How to prepare for CMA essay questions

The essay portion of the CMA exams is a worry to many candidates, and this is for valid reasons. The essay questions consist of written and quantitative analysis and responses.


Expectations on Exam Day

Each CMA exam has two essay questions, and each question presents a business scenario that will have multiple questions. You have 1 hour to answer both essay questions. You have 3 hours to finish the multiple-choice question section of the exam before starting the essay portion.

If you finish the multiple-choice questions section before the 3-hour limit, the remaining time gets carried over to the essay section. The focus of the essay questions is on the CMA candidate’s ability to understand and apply concepts presented in the part being tested in a business scenario.


The score for Essay Answers

The subject matter experts who will score your essay responses will use a grading guide. For example, there may be 120 possible points but only 100 can be awarded in total. The expert’s goal is not to deduct points from your essay answers, but to award you points.

Partial answers will also award you points. For example, if you had to calculate 10 ratios but were only able to calculate 6, the experts will award you partial points for your answer. So, if you get a tough essay question, try to work on it as much as possible, even if you don’t complete it. You’ll be able to get some points. Be sure to show your calculations.


Methods to prepare for the exam

The essay section represents 25% of your overall score. It’s very important that you diligently prepare for it by including the following tips in your preparation:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Understand what essay questions ask of you and practice answering them. It’s very easy to go on a tangent on a response. Practice staying focused.
  2. Calculate what is asked of you, not what you think is asked of you. For example, if you are asked to calculate liquidity ratios, don’t calculate activity or solvency ratios because you think they’ll be needed.
  3. Know your formulas very well. You may need to calculate many figures before you can begin to answer the question at hand. The best way to memorize formulas is to write them down repeatedly and being mindful of it. Don’t day-dream while you practice.
  4. Get your hands-on essay question samples to get familiar with the format.


Crucial Advice

The most important advice that we can give you is to understand the material that you are studying. If you are just memorizing without understanding the WHY of things, it’ll be difficult to pass the exams, much less do well in the essay questions. The essay section will test your comprehension of the material in a real business scenario.

Do you have what it takes to become a CFO?

So, you want to be a CFO, but don’t know where to start. There are different certifications you could obtain to achieve your CFO dream but the CMA qualification is one of the few career choices that will help you significantly in your career and even help you achieve your dream of being a part of the c-suite.

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) qualification is often associated with the role of the CFO because it includes core topics such as financial management, strategic decision-making, and accounting.  As the global benchmark for auditors and financial experts, it offers candidates greater job security and a wider range of potential career opportunities, from financial controller to chief financial officer (CFO).

In fact, almost half of Robert Half’s employees report that accountants who hold the CMA certificate can expect entry-level salaries that are above the market average. Investopedia also recently profiled a finance chief who recognized his CMA certification for the decision-making skills that helped propel his career and guided his company through the recession.

If you want to be one of the young CFO’s in the industry, start gaining actual CFO experience instead of waiting for a promotion. Start thinking about how you will take decisions as a CFO, the impact of your decisions, and build a network that will be useful to you. By building a career at an early age, you will be able to gain the practical experience required to communicate effectively, formulate goals and be ready when your dream job comes.


Here are some questions that will help you plan your CFO journey:

Do you need strong analytical and digital skills?

CFOs are expected to analyze data in a manner that they can relate important information and help make executive-level decisions. More and more, CFOs are dependent on innovative software for data analysis. Therefore, CFOs will also be expected to understand blockchains and how blockchain-based solutions will impact finance and accounting.

Is it Hard to be a CFO?

A CFO is the highest (and highest paid) finance position in a company. It can come with a significant set of responsibilities, not limited to making strategic decisions that impact all employees. While it can be stressful, it can also be immensely rewarding and lucrative. If you have the ambition, it’s well worth the effort.

What does a CFO do?

The common responsibilities of the CFO include preparing the annual reports of a company, making capital expenditure decisions, reporting and evaluating financial performance as well as managing financial risks of the company.

What degree does a CFO need?

While an MBA degree is a very popular one, it is too generic in nature. It will give you a general idea about how business is to be done and also about the basic concepts of finance. However, it is too broad-based and the syllabus of most MBA programs across the world does not contain many financial concepts which are critical to performing the role as a CFO.

Top 6 career opportunities for CMA (Certified Management Accountants)

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is an advanced professional certification that demonstrates a strong knowledge of the critical accounting and financial management skills demanded by today’s dynamic businesses.

According to IMA’s 2020 Global Salary Survey, finance and accounting professionals that have the CMA certification earn upto 92% higher salaries in the Middle East region.

Now that we have established, CMA is a great stepping stone for your career, offers an industry-relevant skillset and excellent job security, let’s find out the career opportunities you can pursue:

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

A CFO is one of the top positions you can rise to in business, and is often considered a CEO’s right hand. They oversee everything from financial reporting and forecasting to a company’s investments and financial business decisions.

Some of the most critical job duties performed by a CFO include tracking cash flow, analyzing their financial strengths and weaknesses, and proposing corrective actions.

Corporate Controller

A corporate controller is someone who oversees a company’s financial and accounting functions. This includes everything from preparing the annual budget as well as internal and external financial statements, assessing current accounting operations, and coordinating activities for external auditors.

Cost Accountant

Cost accountants are responsible for recording and analyzing each cost incurred by a business. In turn, they use this information to identify where the company is losing money and how to improve its financial management.

Some of the everyday job duties of a cost accountant include preparing asset, liability, and capital account entries, documenting financial transactions, making financial recommendations based on the analysis of financial history.

Accounting Manager

These professionals develop and maintain accounting systems and procedures used by other accountants to collect and analyze data. They also oversee daily operations, monitor and analyze data, create financial statements and reports, as well as ensure the organization is following the essential accounting policies and principles.

Staff & Senior Accountant

Senior accountants are more managerial than junior or staff accountants and do not typically perform administrative tasks. Instead, they are responsible for reporting cost margins, productivity, and expenditures within a company.

The tasks include preparing month-end procedures, reconciling accountant balances, and maintaining a general ledger. In addition to this, senior accountants are expected to mentor junior staff, as well as lead accounting initiatives. Hence, they must also have strong communication and leadership skills.

Financial Analyst

If you like topics such as evaluating market trends and the microeconomic aspects of finances, then this might be the role for you. This role requires careful attention to detail as you will need to assess the financial condition of a potential investment to make sure it is worthwhile.

Some other typical job duties for a financial analyst include advising businesses on how to issue corporate bonds or split stock, as well as perform financial research and analysis to provide information on the business’s profitability, stability, liquidity, and solvency.

Management Accountant

Most CMA careers require you to plan and strategize, but as a management accountant specifically, you will budget, plan and strategize so that your company’s top managers and executives will be able to make risk-assessed decisions about their financial future. Along with being an expert in accounting, you must also possess the skill that allows you to communicate this data in a way that is easy to understand for non-experts. Being able to effectively communicate data is a key aspect.

To know how you can start your CMA journey, click here

How to become a CMA in Dubai

Whether you want to grow from your current professional position or want to improve your career potential, the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) program has been designed to help candidates improve and expand their accounting and financial management skills. The CMA certification will not only highlight you as a key employee to drive business performance but will also make you an important part of a worldwide network of over 100,000 peers.


Certification Eligibility:

To be qualified for CMA certification, you must fulfill all the following requirements:

    • Active membership in the IMA
    • Pay the CMA Entrance Fee before taking both Part 1 & Part 2 of the CMA exam (Fee Validity is 3 years)
    • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or a related professional certification
    • Must have two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management
    • Pass both the CMA examination parts
    • Conform with the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice

If you are unable to meet the educational or professional experience requirements and want to get certified, don’t fret. Candidates are offered 7 years by the IMA, within which the candidate can appear for the CMA exam and then complete their bachelor’s degree or two years of professional experience from the date of the exam.


Exam Registration:

In order to fulfill the examination requirement, you must first join the IMA and Pay the entrance fee. Next, you must register for the exam and await the confirmation of your registration, which provides your authorization number, testing window (January/February – May/June – September/October) and  Instructions for Candidates.

Lastly, Schedule your exam appointment with Prometric, IMA’s testing partner with locations worldwide and ensure that you arrive on your scheduled exam date with the required identification documents. Remember that your authorization number is only valid for the testing window selected and therefore the exam can’t be postponed.

Exam Preparation:

You can either choose to self-study or study with a training institute for your CMA Dubai preparation. Past CMA Candidates have stated that an effective technique is to study the content and create notes that ensure key points aren’t missed out during last-minute review. Due to the vast size of the CMA curriculum, it isn’t the most time effective method and can be tedious.

The inability to cover the complete syllabus may lead to gaps in your insight and yield a poor mock exam score. The more you focus on practice, the higher the chances of accomplishment. Hence, it’s always advisable for candidates to opt for a training institute to ensure constant learning and prevent last-minute cramming of content.

How can CMA help build your career?

Regardless of whether you are a new graduate or a working professional in an accounting and finance role with an aspiration to have career growth, the CMA Program prepares you for the fast-growing field of Management Accounting.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is an advanced professional certification that demonstrates a strong knowledge of the critical accounting and financial management skills demanded by today’s dynamic businesses. Here are 5 reasons why you should invest in a CMA certification:


1. Easier Entry Reuirements

To begin your CMA qualification, you need a bachelor’s degree or a professional qualification. Although, unlike other qualifications, your degree program doesn’t have to be a specific to accounts, finance, or commerce. This means non-finance professionals can also become CMA. If you are currently pursuing your bachelor’s degree, you can still appear and pass the CMA exams. The certification will only be offered to you once you have achieved your degree.


2. Career Potential

The CMA credential will open a host of career opportunities for you in the UAE such as financial statement analyst, cost control analyst, controller for prevention of frauds and errors, and investment appraisal supervisor. This is due to the qualification is not just comprehensive but also concise and following the latest market trends such as AI and so forth.


3. Global Recognition

Being a gold standard in management accounting and a recognized qualification across the world, the CMA course will open doors to international mobility. Leading employers such as 3M, Caterpillar, ConAgra, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Saudi Aramco, and Verizon seek to hire and promote CMAs in key management roles around the world.

Achieving the CMA qualification offers you the chance to build a lasting network of professional relationships through its local chapters. This could prospectively offer you a chance to expand your skills and enhance your career.


4. Easier Advancement

Among those who have and don’t have a CMA certification, CMA’s are known to achieve higher positions in organizations. People who start their careers with a college degree and no professional certification will find themselves in lower-level positions, as they lack the expertise and knowledge demanded by managerial levels. The CMA course helps bridge this gap by acting as proof of management expertise.


5. Flexibility in the Exam Window

CMA exams are offered in hundreds of locations worldwide and have three exam windows in a year. The advantage of choosing your exam window according to your timeframe and strength of knowledge is one of the many reasons why the CMA is highly sought after. Candidates can also be flexible in deciding which part to appear for first as Part 1 isn’t required to be completed before Part 2 of the CMA exam.

Another distinctive trait of the CMA course is that you can complete the course in almost 6 months whereas other qualifications require a commitment of over 2 years at least.


6. Exam Exemptions

If you pass both parts of the CMA course, you get exempted from Part 4 of the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) examination and from the following 3 papers of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) exam:

  • F1: Accountant in Business
  • F2: Management Accounting
  • F3: Financial Accounting


7. IMA’S Global CMA Network

IMA’s worldwide CMA digital network offers access to industry best practices and an opportunity to collaborate with fellow CMA’s and gain insights about advancing your career.

The exclusive members-only network also lets you connect with more targeted audiences through hundreds of sub-groups, including 300 local chapters and councils, special committees, and study groups. Each chapter offers a range of professional education programs and leadership, mentoring, community service, and authorship opportunities.

They also have over 30,000 members in our LinkedIn group, this platform is ideal for posting relevant news, trends, or thoughts about management accounting.

6 Tips to Prepare for the CMA Exam

When planning out your CMA exam preparation schedule, take into consideration your lifestyle, learning style, and comfort with the course curriculum. Here are some tips from past CMA certified candidates to help you pass your CMA exam successfully:


1. Choose the Right Training Provider

Certain institutions have been creating prep notes, question banks and mock exams for quite some time while others have just recently entered the market. The provider’s experience is essential as it guarantees that their content and knowledge has been streamlined and refined through the years. Choosing experienced providers helps you understand the IMA’s exam requirements and prevents studying with a prep provider who is learning about the course requirements themselves.

2. Practice should be your focus

The volume of mock (practice) examinations is crucial as they help highlight your strong and weak areas in the curriculum. Choosing a provider who can offer high-quality mock exams helps ensure that your key and crucial areas are assessed.

3. Learn from a CMA certified trainer

Trainers who have studied and been certified for the course have a student-centric perspective. This serves an important purpose when candidates are unable to understand in-depth or confusing concepts and require tips or hacks for the same. It wouldn’t be wise for you to take the advice of someone who hasn’t mastered the exam disregard of the attempts.

4. Start your study routine early

The majority of CMA certified professionals credit their examination routine for their success during the CMA journey which includes understanding what the content highlights as well as applying to a wide variety of questions that will be tested during the CMA exam. Being confident and well versed with the curriculum and its application requires patience and time which can only be attained through a well thought out and strict study plan.

One method that has proven to be highly effective for the CFA Program and can also be used for the CMA course is the Prepare > Practice > Perform technique. In the preparation phase, you must focus on learning the content through reading and attending training sessions while practice includes identifying the gaps in your learning so that you can score high in your mock exams. Spend an average of 30 – 40% of your time preparing, 40 – 50% practicing and 20% performing.

5. Key Definitions and Terms are defining factors

Essential terms and concepts are commonly tested through multiple-choice questions. Hence, it’s crucial to be able to understand and differentiate among them to prevent confusion. Terms are often used in question statements in the form of least, most and so forth which can make a significant difference towards the correct answer. Therefore, if the question seems confusing or unclear, rephrase the question to your understanding before selecting an answer.

6. Educated Guessing is your good luck charm

Candidates are often caught off guard by complicated questions which makes it exceptionally imperative that candidates develop the habit of “educated guessing” during their practice sessions. One good way to identify the correct answer would be through the process of elimination or relating it to a similar concept.

5 Tips to Pass the CMA exam in the First Attempt

Being an advanced professional certification, Certified Management Accountant (CMA) demonstrates a strong understanding of accounting and financial management skills required by current dynamic companies.

The sooner you achieve the CMA certification, the sooner you can start your journey towards a top-level management position. So, here are 5 tips to pass the CMA exam in the first attempt:


1. Ensure the plan is viable

In order to create a successful study plan, it takes time, effort, and in some cases can prove to be costly as well. Having a well thought out plan ensures that you don’t lag at the end of the term and can cover all the important elements of the CMA exam. One method to ensure that your plan is effective is by following the SMART technique. The SMART technique refers to checking and ensuring that the chosen plan or goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.


2. Immerse in a real testing environment

By practising in an environment like that of the exam day, you can equip yourself better to manage exam day stress. The questions are prone to be presented in indirect ways to test whether the candidate understands the accounting principles and concepts. Therefore, just scanning the content for main points won’t work as almost everything that is included in the course content is important.


3. Engage Your Brain When Studying

Going through the course content repeatedly can be mentally exhausting and ineffective over time. Here are some methods you can incorporate to engage your brain:

  • Highlight the important parts of the book
  • Jot down notes on the margin or make flash cards for quick access
  • Identify your learning method: Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic


4. Pay Attention to Key Definitions and Terms

Multiple choice questions are most commonly tested for essential concepts, definitions, and terms. Hence, it’s crucial to understand the important terms and be able to differentiate them to prevent confusion or misunderstanding.

Another area where you must pay close attention to is the terms in question statements. Certain words such as least, most, and so forth make a significant difference towards the correct answer. Therefore, don’t be quick to select an answer and rephrase the question to your understanding of the question is confusing or unclear.


5. Refine Your Skill in Educated Guessing

It is not surprising that candidates repeatedly get caught by questions they have never seen before. Therefore, it is exceptionally imperative that candidates hone the craftsmanship of “educated guessing” during their practice sessions. One good way to identify the correct answer would be through the process of elimination or relating it to a similar concept.


All in all, the CMA exam doesn’t just focus on the understanding of crucial accounting and financial management skills, and therefore passing the exam requires more than skimming through the main key phrases or statements.