Preparation to the exam is never an easy task.
Looking back at my personal experience with CMA exams I realized that after several failures it only became feasible for me to pass the exams when i took the preparation really seriously, i.e. became conscious of the scope and difficulty of the exam, what resources I need vs I have, solid amount of time i need to invest and the way i want to organize my study plan.
In this article, I want to share with you what helped me to successfully pass CMA exams. Please note that it will not provide you with any advice on specific CMA preparation materials to use.
First and utmost question to ask yourself
Why do you want to pursue CMA certification?
The answer to this question became the main motivation for me. Now I can definitely say that CMA certificate helped me to introduce myself to the world of finance and taught me to speak the same language with finance professionals around the world.
Think yourself of all you can do and achieve with this document on hand!
Do not underestimate the time you need
Of course, the intensity of the study depends on the number of factors.
If you already have professional experience in some of the topics covered by CMA exams it may save time to go through the specific theory and focus on less familiar areas. However, i would encourage you not to skip the parts where you believe you have a solid knowledge and let yourself a bit of a repetition.
For those of you who is not an English native speaker as myself, it may require more time to go through the tons of reading and memorize the terminology you only know in your native language or do not know at all. My advice to you, do not spend time to translate. Instead, read and ensure you understand the context and the key words to be used to make it meaningful for yourself.
Make sure you are well aware of all the learning objectives and how much reading and practical exercises you need to go through. This information will help you to solve your first equation in the preparation to the exam – how many theory pages and test questions you can realistically cover per day, per week, per month, etc.
Make yourself comfortable and ready to learn
Needless to say that in the process of study you will be constantly reminded of all other aspects of your life that may cause unnecessary but always pleasant distraction – work, family, friends, other interests and commitments.
Think of the most suitable time and place that will keep you focused and motivated to learn. Do you prefer to be surrounded by the bookshelves in the local library? Are you better concentrated in the quiet office space in the early hours of the workday or on the weekend? Do you feel more productive in the cozy sofa with the warm evening light at home?
Whatever works for you, it is important to make your loved ones aware of your studies and keep learning regular so one day it will become almost like a habit.
Find your way
We all have different types of memory and when it comes to learning you should leverage from the format that helps you the most. If you are a visual learner, then reading and making notes will benefit you the most. However, crucial is not to limit yourself to only one specific pattern and define what combination works better for you.
During my preparation to the exam, i discovered that listening is one of the learning methods that helps me a lot to be on track with my study plan. The advantage of audio lessons is that you can do it on the way to work, in the train, in the gym, while having a walk or cooking dinner for your family. The data provider i was using did not have this option available, so for the topics that were the most challenging for me, I read myself loud while using my phone voice recording function to re-visit this topic from time to time on my way to work to ensure that i have good memory and understanding of it.
Combine theory and practice
CMA exam consists of two different types of questions - theory and practice, where you need to perform certain calculations. Therefore, make sure that your study plan includes both.
Reflecting on my personal experience, i was always starting with reading the theory. Once i went through one specific section i switched to exam simulation tools to ensure good understanding of the topic and enough speed to answer exam questions (be aware of test part of the exam with 100 questions to be answered within 3 hours – average 2 minutes per exam question).
Find yourself a learning partner
If you do not like to study alone you may consider an option of joining a learning tandem with someone who is currently preparing for CMA exam same as you. It will help you to keep pace, encourage each other on the learning progress and practice your understanding of specific topics by explaining it to other person.
Not to forget!
I truly believe that the essential part of productive learning process is to keep yourself happy and healthy. Therefore, make certain that you establish or maintain regular breaks, good sleep, physical exercises and healthy eating habits!
Good luck with the exams!
P.S. If you are in the process of CMA exam preparation, I really hope you found something useful for you. If you are already a lucky owner of CMA credential, I would be happy to hear what strategies worked for you to earn CMA.
Olga A Chernikova, CMA
IMA Swiss Chapter