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

Three years may seem like a long time to complete the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program, but it’s critical to begin developing your study plan as early as possible. Your CMA will pay big dividends over the course of your career, and the sooner you’re certified, the more you’ll enjoy the benefits! There’s just the obvious obstacle to overcome: Personal and professional commitments will quickly erode any time you have available to study if you don’t stick to a schedule. But Gleim has good news: We’ve been helping candidates pass the CMA exam for more than 40 years, and we can help you pass too. Here are our top five tips for building a CMA study plan you can actually follow.

1. Before you begin, take inventory.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How familiar am I with the material on the CMA exam?
  • How much available time do I have to study each week?
  • Do I have a deadline to become a CMA?
  • How long can I concentrate in one sitting?

Be realistic about what you can expect from yourself so that you make a plan you can stick to. Everyone is able and willing to study for a different amount of time each week. We recommend candidates study for at least 12 hours per week, which will prepare you to pass both parts in six to eight months.

If your accounting courses have some overlap with CMA exam content (and many will), your prep time for those classes can count toward your 12 hours per week. The easiest way to figure out any content you don’t need to study is to use an adaptive course.

The Gleim CMA Review System utilizes SmartAdapt™?, our adaptive online platform. It’s like your personal tutor. SmartAdapt evaluates your performance, directs you to the resources you need, and adjusts as your quiz scores improve. It even tells you when you’re ready to pass your exam!

2. Make cuts.

You will need to make some sacrifices in order to study for the CMA exam. Some candidates prefer to make several small ones (e.g., waking up an hour early, studying during a break at work, or watching less TV). Others prefer to make one large one (e.g., pausing a hobby or spending less time with friends).

Just remember: Studying for the CMA exam is more like a marathon than a sprint. Don’t give anything up that’s not worth living without for several months. Critically examine how you spend your time, but make sure you’re leaving some leisure time for yourself. If you’re well-rested and less stressed, studying will be easier, and that will translate into a better exam-day performance.

3. Set benchmarks.

You should always break your long-term goals down into small, incremental ones. This allows you to hold yourself accountable and track your progress. More importantly, it’s empowering to check things off your to-do list as you accomplish them! The number one difficulty most CMA candidates face is staying motivated, and benchmarking your progress helps.

Set whatever benchmarks you feel are appropriate. They need to fit into your schedule and your timeline for CMA certification—just make sure they come at a regular cadence. Use a calendar. Write them down. And mark them off when you meet them! If you regularly aren’t able to meet them or are having difficulty catching back up, you know you need to reevaluate your study plan.

Many candidates using our Review System set benchmarks for when they want to complete each study unit, which lets them know they’ll be 100% prepared on their scheduled exam day. Our Study Planner does most of the work for you. You answer questions about your goals, and it automatically adjusts as you progress through the course so that you meet them!

4. Reward yourself.

Meeting a goal is fulfilling. But it’s a lot more fulfilling, and motivating, if you know you’ll get something out of it beyond a sense of accomplishment. This author likes pizza, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer as to what your reward should be. Decide on your rewards as you’re setting up your benchmarks so that you’re working toward something tangible. Just be sure to plan something big for when you pass your first CMA exam part.

5. Get the right tools.

The CMA exam is difficult. You want studying to be easy. Our accounting experts study the CMA’s Content Specification Outlines and Learning Outcome Statements so you don’t have to waste time figuring out where to begin. Purchasing a CMA review course will ensure you get comprehensive coverage of the testable topics, plus practice with the types and rigor of questions you’ll encounter on exam day.

If you want more info on how to get started on your CMA, check out our free on-demand webinar!

(This article is adapted from free resources available on the Gleim website.)