How long does it take to prepare for and pass the CMA exams?

How long does it take to prepare for and pass the CMA exams?

The average, according to the IMA, is 12 to 18 months. It depends on how much time you have to study. The average number of hours is 300 to 350. If English is not your first language, it might take you longer depending on your English language proficiency level.

If you need 350 hours of study for the two parts, and you study for 10 hours per week, then you need 35 weeks. If you have 5 hours, you need 70 weeks.

CMA Exam Format

The CMA exam has two parts, each part’s exam is 100 questions plus two essay questions.

Section MCQ Essay


3 hours

1 hour





The essay section includes two scenarios, each scenario might include 8 to 10 questions. Check out our essay section guide here. The exam starts with the MCQ section, you must answer at least 50% of the MCQ questions correctly to continue to the essay section. If you finish the MCQ section in less than 3 hours, you can allocate the time you saved for the essay section. You can’t go back to the MCQ section once you have entered the essay section.

CMA Exam Outline

You can find the most recent CMA exam outline here.

How difficult is the CMA exam?

The average pass rate in the recent few years is around 40%. That’s a relatively low pass rate that indicates that the CMA exam is not easy. The concepts tested in the exam are not difficult or complicated but the level of proficiency required is what makes the CMA a tough exam.

The topics of the CMA exam are tested up to three levels: A, B and C.

Level Definition

Level A

Requires the skill levels of knowledge and comprehension

Level B

Requires the skill levels of knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis

Level C

Requires all six skill levels, knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation


If a topic is testes to level C, that does not mean that all questions will be difficult, it means that you will get easy, medium and difficult questions (all skill levels).

Here’s what is meant by knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Level Definition Vocabulary used in questions that indicate level


ability to remember previously learned material such as specific facts, criteria, techniques, principles, and procedures

identify, define, list


ability to grasp and interpret the meaning of material

classify, explain, distinguish between



Ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations

demonstrate, predict, solve, modify, relate



Ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure can be understood; ability to recognize causal relationships, discriminate between behaviors, and identify elements that are relevant to the validation of a judgment

differentiate, estimate, order



Ability to put parts together to form a new whole or proposed set of operations; ability to relate ideas and formulate hypotheses

combine, formulate, revise


Ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose on the basis of consistency, logical accuracy, and comparison to standards; ability to appraise judgments involved in the selection of a course of action

criticize, justify, conclude


As you can see, the key topics are tested up to level C, which means that a very deep level of understanding is required for those topics. For example, on the exam, if you need time to remember how to calculate cost of goods sold, your chances of passing would be very low. You need to reach a level of knowledge on such a topic so that you are very efficient in remembering and applying the information that you have studies. That is why reading and understanding the content is not enough for the majority of the topics; it is very important that you solve a lot of practice questions while preparing for the CMA exams.

CMA exam results

The CMA exam includes an essay section that needs manual grading, that is why it takes around 6 weeks from the end of the month in which you took the exam for the results to be ready. If you sit for an exam in May, for example, the result would be released in mid-July.

To pass the exam you need to score 360 out of 500, which is equal to 72 out of 100. The MCQ section is worth 75% of the score, while the essay is 25%.

If you fail an exam part, you receive a performance report that includes the topics in which you need to improve, and topics in which you performed well.