What to Do If You Fail the CMA Exam

With the CMA exam pass rate at a mere 45%, passing both parts of the Certified Management Accountant exam can feel like a daunting task. In other words, 55% fail the CMA exam each year.

With odds in favor of failure, it is important to know what to do if you fail the CMA exam, because giving up should never be an option.

Originally published in March, 2020, this article was updated and republished on January 8, 2021.

Your Options If You Fail the CMA ExamYour options if you fail the CMA exam

To be candid, you only have two options if you fail the CMA exam: give up or try again.

Timing your do-over correctly is important because the CMA exam is offered in specific testing windows. After a careful review of your score, you may find that you need a few more weeks of study. On the other hand, you may find that you barely missed passing. Either way, you don’t have to give up.

You are not alone if you have failed the CMA exam. Many people need more than one attempt to pass this rigorous exam and become a CMA. There are plenty of reasons to try again.

Why You Should Retake the Exam as Soon as Possible

There are a few reasons that CMA exam retakes should happen sooner rather than later:

  • You are already an IMA member.
  • You’ve already bought CMA study materials.
  • The knowledge and test are fresh in your mind.
  • If you put it off, you might never retake the CMA exam.

Registering for your CMA exam retake in the next available testing window is the best option for most candidates. If you delay, you will have to work twice as hard to refresh and build on your knowledge when you get back to studying.

How to Improve Your CMA Exam Preparation If You Failed The First Timeimprove your cma exam preparation if you failed

A CMA exam failure is not the end of the road. There are plenty of tried-and-true tactics you can employ to get a passing score on your next try.

1. Identify Your Weaknesses

Start by identifying your weak areas and get honest with yourself. The best way to do this is to get clear on what needs improvement, where you should drive more focus, and when to ask for help.

If you’ve taken the CMA exam during the latest testing window, the topics that were difficult are still fresh in your mind. Write them down for future reference. The IMA will also send you a letter in a few weeks, letting you know the areas that need improvement.

Finding your weaknesses will be your greatest strength. Once you know your sore spots, you can start to focus on the areas you find most difficult or frustrating. Break them down to a simple foundation and build on them. Spend as much time as you can practicing CMA exam questions on hard topics, and less time on the ones you easily answered.

Ask yourself what could you have done differently? Perhaps you didn’t allot enough study time, were not disciplined enough to thoroughly prepare yourself, or didn’t use study techniques that were designed for your style of learning. Perhaps the review course was not the adequate one for you.

By determining where you went wrong and what you can do to fix it, you can save yourself from wasting time focusing on the wrong topics and study methods. Remember that you are only as strong as your weakest link.

2. Stay Positive

Staying positive is the most important element to your future success. Easier said than done, I know.

If you fail the CMA exam on your first try, don’t beat yourself up over it. Thousands of others just like you didn’t pass either.

It only takes one look at the global pass rate to put things into perspective. After all, you are one of the 58% that did not succeed.

Take this time of self-doubt to reflect on what you could have done better, use it to your advantage to dig deeper and keep yourself determined to try again.

Keeping a positive attitude not only helps throughout the study process but also during the exam. Keep telling yourself you can do it, and you will!

3. Correct Poor Study Habits

You will need to assess and correct any bad studying habits that you may have acquired over the years. Studying for the CMA requires a regular study regimen. If you are a last minute studier, you will need to channel your inner self-discipline and throw out those old and useless study techniques.

For proper preparation, you are going to need a good four months to sufficiently absorb and learn all material. Make sure to follow a well-structured CMA study guide.

4. Get Yourself a Study Coach

If you struggle with self-motivation and finding the time to study, you may want to consider investing in a coach. They will surely be an asset and drastically increase your chances of success.

A coach provides more than just help. They are there to provide you with expert advice and proven methods to ensure you don’t fail the CMA exam again.

I have over 15 years of experience in the accounting/finance field, and have developed a comprehensive review course with proven techniques to help candidates retain at least 80% of the materials they are learning and much more.

Coaches like myself can help you pass both parts of the exam on your first try. I set candidates up for success by providing a weekly study plan that will keep you on track and disciplined.

If you self-studied the first time or used a course without coaching support, make sure you choose the best CMA prep course this time around. With a step-by-step review course highlighting the areas that need the most focus, you won’t waste your valuable time studying topics you won’t be tested on.

Understandably, failing can be frustrating, but pick yourself up. Let’s figure out where you went wrong, and learn from your mistakes.

Remember, you’re not alone. Many candidates have been in your shoes, and you will get through this. Just start by taking baby steps and stay consistent.

Retaking the CMA Exam

retaking the cma exam

If you got the bad news that you need to retake the CMA exam, there are a few basic steps you’ll take to get back in the game. While it’s disappointing to fail the CMA exam, don’t let it discourage you from trying again. Plenty of people pass their second CMA exam just fine.

Here’s what you need to do to retake the CMA exam:

Register for the Next Testing Window

Register for another attempt at the same exam part as soon as you can. If you failed CMA Part 1, it’s better to pass it before you start studying for CMA Part 2, which covers completely different material.

Get on the IMA website, login to your account, and find out when the next CMA exam testing window is. Take into account how much time you’ll need to study areas of the CMA exam you failed and then pick the next best testing window for you.

Register for the CMA exam right then and there to give yourself a firm timeline.

Pay the Exam Fee Again

The cost of failing the CMA exam is that you’ll have to pay the exam fees over. Of course, these are a small price to pay when compared to your earning potential as a CMA.

If you’re committed to improving your CMA exam score, you’ll no doubt do better and pass the CMA exam this time. Go ahead and pay the price and move on with your plans.

Schedule Another Appointment With Prometric

Once you’ve got your CMA exam test date and have studied again for the CMA exam, you’ll have to make sure you have your Prometric test site selected and scheduled.

The good news with retaking the CMA exam is that you’ve already done this, so you’ve got the process down. You’ll know better than anyone what to expect on test day and how to prepare physically and mentally for the exam retake.

Have more questions one what to expect if you fail the CMA exam… or what to do next? Drop them in the comments below and I’ll give you answers!

Until next time,

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46 Comments on “What to Do If You Fail the CMA Exam”

  1. Hello Nathan,
    I just received my results.
    I didn’t pass; my scores are 350, so please tell me how this regrade process works.
    Should I risk$100? And if the results remain same then I’ll have to pay approximately$400 ($311 for exam and $100 for regrading).
    Please suggest in this matter

    1. Hi Aditi,

      I’m sorry to hear about your score. Please reach out to the IMA directly to guide you through the re-grade process and give you insight on your chances of getting a passing score after the re-grade.

      If you have any other questions, please reach out.

      Thanks,
      Nathan

  2. I took my test three times and I fail all times .
    320 ‘Oct-2019
    310 ‘Jul-2020
    330 ‘Feb-2021

    I really need help on knowing what I can do next Step.

    1. Hi Moataz,

      Thanks for reaching out. I’m so sorry to hear you didn’t get a passing score this time.

      You can find free exam tips and study strategies to help you pass the next time around on my YouTube channel.

      If you feel you need more guidance and a clear study plan, please consider enrolling in my coaching course. Students who complete it have a 90% pass rate and I’d love to help you succeed in this journey, too.

      Thank you,
      Nathan

    1. Hi Mohammad,

      The re-grade will probably not be worth your money. There are very few instances of candidates who passed after getting their exam re-graded, so I’d only recommend going for a re-grade to candidates who got a score of 350 or at least 340.

      Now that you have a strong foundation, I’m sure it’ll be easier to pass on your next attempt. Practice a lot on MCQs and review the sections that you’re weaker at. Good luck!

  3. Hi Nathan,

    I failed in my Part 2 Exam by 10 marks, 350/500.
    Should I go for Re-grade request with IMA, If yes, please guide how to do that.

    Thanks

    1. The passing score is actually 360, you couldn’t have failed with a score of 436. Could you check again?

  4. Hi Nathan,
    I got my part 2 results today and I failed with my score being 150. I would like to get your advice on the odds of having a change in the scores on re-grading. if you think that doesn’t work, could you suggest some alternative study strategies? I had done almost all the MCQs and the essays in the Gleim premium review series but still failed. Going through the same thing again is not only boring but also depressing. I gave Part 1 in the first week of January and part 2 on the last day of February. I cleared part 1 when the results were declared in March.

  5. Hi Natham,

    I have registered as IMA member in June 2015 and i attempted my paper -1 in oct2015 and passed in one attempt. but i failed twice in paper 2 and i am curious to know how three years are considered from date of registering member or from entrance fee date ?

    is there any possibility to request to extend the period from 3 yrs to 3.5 / 4 months this enable me to not to re-appear for paper -1 again which i had passed already.

    appreciate your valuable input to get prepare and pass my paper -2 .

    ibrahim

    1. Hi Ibrahim,

      The clock starts ticking from the moment you pay the CMA entrance fee. I recommend you to reach out to IMA and see whether they can offer you an extension – sometimes they do that.

      Best of luck!

  6. Hi Nathan,

    I gave part 2.exam and it was easier than part one but I failed at 340. Should i go.for regrade my exam.

    1. Hi Muhammad,

      Although you are close to the passing score, I wouldn’t recommend you to submit your score for re-grading. The ICMA grading process is very rigorous and before the scores are released all marginally failing papers are being reviewed thoroughly to ensure the grade is accurate. Hence the chances of getting an adjustment of 20 points are rather slim.

      Hope this helps.

  7. Hi,

    I registered in Oct-2015 and taken part 2 examination twice. But due to some domestic problem was unable to prepared which resulted in failure.

    Now I want to start again, just one thing is confusing me which is 3-year rule.

    According to CMA IMA we have to clear both papers in 3-years. But I have already exhausted my 1.5 years. For my next try do I have to clear both parts in 1.5 years or timer will reset from 3-years again. Help will be appreciated.

    Regards
    Tausif

    1. Hi Tausif,

      You have only 1.5 years to clear both parts. The clock won’t reset after you pass one part.

      It’s still a lot of time. I am sure you can do this!

      Study hard and practice a lot on MCQs and you’ll definitely pass the next time around!

      Cheers,
      Nathan

  8. Thank you for sharing the valuable information about CMA.
    I failed yhe exam. Do you advice to reset for the exam within one months and half or I wait to the next window

    1. Hi Zuhair,

      If you fail the exam in a testing window, you cannot retake the exam within that testing window. You must register for the next one.

      Thanks,
      Nathan

  9. I took my test twice already and I fail both times . I really need help on knowing what I can do next to help me the third time .

    1. Hello,
      I just took part 1 exam today on September 27, 2019.
      I know I won’t get my scores for next 8 weeks
      But if I’m pretty sure that I’m going to fail, then can I still retake the test in October or will I have to wait till I get my grades.
      I was able to move forward to essay portion but I’m not confident about that.
      And if I do end up retaking the test, then how long does it take for them to send me a mail about things I need to polish on?

      1. Hi Jenish,

        Thanks for reaching out.

        Unfortunately, candidates can’t retake an exam within the same exam window, you’d need to reschedule it for the next exam window.

        The performance report will be emailed to you a week after the score report.

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

  10. Hello Nathan,
    I just got my cma part 1 score and I failed with 320/500, I was thinking of taking it again during October 2016, kindly advise if 6 to 7 weeks are enough to re study well in order to pass the exam.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sandra,

      Yes, I think 6 to 7 weeks is enough to review and prepare for the exam but make sure to focus your weak spots as e-mailed by IMA.

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

  11. Hello Nathan
    I sit to CMA Exam in October 2014 and Iam fail with low score 170.
    2016 is my last year in the three years for passing both parts and since my last exam I am not study. I think to pass both parts this year but I am warry. Maybe you ask me why Iam too late to enter the exam for the second time because I hadn’t enough money and I still but I want to challenge my situation but I am Confused.

    1. Hi Alaa,
      I’m so sorry to hear that your exam score was 170, but I commend you for not giving up. My advice is to only take the exam when you are ready. If you rush to it without studying or feeling ready, there may be a chance of failing again. Give yourself a chance to succeed by giving yourself time to study.
      Best of luck!

      Nathan

  12. Hello!
    Firstly I would like to thank you for everything , secondly , please I have an important question , If someone get 350 degree if there any application to send to IMA ??
    please if there is , tell me how I can do that .
    Thank you

    1. HI Feras,

      You can request a re-grade and in your case, I totally would. Please contact the IMA directly to begin the process.

  13. I just took the CMA part 2 exam this week. Thanks to the information on this website.
    Now I am wondering.. is there anyone who failed the exam even though you get at least 50% of multiple choices and move to the essay section?
    Multiple choice section is 75% and when half of choices are correct, it is 37.5%. Then if you get all points of essay question, it is 25%, totaling 62.5%. If IMA allow getting further at 50% of multiple choices to essays, in my opinion, the grading is very generous on essays and I am now curious how generous the essay grading is and how highly possible to get failed when you pass the multiple section. is there any statistic information about this?

    1. Well, i just received my result and i failed even though i had cleard the MCQs and answered the essays quite satisfactorily in my opinion. my scores were 350/500 which is quite close to the 360 required. I guess not all MCQs carry equal weightage, so it is possible that if you answer exactly 50 questions correctly, you might still end up scoring 60%-70% in MCQs.

        1. 10 MCQ do not count as they are being tested for evaluation purposes to possibly be used in future examinations. Of the 90 that do count, 45 must be correct in order to proceed to the essay section.

  14. Thanks for the response. I also have another question that no one seems to know. It is required to get 50% of the multiple choice correct, but mathematically you have no chance of passing even if you have a stellar essay. It makes more sense to say that if you pass 50% of total exam score on the multiple choice section, you move on to the essay. Is this correct?

    1. James,

      75% of the exam score is in the MCQ section and 25% in the essay section. A candidate needs to score at least 50% of total exam score on the MCQ section to advance to the Essay section.

      1. DAER SIR,
        I ATTEMPTED MY CMA PART 2 EXAM IN JUNE BUT FAILED.THIS WAS MY LAST ATTEMPT. PLEASE GUIDE IS THERE ANY WAY TO GET AN EXTENSION OF TIME.
        THANKS KHALIL

        1. Hi Muhammad,

          Please, reach out to IMA directly to check whether they can give you an extension.

          Best of luck!

          1. The exam fees are exactly the same as on the first attempt, except for the CMA entrance fee, which is a one-time payment.

  15. I am kind of confused, I just took part 1 of the cma and I am patiently waiting for my scores lol.. I have read where some receive their scores in two weeks if they failed, so does that mean if I passed I would receive it in 6 weeks?

  16. Dear Nathan,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience.
    This week I’m losing focus and trying to get back to track.
    Work, family, kids are my challenges and I felt really bad.
    In this case, what is the best way to stay on the track?

    Best regards
    Aziz

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