Tips to prepare for the CMA exam after completing your Bachelor’s in Accounting

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You’ve successfully completed a Bachelor of Science in Accounting program – congratulations! Now, it’s time for you to hunker down and hit the books … again.

It’s important to properly prepare if you’re planning to take the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. Even after graduating from a high-quality degree curriculum like the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program, it’s critical that students take the time to focus their studies on their upcoming CMA exam.

It’s not an easy exam, to be sure. According to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the cumulative pass rates for students who took the exam between Sept. 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 for each section were:
Financial reporting, planning, performance and control: 35 percent.
Financial decision making: 50 percent.

UAB’s Bachelor of Science in Accounting program is recognized by IMA as a leader in CMA exam test preparation. IMA’s Higher Education Endorsement Program recognizes business curricula that meet the quality educational standards required to enable students to prepare for the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) designation. This means students who graduate from UAB’s 100-percent online accounting program are already well on their way to achieving this distinction.

But even still, it’s critical that students continue their studies until test day. Earning your CMA certification may lead to quicker salary growth and greater recognition in the industry.

Here are some tips for newly graduated students who are preparing to take their exam:

Accounting student preparing for exam

Understand your unique learning style

Every person and every mind is different. Some people are visual learners, others are active learners and some are auditory learners. Monster pointed out that there are excellent solo studiers, while others thrive in the motivating environment of regular classes.

If you know your best learning style, cater your study sessions to that, explained Stephanie Ng, who wrote the book, “How to Pass The CPA Exam” and the blog “I Pass the CMA Exam.” Ng noted there are multiple study tools and review courses students can invest in. While they’ll all cover the relevant material, not each one will be the perfect choice for every student.

Ng suggested researching the various options, giving a few free trials a chance, and then making your final decision on which to buy.

Nathan Liao, a CMA who created the resource CMA Coach, agreed with this notion: Knowing your learning style is a must before investing in any one review program.

Some of the most recognized review courses are:
• Gleim CMA Review.
• Wiley CMAexcel.
• Hock International.

Ng recommends either Gleim or Wiley, while Liao said his favorite are Gleim or Hock.

Ng pointed out that people who learn best by doing – such as taking notes and engaging in practice exams – may prefer Gleim’s extensive and comprehensive practice exams. She says they’re very similar to the format you’ll see on testing day.

Meanwhile, people who are primarily visual learners will likely appreciate Wiley’s video lectures that explain complex topics in depth.

Focus on true understanding

Practice exams are a wonderful tool when preparing for a challenging exam for a number of reasons. They offer a quick review of a wide swath of important information, prepare you for the test format and allow you to practice time management.

However, there’s one common pitfall that multiple choice test takers often fall into: memorization.

Fight this notion by being thorough in your study sessions. Ng implored that students not rush through practice exams, and instead to be sure they fully understand the concepts they address. Additionally, she noted that simply memorizing the helpful mnemonic devices are only beneficial if you truly understand the ideas they represent.

She also pointed out that understanding key terminology and basic concepts are always a staple in any standardized test multiple choice section. Be sure you know these well and can differentiate between similar concepts.

Looking for unique ways to apply the concepts you’re studying in your everyday life – especially if you already have a job where you can apply them – can be a huge help in solidifying your knowledge.

Memorize the formulas

While memorization in practice multiple choice questions isn’t a sound study tactic, there are some things you will need to commit to memory – namely, those numerous formulas. Liao and Ng both recommended to people who commented on their blogs to create flashcards for these.

Carry the flashcards wherever you go – really. In the waiting room at the dentist? Bring them out. Riding the commuter rail to work? Grab those flashcards. Those formulas aren’t simple to memorize, but they’re a big part of the test. Be confident that you know them.

Develop time management skills

Time management skills are applicable in any aspect of life, but when it comes to standardized tests, they become absolutely critical. Even the most intelligent person can get a low score on an exam by taking too much time on one section of a test, or by not devoting enough time to a particularly challenging area.

The mock exam is an excellent way to practice and perfect your time management skills. If you find yourself getting stuck on a tough question, don’t be afraid to skip it and come back at the end. Perhaps reading another question will help you look at the question in a new light. Or, perhaps by passing on a question you don’t know, you can answer two others that come easier to you.

Remember: the exam is scored on a scale of 0 to 500. A passing grade is anything above 360 for both parts. So, if there are a few questions that get you stumped, don’t fret; move on to a part that you know.

Short-term time management is important on test day, but long-term time management skills are what help you get prepared. You’ll need to manage the weeks, months and years leading up to the exams properly as well.

Be sure you give yourself enough time before your test day to effectively study. Two months is an ideal timeframe, Ng wrote, and studying 10 hours per week is usually effective for most students.

There are two sections to the CMA exam which you must complete within three years, IMA explained. If you neglect to take the second exam within that three-year time frame, or if you fail an exam during that time, your results for the first exam will be negated. You’ll need to start the whole process over again.

Get prepared for your CMA exam

Passing the CMA exam isn’t easy, and it’s designed this way for a reason: Only the best of the best will receive the CMA certificate. But, when you take the time to study and prepare properly, and earn a high quality Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree, you’re well on your way for this distinction.

To learn more about the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program, reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

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