helpful? and how much time you invested to take this test. Thank you in advance.


    • Hi Mizra,

      Unfortunately, as you might expect, there aren’t many (or any to my knowledge) sites online that provide free mock exams/questions for review…those are generally only available as part of a purchased exam preparation program.

      To your point, the investment to enroll for the CMA Examination is indeed a steep one, but I think it is well worth it and spending the money will be all the motivation for you to study and to eventually succeed in passing the exam! In my opinion, if you were able to earn a degree in Accounting and/or have professional experience in Accounting, then you have the base knowledge and aptitude required to become a CMA.

      The Hock International materials were very helpful…very detailed…perhaps too detailed. In retrospect, it covered much more than what seemed to be on the exam in certain areas. While it can be helpful to ‘overstudy,’ reviewing all of the Hock materials took quite a bit of time…I invested several months to studying for the exam (that was with studying ~8 hours per weekend). As I understand it, the materials from Gleim are a bit more focused and might support a more accelerated investment of time…still yielding a positive result.

      Hope that this additional information proves helpful.

      Please let me know if you should have any other questions, as I’m more than happy to help.

      Thanks and good luck,


  5. Anas says:

    Hi Geoff, this is the old rates what you have mentioned i suppose…can you please give us the latest price break up. and also guide me if taking two subjects at a time is fine. i have been in field of accounts for the past 15 years and presently working as senior accountant.

    • Hi Anas,

      Thanks for stopping by my blog and for leaving a comment, much appreciated!

      In response to your first question, the Entrance Fee to the Two Part CMA Exam is now $225, with the individual Exam Fees (for both Part I and II) set at $350.

      With that, if you successfully pass the exams on the first attempt, the program will cost you $925.

      For more information, consider visiting the IMA website (http://www.imanet.org/cma_certification/current_cma_candidates/exam_fees.aspx).

      Concerning your second question, given your significant accounting experience (if you have sufficient time to study in advance), you can certainly take both tests within the same Exam Window and be successful. I have much less accounting experience than you and didn’t have much time to study in advance, so taking one exam at a time was what worked best for me.

      Hope this helps. All the best and good luck on the exams!



    • dany125 says:

      Thanks for enlighting the CMA and spending your preceious time over responding.
      should appreciate, if you could let me know I am CIA, CISA, CFE qualified and cleared Part-1 of CMA and now in studying for 2nd part.

      I further have a desire to be CPA. Though this question may not relate fully to your blog but I hope you can guide me better than I think…

      I have associate degree in accounting (14-Years of Study) then got 05-Years External Audit Training with public accounting firm under the bye-laws of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and then did CIA, CISA and CFE…

      Just let me know, if all my 14-years associate degree, audit training and CIA,CISA,CFE,CMA in total make me eligible to achieve 150 credit hours required for to appear in CPA exam…from any state?? Please guide me the possible short track.

      Kind Regards,
      Allah bless you.

  6. Navneetk says:

    Hi ,
    Read your review on CMA, it was really good one. I need your suggestion regarding CMA and CIA. combination.
    Currently i am having 5 years experience in accounting and finance dept. And my job profile is more into management reporting.
    I prepare all monthly,half and annual reports being submitted to management. And i enjoy it.
    I am less interested in taxes and external reporting or yearly audits etc.
    But one thing ,i find my interest towards is internal auditing(though i am not part of internal audit dept in my co. but i like their working).
    So, can you please suggest me that combination of CMA and CIA is good one for my interest and career enhancement.If it is then what strategy should i follow to make it possible.
    I have done B.com and M.B.A.I am having good basic knowledge of topics of finance and accounting.But as 5 yrs has completed my MBA so bit concerned about that.I need to brush up all concepts. I really need advice from a person like you who has sailed the same boat.




    • Hi Navneetk,

      Thanks so much for reading my blog and for leaving a comment!

      My apologies for the delayed reply…have been very busy with work the past few weeks.

      Based on the context you provided in your comment, I think that a CMA/CIA credentialing combination would be an excellent decision from a professional development perspective (given your stated interests – management reporting and internal audit), particularly when coupled with your work experience and graduate-level education (MBA) earned thus far in your career…impressive!

      As I’ve only just recently earned my CMA (passed Part II in January), and haven’t researched the CIA in detail (not part of my personal professional development plan), I can’t offer much about the CIA credential, but know that there is some overlapping content (e.g., CMA Part I has a section on Controls, etc.), so studying for both would certainly result in some synergies in my mind. In fact, the CMA study materials that I used (from Hock International) often used CIA questions to test certain concepts (even outside controls), so studying for/taking one should serve you well and set you up for success in the other.

      Hope that helps somewhat…I think you’re definitely on the right track with your current thinking.

      All the best of luck as you begin your studies, I’m sure you’ll do well. From your comment, I can tell that you really care about your professional development, setting/achieving goals and being successful in your career!

      Please let me know if you should have any questions and/or if there is anything that I can do to be of assistance along the way.



  7. Yara says:

    Hi Geoff!

    I just want to drop by and let you know that your blog was really helpfull!

    I was also considering a CPA but i found that the CMA fits my needs much better according to your blog. I want to expand more on financial reporting in corporate companies (which is what i’m doing now) versus auditing, taxes, etc. I hope i’m on the right track by picking the CMA. I guess at this point in time i’m a little hesitant, CPA.. CMA?? Oh gosh! But according to your blog, i think its given me a better understanding of how a CMA can help me expand my career. I’m a financial analyst now working in the Finance Reporting departmenmt of an extertainment company and i want to further explore that line of work. I’m sure having a CPA wouldn’t hurt, and maybe sometime down the line i might get it. But, i think a CMA would work better with what i want to do. What are your thoughts on this? Am i on the right track? CPA or CMA?

    • Hi Yara,

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for leaving a comment, really appreciate it! Very glad to hear that you found my post to be helpful.

      Few quick questions to help clarify things a bit further for me…along with some related thoughts/recommendations…

      – Do any of your managers, or the people who work in the department/roles that you’re interested in, have CPAs? If yes, might consider tackling the CPA sooner than later…

      – When you say ‘financial reporting,’ do you mean management (internal) financial reporting, or external (e.g., SEC, etc.) reporting? If you are mainly interested in the management reporting side, I’d recommend the CMA. However, if your interest rests more with external reporting, it’s my opinion that you’d probably be better served by pursuing a CPA (both for the relevance of the subject matter and the fact that hiring managers in those areas would likely be looking for CPAs).

      Hope those additional thoughts are helpful!

      Please let me know if you should have any other questions, as I would be more than happy to discuss further!



  8. Irene says:

    Will you consider selling your Hock text book? I ordered Gleim, and you are right, its not enough! I hold a MBA, but took only the requred accounting classes, and it has been over 7 years ago! Please email me if you are interested

    • Hi Irene:

      Thanks for stopping by my blog and for leaving a comment, much appreciated!

      In response to your question, at this point, since I’m still waiting on results of the Part II Exam (may need to restudy if I don’t pass – hope that doesn’t happen!), and for a few other reasons (which are outlined below), I’m not considering selling my Hock materials just yet and recommend that you purchase directly from Hock.

      Why I’d Recommend You Purchase Directly from Hock

      – A primary reason why I’m hesitant to sell is that I’d like to keep the materials as a reference, should I ever have questions on a particular CMA topic in the future.

      – One of the most valuable parts of purchasing materials from Hock is the ‘ExamSuccess’ software that you download (which I wouldn’t be able to provide you along with the books). This tool (a multiple choice practice question database) enables you to test your understanding of the materials throughout your studying and even to create custom/timed practice exams closer to your exam date.

      – During my studying, I’ve highlighted and marked-up many of the pages, so it would likely be distracting during your review. Working off of a fresh set of materials would likely lead to a more effective studying experience.

      Best of luck in preparing for the exam!

      If you should have any questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to reach out, as I’d be more than happy to discuss/share my experience.



  9. Yuliya says:

    Thanks for the info, very helpful! I am planning on getting my CMA very soon. I do have concerns as to how much time it will take me to prepare. Did you get certified? I know you mentioned that you passed 1st exam? How much time in studying did it take you? How much did it cost you? I read that it costs somewhere around $2,500.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Yuliya,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I’m not yet certified…still studying for Part II (I hope to take it this Fall). I’m finding that the Part II content is a bit more challenging (the GAAP/IFRS material in particular), so my progress hasn’t been as fast as it was for Part I. The warm weather this summer probably won’t improve my motivation either : ) !

      As for my studying, my work schedule made it such that weekends were the best time for the bulk of my review (but I usually averaged 10 hours per week for about 4 months or so…followed by two full days prior to the exam).

      As for cost…your estimate seems a bit high to me. My thoughts on the total cost of the exam are included below (perhaps I’m missing some of the costs).

      IMA Membership – $130
      Hock Materials – $500
      Entrance Fee (Part I) – $200
      Entrance Fee (Part II) – $200

      Best of luck in preparing for the exam!

      Please let me know if you should have any other questions, I would be happy to discuss further.

      Also, please feel free to share the link with anyone else you know who might be considering the CMA…I would be happy to address their questions as well.

      Hope that helps.



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