How is the CMA Exam Graded?

The CMA exam is not just one of the toughest, but also one of the lengthiest financial exam. A commonly asked question by many candidates is, ” How is the CMA exam graded?”

It is important for every candidate to know beforehand the pattern of the exam and how to maximize their scores by knowing how grading is done. It also helps you focus your attention on the most critical aspects of the exam and prioritize your time accordingly.

 

To help you maximize your study efforts, I’ve put together this simple explanation for you to highlight on how the CMA exam is graded.

Division of the Exam

The CMA exam is divided into two sections. The first section contains the Multiple Choice Questions, popularly known as MCQ, which contains 100 such questions.

Candidates are given three hours to answer these MCQs. Each question has four answer options of which they need to select one.

The advantage here is that there is no negative marking for incorrect answers so it is highly advisable that you answer each and every question, irrespective of whether you are sure of the answer or not as that just increases your probability of getting an answer correct by 25%.

The next section contains the two Essay Questions.  You are given thirty minutes each to complete each essay.

If you do manage to complete the MCQs before three hours then you can utilize the balance time on the essay question but once you do that you cannot review those MCQs at the end, so be very sure before you proceed to the next section.

NOTE – The catch here is that you need to answer at least 50% of the MCQs correctly in order to be eligible to take the essay section.

How the Passing Score is Determined

In terms of weight attached, the first section is the most important with 75% of contribution to the overall score while the second section has 25% importance.

Both these sections are scored on a scale of 0-500. Since all the candidates are given different “forms” of the exam, it is mandatory for them to score passing marks for each form. This balances out the overall relative difficulty of the questions in each form.

A score of 360 indicates the minimum passing scaled score. This helps the candidates know how they have fared vis-à-vis the passing standard of 360. One form may require a passing percentage of 75% while the other form may require a passing percentage of 60%. It is for this reason that a standard scale score of 360 is established as a benchmark. The score doesn’t indicate the percentage of questions you got correct.

What you should do

If you must set a goal then your endeavour should be to score more than 75% in both the MCQ and the Essay section. Working out the permutation and combination during the exam will not just be futile exercise, but also time consuming and may ultimately affect the quality of your answers.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

– Vince Lombardi

Until next time!

Nathan Liao, CMA

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29 Comments on “How is the CMA Exam Graded?”

  1. Thank you so much for your guidance. But can u tell me, how is Hock book and Hock software for passing the CMA exam.. I have 1 month to prepare for paper 1. So kindly guide me for this short time period.

  2. Dear Nathan,
    From your past experience or from your ur students what percentage of calculation required mcqs a one can expect in exam.

  3. Hi Nathan, thanks for your clear explanation, but I would like to understand one thing if I get the full mark of MCQs ( extremely imagination 😀 ) which means get 75% of the result, in this case I will pass the exam whatever the result of essay answers?, thanks

    1. Hi Hany,

      You are right. If you got a perfect score in the MCQs, you wouldn’t have to worry about the essay portion. The MCQ is 75% of the exam which means its perfect scaled score is equivalent to 375 (75% x 500). However, it is best to give it your best shot in the essay as you will not know if you perfected the MCQ or not, the system will just calculate if you passed the MCQ portion and then proceed to the essay exam without informing your score in the MCQs.

      Thanks,
      Nathan

  4. So I appeared for cma part 1 and seems as though I have touched the 50% threshold for MCQ to get to th essay. My question is that lets say I score exact 50% in the MCQ and have faired decently well in the essay, does it mean that i have to get a minimum score of 15-20% to secure an over all score of 65-70% depending on the level of difficulty?

    1. Hi Mina,

      MCQ is 75% and Essay is 25% of your final score. You have to get 50% (or at least 50 correct MCQ items) of the 100 item MCQs in order to get to the essay portion. But that 50% should have a scaled score of at least 235 and have a perfect essay equivalent score of 125 to get a total of 360. The best way is to have at least 282 (75% x 375) scaled from your multiple choice questions and a decent score from your essay of 78-94 (62% to 75% of 125) to pass the exam.

      Thanks,
      Nathan

  5. Hi Sir,

    I have appeared for my CMA Part 2 Exam yesterday and I had advanced to the essay section as well.Can you please let me know ,if I can stay positive that I will pass the exam and prepare for my part 1,or should I need to wait until the results are out.The institute where I have enrolled for coaching is assuring me that the chance of failing the exam is very less,as I have already cleared the MCQ’s. I have given the essays fairly well though not so impressed .Sir, do you think if it makes a sense, as far as my institute is claiming.I am bit nervous.Kindly advise.Thanks

    1. Hi Sriki,

      The best person to ask whether you pass or fail is yourself but it is generally encouraged to be positive.

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

  6. I just need to know ( I have to pass the 50% in MCQ to open essay ) the 50% mean 50 MCQ correct or 50% from 75% score of the total MCQ.

    1. Hi Ibrahim,

      You need to get at least 50% of the MCQ correctly to move to the essay section.

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

  7. Hi nathan,
    i wanted to know whether this 50% of score in mcq which is required is actually out 375 only or out of 500 points ? getting a bit confused .

    1. Hi Verghese,

      You must get at least 50% of the MCQ section to be eligible for the essay section. That is, at least 50% or 188 equivalent score (50% x 375).

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

    1. Hi Reham,

      Yes, it will result to failure if a CMA candidate did not get at least 50% in the MCQ section.

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

  8. Suppose i scored 50 % mark in MCQ and what minimum percentage i need to score in essay to qualify each part

    1. Hi Amit,

      Yes, you can. The CMA Exam changed in 2015, so your Wiley 2015 edition is still current.

      Cheers!

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