The CMA qualification came into existence in 1972, and since then it has become the qualification of choice for finance students across the globe. The main reason for the premium in the valuation of this course is the high quality of the examinations that every candidate need to pass in order to become a CMA. Very naturally, passing the examination is not a cakewalk for most students, as is revealed by the CMA pass rates of the past few exam sessions.

The CMA exam has been developed and is administered by the Institute Of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA), which periodically reviews and revises the content of the course to keep it updated with the changing times. Redundant topics are dropped and new ones are introduced regularly. This, in turn, reduces the predictability of the examination, so the candidates have to be always on their toes to anticipate the questions that will be asked in the examinations.

Naturally, this makes the exams a lot tougher than most of the other examinations that are available today. The candidates have to become well conversant with cost and management accounting, performance management, planning and budgeting, internal controls; planning, forecasting, risk management and professional ethics among various other topics.

What do the recent exam results say?

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As per the statistics released by IMA, the following have been the pass percentages past exam sessions:

JANUARY TO OCTOBER 2016 SEP 14 TO JUNE 16 PAST 4 YEARS
Part 1 Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance And Control 34% 35% 30 – 35%
Part 2 Financial Decision-Making 50% 50% 40 – 45%

What do the scores mean?

As you can see these rates are quite low, proving that the exams are quite tough. In fact, two out of three students of part 1, and around 1 out of 2 students who appear for part 2 exams are declared on successful in the every exam session.

Why are the CMA pass rates so low?

There can be many reasons for the low pass rates, and it is not very difficult to understand a few reasons for this. Let us talk about a few of them:

Low entry barriers: Since anyone with a bachelor’s degree can enroll for the CMA course, many non accounting students also enroll for the course and they find it very difficult to understand the concept of accounting and finance, at least in the first attempt. This makes it difficult for them to pass the examination, does lowering the pass rates.

Vast syllabus: The syllabus of the CMA course is extremely vast. There are a lot of important concepts and formulae which you will have to read, understand, memorise and then apply. So it is not a child’s play.

Not giving adequate time: IMA recommends that students put in at least 150 to 170 hours of study for each part of the CMA examinations. Students who are unable to put in the required number of hours for some reason will it very difficult to pass the examination. If you are planning to enroll for the CMA examinations then be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. Unless you do this, it will become almost impossible for you to pass the examination.

Lengthy paper: The multiple choice and essay type questions take a lot of time to answer. The  CMA examinations Part 1 and 2 are of 4 hours each. Many students find the challenge to answer so many questions within the allocated time. This also contributes to the low pass rates.

Language barrier: The CMA examinations are held in English. The CMA pass rates that you are witnessing global averages and it includes the statistics of regions which do not have English as a native language, and hence the candidates may not be strong in English. This can be a major contributor to the low CMA pass rates since students who do not know English well will take a lot of extra time to understand the requirements of the questions, or may not be able to understand it at all. Upon a close analysis of the regional CMA pass rates, it has been found out that the number of candidates passing from the English speaking countries is higher, and the past rates are lower in the other countries.

Keep these factors in mind, but do not let the low pass rates daunt you. Remember that these are only past statistics and it is not necessary isn’t that you too will find it very difficult to pass the CMA examinations. Give it your honest try and put in a lot of hard work while preparing for CMA, and you should be featuring in the pass list very soon.

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