How hard is the CMA

cma exam difficulty

A lot of people are curious about the level of difficulty associated with the CMA exam. After all, if the pass rates are any indication, it’s safe to say that the majority of candidates find it incredibly tough.

The CMA exam can be difficult for different reasons. But it isn’t merely a matter of difficulty, as much as students tend to lack proper guidance. There is an abundance of quality CMA study material you can use and plenty of comprehensive CMA prep courses. But a big chunk of passing the exam is having a solid study plan, confidence, and time management. With enough effort and proper preparation, the CMA exam difficulty will not phase you or hamper your ability to pass.

How Hard is the CMA Exam?

The CMA exam is very difficult and it will test your intellectual limits. The industry average CMA pass rate for both sections is only 45%, meaning less than half of the people taking the test will pass. The CMA exam is notorious for its rigor and difficulty, and if you want to pass, you need to prepare.

So, how hard is the CMA exam? To look at it objectively, there are 3 ways to consider the CMA exam difficulty, so let’s break it down.

Top 3 Reasons Contributing To The CMA Exam Difficulty


Compared to some other financial and accounting  exams, like the CPA and CFA, the scope of material covered is much narrower.

 As you know, the CMA exam is comprised of 2 parts. Part 1 focuses on financial accounting, including planning, budgeting, forecasting, as well as performance and cost management, and internal controls. Part 2 includes financial statement analysis, corporate finance, decision analysis, risk management, investment decisions, and professional ethics.
If you were to compare the CMA exam curriculum to that of a CPA, you would notice that not only is the CPA exam broken up into 4 parts, but that it also covers auditing, business law and taxation.
Additionally, the CMA exam doesn’t dive into the same amount of detail as some other exams, so this should help ease some of the burden you feel when studying.

Pass Rates

Statistics show that only a few dedicated ones are lucky enough to pass the CMA exam. And by few, I mean only 35% for Part 1 and 49% for Part 2.  Not surprisingly, those statistics can make writing this exam even more daunting.

If you look deeper into these numbers you can see how the reduced eligibility requirements may affect this. What I mean is that to write the CMA exam, you only require a bachelor degree and it can be obtained from any discipline in any country. This means you don’t have to have any background knowledge in finance or accounting, which may be contributing to the low pass rates. 

If you however, have a background in this area, I believe you already increase your chances of passing on the first try!

Exam Composition

As I mentioned above, the CPA exam is broken down into 4 parts, whereas the CMA exam is only 2. Many people find that because there are only two parts, the amount of information covered in each part contributes to the difficulty. It means that you have to study more subjects for each section in order to improve your chances of passing.

While this very well could contribute to the CMA exam difficulty, there are several ways you can tackle this, such as following a specific study plan to ensure you cover each topic with the necessary amount of depth and time.

The key is to prepare. Follow my proven CMA exam study guide and pass both parts on your first try.

But first, I want to know what you are finding the most difficult about preparing for the exam. Comment below and let’s see how I can help you. 

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!

55 Comments on “How hard is the CMA”

  1. hi.,
    i dont have any work experience. i have only my graduation. i saw that for CMA usa, experience is required for eligibility?
    can you elaborate about that, please ?

    1. Hi Hazida,

      You can fulfill the education and experience requirements either prior to or within 7 years after passing the exam.

      To fulfill your CMA experience requirements, you must complete two consecutive years of full-time employment in an approved role OR four consecutive years of part-time, permanent employment (minimum 20 hours per week).

      For more info on the CMA requirements please visit

      Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions.

  2. Hiii…. I’m Student of class 12th now…. Nd wondering of CMA… CMA tough??… Can I do it along with my bachelor’s degree of bba??..

        1. Hi Gurshit,

          The exams are hard, and since you have to pass the 2 parts within 3 years from the enrollment date, it’s best to make sure you’ll have enough time to focus on the CMA.

          According to the 2022 CMA Handbook, “candidates must complete the CMA program within three years from the date of entry into the program. If both exam parts are not successfully completed within three years of entering the certification program, any passed part will expire and the CMA entrance fee will have to be repaid.”

  3. I passed 11th with 93.7% in commerce, is bba with cma as my major a good choice? Since i was planning on BBA+MBA, am a bit confused as to which would be better for me. Do you think i can pass the exam at one go after BBA?

    1. Hi Archanaa,

      My suggestion is to go for the designation that suits your career goals best.

      If you’d like to work in management accounting, then the CMA is a great certification to help you achieve that goal.

      Have a look at the following article to learn more about this certification and the steps to obtaining it: What Is a CMA? The Facts About Certified Management Accounting

      My goal at CMA Exam Academy is to help everyone pass their exam the first time.

      If you have any other questions, please let me know.


  4. Hello sir thank you for the reply. I would also like to know about the course CS (company secretary) I have heard that this is also the most difficult exam but is that difficult for students like me( means avg student) to get minimum pass marks in cs exam. I graduated with 7.78 cgpa with no related background to it. Can you suggest me if i should go forward to take this course.

  5. Hi sir, I’m btech grad in civil engineering with 7.78 cgpa. Will i be able to pass CMA exam. I don’t have any finance background. Will it be more difficult for me to prepare for CMA.

    1. Hi,

      CMA candidates often come from varying backgrounds, but we’ve had students with no previous accounting background who successfully completed our program and passed the exam.

      For those who don’t have an accounting/finance background, learning the fundamentals of accounting is the first step before diving into the CMA exam content. Our program includes a textbook to help in this area.

      My other recommendation for you is to first take a quick beginner’s course in accounting. It’ll help lay the foundation for understanding the CMA material. Investopedia’s course is a good resource to learn accounting basics.

      If you have any other questions, please let me know.

      Thanks, Nathan

  6. Hi.. I am an electrical engineer with 12+ yrs exp in contract & procurement activities..
    i am planning to take US CMA exams… should i take this exam & does this certification helps in improving my value and bid for higher positions ..pls advice

    1. Hi Vinay,

      For switching to a career in accounting/finance, accounting knowledge is fundamental. Without it, it’s practically impossible to pass the CMA exams and become a CMA.

      The CMA certification is designed for professionals who are aiming to pursue a career and stay competitive in the management accounting field.

    1. Hi Ramesh,

      To become a CMA you must earn a Bachelor’s Degree in any field from an accredited university or college.

      Check out this post for more information on the education requirement.

      If you have any questions left, please let me know.


  7. Hi Iam working as a electrical engineer in industry ,Iam good at mathematics,how difficult is CMA for me.

    1. Hi Sunny, if you have no accounting background, I recommend that you first take a quick course such as AccountingCoach to help you build an accounting foundation before tackling the CMA.

  8. Hey Nathan I have completed my cma( icwa) . If I want a us cma degree should I write exams or can I get any exemptions from ima

    1. Hi Siddarth, yes, you’ll need to take the exam for the US CMA certification. The IMA doesn’t currently offer exemptions to candidates who completed the ICWA.

      1. Sir I am a student of B. Com(General), under CBCS (Choice based credit system). I secured 52% in semester 1 and 54% in semester 2 and my rest of the semesters from 2 to 6 I completed in online due to pandemic situation. Will I able to complete CMA??

        1. Hi Shuvam, by following a proven study plan and having access to unlimited coaching support I’m confident that you will succeed in your CMA journey. I offer all the study tools you need to pass the exam in my coaching course at the Academy – you can learn more about it here.

  9. Hii my daughter this year passed out 10 th can I opt cma course for her pls guide me step by step

    1. Hi Roopali,

      Check out the CMA Exam Roadmap to learn more about all the steps to becoming a CMA.

      IF you have any follow-up questions, please let me know. I’ll be happy to help.

  10. Hi Nathan,

    I have completed MBA (Finance) and have 5 years of Work experience as Analyst in Revenue Accounting. I am planning to do the course to increase my knowledge, skills and earnings. I am and working professional so how much time does it take for me to complete this course.


    1. Hi Goutham,

      The optimal study timeline I recommend is 16 weeks per part. On average, students who are enrolled in my coaching course dedicate around 10 hours per week to their exam prep.

      For a detailed breakdown of the features offered with this course, please follow this link.

      Thank you,

  11. Is this course is time consuming? I also have to do my cricket training along with this. So is it possible?

    1. Hi Shubham, you’ll need about 2 hours per day, or more on weekends if you prefer to not study during the week.

  12. Sir
    I completed with 80%above I gained A+ for coperate accounting can I pass cma (usa) in first try

    1. Hi Anju,

      Passing the CMA on your first try greatly depends on the review course that you choose to study with. Having an A+ in Accounting will definitely help you assimilate the material quicker. Thanks, Nathan

    2. Hi Nathan,

      I’m currently working as auditor in professional firm and I have 10 years of experience in this field.Currently I’m having MBA in finance..Will cma be easy for me considering my work experience.

      1. Hi Mohammed,

        Having an MBA in finance and relevant work experience is definitely beneficial if you want to pursue a CMA.

        If you have any other questions, please let me know!

  13. Hello sir I am confused which part to take first can u tell me which part is easier among both parts and why and also help me in deciding which part should I take first because I am a fresher and just completed my graduation

  14. I have completed my B.COM and I am going to start my CMA USA in kindly give me few tips to clear the exam in first attempt for me …

    1. Hi Bhavya,

      The CMA exam is certainly not easy, that’s why the global pass rate is at only 45%. However, if you prepare conscientiously for the exam and stick to a study plan, you’ll be able to pass the exam on your first attempt.

      To help candidates with their preparation for the exam I’ve created the CMA coaching course which is designed for accountants at all levels and offers unlimited coaching support to help students whenever they feel stuck and need additional explanation on any topic. Studying with a coach will help you learn the material easier and faster, and feel more prepared for the exam.

      If you have any other questions or concerns, pease feel free to reach out 🙂

  15. If a cfa give a paper does he has more probability of passing since i have cleared all level and I have my paper in few days

    1. Hi Pranu,

      Yes, of course. To increase your chances of passing I recommend you to enroll in the CMA Coaching Course. This program offers a 12-week step-by-step study system with weekly assignments and unlimited 1-on-1 coaching for you to ask as many questions as you need to truly grasp the material and pass the exam with flying colors.

  16. Which course is difficult? ACCA or CMA? I would like to be financial accountant, which course is more preferable?

  17. I have completed my degree.. I wouldlike to do CMA course.. and I wish to know Can I take two groups of intermediate at the same and write my exams on December2017 .. I’m planning to do self study..! Is tat a good decision which I taken ??

  18. HI Nathan,

    I am facing a huge issue & the exam is within the next few days. In the exam simulation, I am not passing 67% after 2 time trials,
    and I’ve studied all units, might be missing some parts in internal control, but in overall I am good. Here’s the problem, questions always are variable, not only in the data given but also in using the rules to solve it out. This makes me worry as I follow steps & rules, yet nothin gets the right solution. what shall I do? I really need help


  19. Hi nathan, Can you kindly advise when do the exam results generally get released after sitting for the examination in June window? Kindly advise.

        1. Hi nathan bro, thanks for your advise..I cleared 4 papers. So kindly advise me on the first part.I will definitely and am willing to relocate permanently to USA or Australia.>Both the cultures are pretty similar..Kindly assist on first part..

          1. Sure bro..But i am located in india at the moment due to unfortunate circumstances. Kindly give me tips on clearing part 1 and become CMA by 2016 especially the costing section.

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