To help candidates prepare for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam, we’re launching a regular feature on test-taking tips and strategies. In this edition, we’ll focus on the multiple-choice questions, which comprise 75% of Parts 1 and 2 of the exam.

Each exam part includes 100 multiple-choice questions, and with only three hours to take this part of the exam, candidates only have approximately 1.5 minutes to answer each question. That means time management is a critical skill in making sure a candidate performs well on the exam.

The following are six strategies for navigating the multiple-choice questions:
  1. Pay close attention to the wording of each question. Look for words like “except,” “least,” “not,” and “most,” which can sometimes be overlooked. On the CMA exam, these words will actually be in bold font, so pay close attention to them.
  2. Answer a question in your mind before looking at the answer options. Make sure you carefully read the entire stem or question. Once you know what the question is, answer it in your mind, if you can. If you’re able to arrive at an answer before reviewing the options, you’ll feel more confident in your answer. Even so, make sure you do read the entire list of the four answer choices (A, B, C, and D) before making your final answer selection.
  3. Consider using the “three-pass technique.” While some candidates prefer to work through each question sequentially, others have found the following technique helpful:
    • Read all the questions: answer the noncomputational ones and mark the computational ones. Now you have the computation questions left to answer, which are all marked.
    • Answer the computational questions, leaving the questions you are unsure about marked.
    • Review and answer all marked questions. These marked questions are all that are left, which are the computational questions you’re unsure about.
  4. Take your best guess. An unanswered question will be treated the same way as an incorrect answer (meaning you’ll get no credit at all), so you have nothing to lose by taking a guess. More than likely, you’ll be able to narrow a question down to two possible answers and from there, you can take your best guess at what you think is the correct answer. At this point, you have a 50/50 chance of getting the question correct, whereas not answering means you will earn no credit at all.
  5. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. Again, you only have an average of 1.5 minutes per question. What you’ll find is that some questions can be answered very quickly (in less than a minute and a half), so then you will be able to spend more time on lengthier and more challenging questions.
  6. Review, correct, and go back to the more difficult questions. If you have time left, review and check your work. And about answer changing: It’s a myth that you should not change your answer on an objective exam because the first answer is usually the right one. Only about 20% of the time will candidates change from a right answer to a wrong answer. But be sure to manage your review time wisely. If you can complete the multiple-choice section in less than the allotted three hours, that unused time can be carried forward to the Essay section.
The IMA website also includes good information for candidates on test-taking tips and resources. Visit to learn more. IMA also offers the CMA candidate webinar series three times per year: The next one is scheduled for April 16, 2019, titled “The CMA Exam: Test-Taking Tips & Strategies” and hosted by Lisa Beaudoin, CMA, CSCA, CAE, IMA director of business development. Visit to register.

Stay tuned for upcoming issues of CMA Connection for additional test-taking tips, including advice on the Essay section; what to expect on test day; coping with test anxiety; and more.