How I Prepared for the CMA Exam and Passed
By Eileen Peacock, CMA
As a university professor, I was quite familiar with review courses and, indeed, I had used one to study for the CPA exam. I chose the computer-based courses, purchasing three parts of review materials from MicroMash.
Preparing for the exam
I received the review materials approximately six weeks before the exam. I knew this was a short interval before the test date, but I felt that with some focused preparation I could make it. I was reasonably familiar with the material in Part 3, but Parts 1 and 4 contained some material that was new to me and some that I knew I would have to work hard on to gain the level of confidence required to sit for the exam.
The MicroMash materials require that you answer questions and review answers. The questions at that time were multiple choice and long answer, and explanations were provided with all questions. In addition, the MicroMash program keeps tally of your performance: percent correct, overall and by topic, and number of sessions (i.e., last 10 sessions), and time spent answering the questions. My plan was to cover all materials as often as possible, so I moved fairly frequently between topics. I would move to a new one so I did not get behind in any one area, eventually returning to a topic where I was still scoring below the passing grade.
Each day I would study for approximately 30-50 minutes before going to work. In the evening I would try to spend the same time or slightly longer. On the weekends I would undertake as many 30-50 minute sessions as I could. I rarely worked for longer time periods as I felt that that length of time for studying was optimal. In addition, I could complete my family and house chores.
In addition to using the computer program, I found copies of some old exams and did spend some time reviewing them. I needed to know what to expect so I could plan how long a period each type of question required.
Taking the exam
As I was exempt from Part 2, I took one exam one day and then the following day, two exams. Thinking through how those exam days would be spent allowed me to be prepared and not feel overwhelmed or have to make last-minute adjustments.
During each exam I found I had to keep working at a fairly fast pace in order to finish. I knew how many questions I had to answer, and before going into the exam I had worked out how long each section should take. My plan was to keep to this time schedule. I know I had difficulty doing that as the exam is not straightforward and naturally contains questions that are different from those in the review materials.
I tried to keep calm and watch the time in order to leave sufficient time to at least attempt all questions. The final exam was the most difficult because I was tired. I had to really concentrate on the first 12 or so multiple choice questions as I did not quite have the energy to go at these questions. Once I was about one hour into the program I was engrossed and working as hard as I could. As with the other two exams, I only just finished in time. I was glad when it was Friday at 5:00 p.m. and it was over.
Eileen Peacock, CMA, Oakland County, is associate professor, School of Business Administration, Oakland University, Rochester, Mich. She is a member of the IMA Committee on Education.
Source: Institute of Management Accountants, www.imanet.org.