Tips for Tackling the CMA Essay Questions

Sponsored content: The following insights are brought to you by Gleim, IMA Strategic Partner and the original CMA Review provider.

The essay portion of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam consists of two scenarios that usually ask five to seven questions each, and you’re expected to write professional responses that show a thorough understanding of the material.

With only an hour to write two essays, it’s no wonder prospective CMAs are often intimidated. But you don't have to be! Gleim has been helping candidates pass the CMA exam for more than 40 years, and we can help you pass too. Here are our top essay-writing tips and techniques that will get you ready for exam day.

1. Pace yourself.

If you finish the multiple-choice section in less than its allotted three hours, your remaining time will be added to the hour you’re given for the essays.

We recommend answering each MCQ in 1.5 minutes on average, which gives you 15 minutes to review your answers and another 15 minutes you can carry over to the essays.

When you get to the essays, split your remaining time in half. Don’t max out one response at the expense of the other.

2. Write professionally.

The quality of your responses depends on both the accuracy of your response and how clearly you communicate. Here’s the writing criteria you should focus on when answering essay questions:

  • Use of standard English: Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Organization: Response is arranged logically and coherently.
  • Clarity: Analysis is clearly communicated with well-constructed sentences and appropriate vocabulary.

You should use all your available time, but you shouldn’t write up until the bell. Save a few minutes to proofread your responses at the end.

3. Read each scenario and its questions carefully.

You cannot receive full credit unless you answer all the questions completely, so make sure you address everything the questions ask. You might even want to read the questions first so you can easily identify the most relevant information in each scenario.

This can also help you formulate how to structure your essay in advance, which will make proofreading it at the end even easier. Organizing your response in advance is the easiest way to make sure you haven’t accidentally left anything out.

It may not feel like it when the pressure hits, but a structured outline can make all the difference.

4. Remember: Partial credit exists!

Essays are graded by subject-matter experts who want to give you the points you’ve earned, so make sure you show them how much you know, even if you can’t precisely answer part of a question.

If you’re asked something that requires computation, always show your work. If you make a mistake at the very last step, you can still get credit for the steps you did correctly.

5. Answer every question.

Don’t agonize over one question for so long that it interferes with your ability to answer others. Try to at least write an outline or bullet points answering the question(s) before you move on. You can always come back to it!

6. Get Gleim CMA Review!

To ensure that you’re adequately prepared for the challenges of exam day, you need the best CMA Review. Our course comes with videos walking you through how to approach essay questions, plus hundreds of practice essays. We created the first CMA Review course, have a 99% CMA satisfaction rate, and helped prepare more CMAs than any other provider. Now, it’s your turn!

For more CMA info, check out our guide covering everything you need to know about the CMA exam.