Here’s another installment of our regular feature on CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam test-taking tips and strategies. In this edition, we’ll focus on the essay questions.

The essay portion of the CMA exam comprises 25% of the total exam time, or one hour, for each exam part. Both exam parts include two essay problems/scenarios, and each can have five to seven questions associated with it. Candidates are given 30 minutes to respond to each essay problem/scenario. To help you make the most of that time and maximize your score, following are six strategies to keep in mind:

  1. Be brief and to the point: It’s okay to use bullet points. Try to be concise, but not too brief. You want to make sure you explain your answer clearly.
  2. Do not leave questions blank: If you’re short on time, at least write an outline of your main points.
  3. Read the entire question to understand all the requirements. A question may be asking you for more than one thing, for example, “Define abc and interpret its applicability to xyz.” Make sure you address all of the components.
  4. Pay close attention to verbs. Related to tip #3, note the verbs carefully. For example, if the question asks you to compare and contrast, don’t define or summarize.
  5. Graders want effective writing skills. Your focus should be on the use of standard English. Make sure your writing is organized and clear. 
  6. Remember that graders are looking to give you points, not take them away. Believe it or not, graders are looking for ways for you to succeed. So, make it easy as possible for them to give you points.

Another key point, applicable to both the essay portion and multiple-choice questions: Use all of the time available to you. If you finish early, go back and read over what you’ve written. Also, be aware that your answers to the essay questions should be written in the provided text box; it’s similar to Microsoft Word, but with simpler functionality.

The IMA website also includes good information for candidates on test-taking tips and resources. Visit Taking the Exam to learn more. 

IMA also offers a CMA candidate webinar series three times per year: The next one is scheduled for August 19, 2019, titled “The CMA Exam Essays: Everything You Need to Know!” It will be co-hosted by Lisa Beaudoin, CMA, CSCA, CAE, IMA director of business development; and Sue Mullen, professional instructor of accounting at Ashland University. Visit IMA webinars to register.

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