If you want to become a Certified Management Accountant, you need to pass the CMA Exam. While you can self-study, the CMA exam difficulty is well known. Serious candidates succeed by taking CMA online classes and sticking with a program of study.
If you’re already working full-time or completing a degree while you go after CMA certification, you don’t have time to waste figuring out what to study and when.
CMA online classes are an efficient and effective way to learn everything you need to know about the CMA exam.
Of course, you have to be strategic about which one you buy and how you use it. Read on to learn more about CMA training online and how to find a course that will help you succeed.
How Do CMA Online Classes Work?
If you’re looking for an online CMA class, you’ll quickly find that the good ones have similar features. They all teach the exam content, according to the IMA’s syllabus, and provide various ways to learn and practice.
Here is what a CMA online class will probably include:
Instructor-led video courses are usually a core feature of an online CMA review course. Who the instructor is and what their credentials are may impact your decision to buy the program at all.
It’s important that you can connect to the instructor, even if the course material is filmed, so that you truly understand what they’re saying and can apply it to your studies.
It’s a good idea to watch samples online or see if the course has a CMA YouTube channel before you buy. This way, you can see how you like an instructor’s style before you commit to a full course.
Live Online Classes
Whether the entire course is offered live or you get live CMA coaching or Q & A sessions, many CMA courses have some real-time elements.
This can be a powerful way to participate a little and ask specific questions.
Of course, if you do sign up for a class that is only live (and can’t be streamed later), you may find it difficult to attend or stick to that schedule. It can also be problematic if you live in a different time zone.
Recorded Video Lectures
If you do want ultimate flexibility, while still viewing videos from expert instructors, recorded video options may be the way to go. They provide a watch-anytime and pause-as-needed experience.
Video lectures can be great if you like to take a lot of notes or need to study at different times of day.
Recorded Audio Lectures
If you are a podcast fiend, you may find that recorded audio material goes a long way in enhancing your CMA studies. While not all courses offer this, getting free downloads of recorded lectures or other audio materials can be a huge benefit.
Downloadable audio lectures will give you easy access, on-the-go content to enhance memorization, while not eating up a ton of bandwidth or streaming time — you can listen during a commute or while you exercise.
Textbooks are going to cover every nook and cranny (conceptually) that you’ll need for the CMA exam. Because of the sheer volume of information, many times you’ll buy CMA Part 1 Textbook and CMA Part 2 Textbook.
Divided in a similar way to the actual test material, textbooks like these will give you comprehensive coverage of material and often have a lot of answer explanations.
If you prefer learning from a physical book, rather than an electronic version, choose a course that includes printed books.
It’s a great bonus when courses ship printed books free of charge. Something to consider as well.
CMA Practice Tests and Question Banks
Similar to many professional test prep systems, online courses will include CMA practice tests and practice question banks. The more, the better.
The best online CMA courses will have thousands of practice questions. This exposes you to as much CMA exam material as possible. Many times, test banks like these will be taken from previous CMA exams, meaning you’re getting the most authentic content possible.
CMA Exam Academy is the only course that includes a practice exam at a real Prometric test center. This in-person proctored exam experience is the only way to know exactly what it will feel like on exam day.
Digital or printed, many people who are studying for the CMA like flashcards. These can cover everything from definition and vocabulary to equations. If you need to really build foundational knowledge, this kind of rote memorization will do the trick.
I recommend creating your own flashcards though using index cards.
CMA Study Guide
The best CMA study guide is going to be a customized study plan. Depending on how long you have to study for the CMA exam, you’ll create a monthly, weekly and even daily plan for your studies.
All good CMA exam programs have this built-in, so you can build a personalized plan that works for you.
Some online courses will have study assignments and weekly homework. This is especially true if you’re working with a coach or using live course materials.
These can be really helpful if you need some extra accountability or just like having some extra guidance for planning your time.
Coaching or Tutoring
Hiring a CMA coach or tutor is usually an upgrade or added expense (although CMA Exam Academy Courses have coaching built in to the program).
This one-on-one guidance is the ultimate way to ensure you’re grasping the concepts and making the right progress to achieve your goals.
A Study App
Some CMA courses have the option to use an app to manage your studies. The content is usually the same, just delivered in an app format (rather than web-based).
Some CMA courses also have perks like discounts on IMA memberships or the CMA entrance fee. The goal is to find a CMA course that is right for you.
At the bare minimum, it should be one that you actually use. Hopefully, you will also get comprehensive materials that maximize the effectiveness of your study time and help you pass the CMA exam.
Should You Take CMA Classes Online or In-Person?
When deciding if you want an online CMA class or an in-person CMA class, most people opt for the former. This is because online CMA classes have a ton of benefits, including:
- Study from anywhere, anytime
- No commute or travel
- Flexible study time vs strict classroom schedule
In-person classes tend to be a short session of classroom learning, lasting 8 or 10 weeks. For most candidates, this is insufficient time to master CMA exam content enough to pass. An online course provides access to the content, practice materials, and instructor support as long as you need it.
Another advantage of online classes is that you can go at your own pace — you can’t pause a live instructor and you have to stick to a specific time frame to go to class.
Because of these and many other reasons, CMA classes online are a great option for most people.
How Much Do CMA Online Classes Cost?
Becoming a CMA does require some investment. You have to pay to register for and take the CMA exam, and budget for the price of a CMA review course.
While CMA online classes might be considered optional, there’s no doubt they will help you pass. With a CMA pass rate of 45% (for both sections of the test), it stands to reason that passing is a concern.
Of course, if you fail the CMA exam, you have to start over and pay for the test again. Many financially-minded people, then, recognize the value of investing in the right course from the get-go.
A CMA online course will run you anywhere from $699-$1,800. This side-by-side comparison of the most popular CMA prep courses will give you a feel for the range of options.
The lower end of that range will have courses with bare-bones materials. Sometimes you can hobble together additional resources from various online sites or the library (check out our collection of free CMA content).
The higher end is going to have elite resources that give you everything but the kitchen sink and may come with one-on-one tutoring or additional support from a CMA expert.
Most CMA course developers will give a couple of options at a couple of different price ranges, and some offer installment payment plans or financing. Of course, the offerings will either contract or expand with the price.
Keep in mind that, in addition to buying a CMA course online, you may also want to look into different support resources. Some things that are often an additional cost, and not always included in base versions of CMA courses, include:
- Additional practice tests or more practice questions
- Coaching or tutoring
- Printed textbooks
- Formula guides
- Additional accounting textbooks
It is a great idea to fully review the CMA course you’re looking at (ensuring it has all the bells and whistles you want) before you purchase it.
What Features CMA Online Classes Provide
There are going to be a few “must-haves” related to CMA online classes. While many of the good ones include the course features listed above, there are some specifics that you may want to look for.
Does the Course Have Interactive Learning?
Interaction with instructors is important, and group interaction can be very supportive — studying for the CMA exam can get lonely!
Live classes may be at the top of the list, but there are lots of ways to interact with instructors and peers that may be even better long term. Check what interaction is available before you buy:
- Can you reach out to a dedicated CMA and ask questions?
- How quickly do CMA instructors respond to email when you need help?
- Are there live calls with a CMA instructor?
- Can you contact other students or form study groups?
Think about which of these interactive features are most important to you, and be sure you get it in the course you buy.
Are There Downloadable Materials?
Similar to the case for audio content above, not everyone has unlimited streaming or reliable wifi everywhere they are.
If you intend to study on the go, you’re going to need to make sure you can download and save some course materials. If everything is only available online and streaming, that may not be the ideal class for you.
Printed textbooks and downloadable lectures will see you through study sessions when you can’t get online.
Can You Get One-on-One Attention?
Very few courses come with actual coaching or tutoring built-in. Some do, but you still need to know how to get answers to questions that are stumping you in between sessions.
Check to see if you can send emails to quickly communicate with your instructor. Then, make sure they state what the turnaround time is for a response.
If you’re really struggling with a question, waiting 72 hours for an answer is not ideal. It’s important that you understand what you can actually get on-demand help with.
What Kind of Homework or Study Plan Will There Be?
Different online courses have different approaches to assignments and how quickly you will move through material. Assignments may be built into your customized study guide. Or, they may be assigned on a weekly basis.
Figure out if you want a detailed plan of what and when to study, with weekly assigned work, or if you’d rather do a self-guided flexible course. The benefit of having a guided course is that you’ll get through it on schedule.
Without a plan and accountability, you risk spending much more time than you need to on exam prep.
Is There Progress Tracking?
Test readiness is the main goal of your CMA course, but how will you know when you’ve studied enough? A good CMA online course can keep track of your progress in a measurable way.
Many courses feature some adaptive or algorithmic elements that will calculate test readiness. It can be based on your progress through the materials or performance on practice questions.
An accurate test-readiness indicator will save you a lot of time, ensuring that you are actually prepared to take the test on the day you scheduled it.
Any other items or features that are uniquely important to you should be considered. If you don’t see clear answers on a company’s website, contact them. Whether or not (and how fast) they respond to your query is indicative of the kind of care they take with their students.
Are CMA Online Classes Worth It?
At the end of the day, you’re going to end up shelling out a thousand dollars or more for a quality CMA online class. Add a few extras and all of your time and you’ll quickly realize that you’re in for a penny, in for a pound.
And, of course, you want to know: is a CMA online class worth it?
Well, if you know that your odds are < 50% for passing a test that could provide you with a fulfilling and profitable accounting career, what would you say?
Ultimately, courses are vastly preferable to the risk of self-studying and having to retake the exam. CMA courses increase your odds of passing by ensuring you’re getting a thorough, expert-led education and test-taking skills.
Where to Sign Up for a CMA Online Class
If you’re convinced, you need to start doing some research. Read the CMA handbook, which contains more details about the CMA exam.
Go here to learn about CMA Exam Academy course materials for Parts 1 and 2 of the CMA Exam.
Have more questions about CMA exam online courses? Ask them below!