Exam Strategies that Work – Essay Questions

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau

Essay Questions

This part of the exam has many candidates stressed out and worried, and with reason. The exam allocates one hour to answer two essay questions. That alone can seem daunting, but don’t let it get to you. By learning a few exam strategies, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the essay questions.

The Strategy

Each essay question will have clues that will guide you to the correct answer, but you need to pay attention to them. The clues are verbs such as:

  1. Calculate
  2. Analyze
  3. Examine
  4. Interpret
  5. Apply

Pay attention to these verbs as they will help you determine the requirements of the question. If for example, a question asks you to calculate financial ratios, don’t try to interpret them, unless that’s a follow-up question after calculating them.

Time is very valuable, and it’s important that you focus your energy on what the question is asking you to do. A quick way to know if you are answering correctly is to use the same verbs in your essay. This will confirm that you are responding to what the question is directly asking you and that your response is complete.

If you are able to prepare an analysis, elaborate the main points of a specific subject, and examine its implications, you are ready for the essay portion of the exam.

You’ll be required to support your answers with explanations and calculations to demonstrate your ability to understand and apply your skills to the various scenarios that’ll be presented on your exam.


In summary, with the right tools, you’ll be able to successfully take on the essay portion of the exams. Don’t forget about the clues just mentioned above, as they will guide you to the correct answer.

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Nathan Liao

Hi, I’m Nathan Liao (aka the CMA Coach)! For the last 10 years, over 82,000 accounting and finance pros came knocking at my door seeking guidance and help. If you’re also aiming to conquer the CMA exam on your very first try—without wasting away time or money—you’ve found your ultimate guide. Dive in deeper to discover more about me and the dedicated team that powers CMA Exam Academy. Click here and let’s embark on this journey together!

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