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Once you’ve decided to take the big plunge and become a Certified Management Accountant, your next question might be, “How do I study for the CMA Exam?” Or even, “Do I really need a CMA review course to pass the exam?” I’m going to help you answer some of those questions today.
(If you’re still asking yourself, “What is CMA certification,” hop over to my free CMA exam course, which provides info about the CMA exam and CMA designation.)
According to the Institute of Management Accountants, the global CMA pass rate is about 35-50%. Therefore, most CMA candidates need to spend 100+ hours studying.
In my experience, most people who do not study with some sort of CMA test prep do not pass on their first attempt…or even their second attempt. The CMA certification cost is worth the investment in the long run. But still, you don’t want to pay to take the CMA Exam several times if you could properly study and pass the first time.
Therefore, I recommend enrolling in CMA classes or finding a course that fits your learning needs. I will compare several CMA prep courses with very different approaches, tools, and price points. I’ll highlight the pros and cons of companies like Gleim CMA, Becker CMA, HOCK CMA, Surgent CMA, and Wiley CMAexcel. I’ll also cover CMA exam supplements, such as the HOCK stream subscription, for an extra study boost.
Since most companies offer different levels of classes, I’ll review the premium package for each to make things fair. I hope my unbiased opinion helps you find the right fit.
Studying with a CMA review course gives you the best chance to pass the CMA exam. However, each course is different. For example, some heavily rely on adaptive learning platforms that could help you study more effectively and reduce your overall study time. Others, in contrast, take a more linear approach. In addition, the quality of learning tools like video lectures, textbooks, and flashcards can vary from course to course.
And finally, some CMA review providers have higher levels of personal support than others. Therefore, candidates who need more academic help should seek out this assistance. Access to accounting experts comes in many forms, including live online classes, academic support forums, and one-on-one tutoring sessions.
Of course, budget concerns are important, too. But with coupons and discount codes, saving a bundle on your CMA review course is easy.
So clearly, there is a CMA review course available for every learning style. It’s just a matter of learning about each course’s pros and cons and finding the course that fits your unique study needs.
Gleim CMA has been providing exam reviews for over 40 years. The Premium CMA Review 2023 Edition includes:
The online course uses the SmartAdapt system, an adaptive learning platform that continually updates your improvements and directs your studies toward material you have yet to master. Gleim’s practice questions are especially high quality.
However, if you don’t have an accounting background, you might need to brush up on your accounting concepts, or some areas of the course might be hard to follow.
Becker is a well-known name among exam prep providers. And a few years ago, Becker completely rewrote and updated its CMA study materials. With the Becker CMA Review Pro, CMA candidates can access over 4,000 MCQs and 76 essays, over 55 hours of video lectures, printed and digital CMA books, and unlimited practice tests. Furthermore, Becker courses have unlimited access and use an adaptive and interactive learning platform.
What’s more, Becker CMA offers a lot of personalized academic support. For example, the Pro course has LiveOnline courses with real-time access to professional instructors. And Becker Pro even includes 5 hours of one-on-one time with a CMA tutor.
HOCK CMA is especially popular with international students. HOCK offers high-quality CMA study material at a more affordable price point. Also, with the HOCK CMA Review Complete package, CMA candidates receive the following:
Plus, HOCK’s guarantee will pay for you to re-sit the CMA Exam if you complete their course but don’t pass the exam. You can’t beat that kind of customer service.
HOCK also has a new monthly subscription service called HOCK Stream. With this membership, you can watch every HOCK CMA video and meet with HOCK instructors during their weekly online office hours.
And last but certainly not least, Surgent CMA Review, is another highly rated course that has bite-sized video lessons; PDF textbooks; 55+ hours of video lectures; 4,000++ MCSs with full explanations to answers; 65+ essay questions; printed flashcards; free content updates; full practice exams; and virtual coaching sessions.
Surgent uses an AI personalized learning software, A.S.A.P. Technology, to create 100% customized study plans based on your individual learning needs. According to Surgent, this platform reduces the number of hours needed to study to successfully pass the CMA Exam.
In fact, they claim that the average Surgent user only studies for 61 hours!
Wiley CMA is sometimes the course that candidates with an unlimited budget purchase, as it is the most expensive course. Because Wiley is the most expensive option, and candidates have been reporting errors within the materials, I recommend considering one of the other options discussed above instead.
The Wiley Platinum Review Course comes with the following:
Every CMA Exam review provider uses different tools to get you to the same goal line. I’ll assess some elements I think a good CMA course should include.
Some CMA courses only give you access to materials for a certain time. Let’s say you chose one that gives you access to their online platforms for a limited time—18 months is typical. Right now, 18 months might sound like plenty of time to study, but life happens, you know?
Many events in your personal and professional life can temporarily delay your studies, and you don’t want to be rushed to study the materials. Plus, what happens if you fail one or more exam sections? If you don’t choose a provider with unlimited access, you might have to pay additional fees that quickly add up.
Therefore, I suggest a provider like Becker CMA or Surgent CMA, offering access until you pass guarantees.
The CMA Exam is only comprised of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and essay scenarios that each include 2-7 questions. In these essays, you must evaluate complicated situations, choose solutions, and explain your justifications.
Many CMAs report that essays are the most difficult part of the exam since you have to show your work and outline your answers in a clear and concise manner. I suggest practicing as many sample essays as you can.
Gleim CMA gives students an incredible 137 example essay questions. By working through many problems, you’ll be better prepared for the CMA Exam.
Becker CMA also provides plenty of practice through 76 unique essay scenarios. Plus, Becker even includes SkillMaster videos for each essay question. These short videos break down complicated problems and show you how to solve them step by step.
And finally, HOCK stream also includes videos specifically created to help you learn how to answer the CMA essay questions.
The IMA releases the questions that appeared on the previous year’s exams each year. Review providers collect these questions and add them to test banks. You can use these questions to practice your skills and ensure you understand all the nuances you might use in your CMA career.
For some students, going through test banks makes up most of their study time. For this reason, you should pick a review provider that offers a lot of questions. However, some providers only give you a relatively limited number of questions.
Gleim CMA, for example, has about 3,000+ MCQs in its test bank. That might sound like a lot, but over the 100+ hours you might spend studying, you’re likely to go through all of those questions.
I promise you’ll want access to lots and lots of questions. Companies like Surgent CMA, on the other hand, offer you more CMA test questions. In fact, Surgent’s Ultimate Course has 4,000+ MCQs. Likewise, the Becker CMA Review Pro course also comes with over 4,000 high-quality MCQs. Working through that many practice MCQs will make you much more prepared for the CMA Exam.
You may be familiar with technology-based e-learning platforms that are becoming more popular in K-12 and college settings. Many CMA review providers have developed platforms to personalize your learning experiences.
Here’s an example of how these tools usually work. First, the platform asks you to take a quiz that assesses your overall knowledge of the material likely to be covered on the CMA exam. The platform assesses what you already know (and therefore don’t need to study) and what you don’t. Next, most platforms will develop a customized study plan that leads your studies through concepts you need to review. This approach maximizes your study time.
Take the Surgent CMA A.S.A.P. Technology, for example. Surgent’s innovative content delivery system tracks your progress and suggests study material to help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Without these tools, you might be stuck studying pages and pages of information you already know.
Becker CMA, on the other hand, uses Adapt2U Technology. This platform constantly assesses your performance as you answer practice questions. Then, it creates proficiency badges to let you know what topics you’ve mastered and what you haven’t. And finally, the platform creates personalized review sessions at the end of every learning unit to strengthen your weak areas.
You will inevitably have questions about the material at some point in your studies. The best review providers give you access to CMA professionals, either through personal mentoring sessions, access to instructors during live classes, or online forums and discussion boards.
I really appreciate that some review courses now include one-on-one mentoring from educators and professionals in the field. The Surgent CMA Review Ultimate Pass includes two one-on-one virtual coaching sessions.
Gleim CMA’s personal counselors will mentor you when you’re struggling with your review and help you stay on track. And Gleim also includes access to accounting experts.
Similarly, you can talk to HOCK’s instructors via forum or email (and receive prompt responses back too). In fact, even the HOCK stream subscription includes access to HOCK’s experts during weekly online office hours.
The Becker CMA Review Pro package also comes with five 1-hour, one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions.
Furthermore, Becker also has a CMA Academic Support portal that provides additional support. Students can get detailed answers to specific course questions by submitting a help form.
The CMA Exam covers so much material that you really need a study planner to help manage your studies. The idea of a study planner is simple: once you have an exam date planned and you, therefore, know how many weeks you have to study, a study planner helps you determine what topics you need to study each week to cover all the material.
What’s more, without a study planner, you can easily get side-tracked and have to cram too much information at the last minute.
Interactive, personalized study planners are best. For example, Surgent CMA Review uses its proprietary A.S.A.P Technology, an adaptive learning software that creates a customized study plan for each student. After taking an assessment, Surgent’s ReadySCORE approximates your potential CMA Exam score based on your current level of knowledge.
Many CMA candidates rely on video and audio lectures for most of their studies. Therefore, I recommend you choose a review provider who has taken the time to develop high-quality lectures that thoroughly explain the material and break down complicated concepts.
Most importantly, the lectures should be interesting enough to hold your attention so you can absorb the content. (If you’re curious about what topics these videos might cover, HOCK has posted a list of their videos.)
Take Becker, for instance. The Becker courses include over 35 video lectures for Part 1 of the CMA Exam and over 20 hours for Part 2. And, of course, a HOCK stream subscription lets you watch every CMA video HOCK has created.
Even with all of the innovative technology that we have now, old-fashioned textbooks are still a great way to learn complicated concepts. I’m one of those people who still like to read textbooks, take margins in the notes, and highlight important passages.
If you are, too, then you will definitely want to consider the quality of each provider’s textbooks. Some courses come with hard-copy books and access to online text; others might offer you one or the other based on your preference.
But remember, if you go with a provider like Surgent CMA that only gives you a PDF of their texts, you’re stuck with your nose in a screen for all of your studies unless you want to go to the time and expense to have that PDF printed.
However, other providers like Becker include both printed and digital versions of their textbooks, giving you even more ways to study.
High-quality practice exams are often key to successfully passing the CMA Exam on the first try. I recommend that once you feel ready to take the exam, find a quiet place for a few hours and sit down and take a practice exam. Not only will practice exams test your readiness in terms of your content knowledge, but they also mentally prepare you for the pace and feel of the actual exam.
For instance, HOCK CMA’s practice exams mimic the actual Prometric testing environment, building your confidence and exposure so you can perform well on your actual exam day. Access to quality practice exams is another tool you can use to pass the CMA Exam for the first time.
Becker CMA also replicates the “real” CPA Exam as much as possible. Plus, Becker’s courses come with unlimited practice tests. So you’ll have plenty of chances to prepare before your big exam day.
How do you narrow the field with so many elements to consider when picking a CMA class? First, consider your learning style, how you like to study, how much time you will have each week to devote to your course, and your budget. A little self-reflection will help you identify the components that are the most important to you.
Most of us learn best when we can read material (either on a screen or in a book) and then follow up by hearing instructors go over that material again in a lecture (audio, video, or live format). The material is even further reinforced when you can interact with the content and other students or mentors, through online discussions and forums, for example.
This 1-2-3 punch (read, hear, and discuss) is the best and fastest way to conquer the material. A CMA online course is the best vehicle to use these tools.
When you purchase an online comprehensive review course, some can attend live classes; students meet in a traditional classroom setting with an instructor and other students and participate in lectures.
However, many CMA candidates find it difficult and inconvenient to attend live reviews and prefer to utilize a course’s online components instead. For example, Surgent CMA’s classes are online; students can watch pre-recorded lectures augmented by multimedia elements that reinforce learning.
But Becker CMA also offers LiveOnline virtual classrooms now. Students can even interact with instructors in real time during these webinars.
You’re probably starting to wonder how you will carve 100+ hours out of your already busy life to study for the CMA Exam. Before you pick a review provider, carefully consider how much time you’ll have to study, how to maximize that time, and when and where you plan to study.
Online full courses with videos, online text, and even online personal support have made studying much easier for busy professionals.
With mobile platforms—like the Becker online courses and smartphone app—CMA candidates can access study materials any time and any place. You don’t have to lug around big books to study (that’s what I had to do!); you just need to open your laptop or smartphone and start studying. For example, think about how many of HOCK CMA’s lectures you could watch over the course of a day; the ability to squeeze in little moments of study time adds up over several months of test prep.
Let’s talk finances. Your budget has to be a consideration in your choice for a CMA test prep course. But don’t just look at a price tag and immediately think, “That’s too expensive for me.” Remember, investing in a CMA study guide is an investment in your future.
With your CMA certification, you’ll likely earn a higher salary over your career. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to consider the total cost of your CMA journey when picking a review provider. Evaluate the quality of the study materials, the learning platform, and the personal support. You often get what you pay for.
Plus, if you choose a course with a low price point…does it include access until you pass? If not, and you don’t pass on your first time, how much will it cost you to re-enroll AND pay for the CMA exam fees again?
And remember, I have promo codes that will get you discounts and save you hundreds of dollars. Take the Becker CMA Exam Prep, for example. It’s slightly more expensive than you may have budgeted for. Still, it’s also a high-quality course that has tons of MCQs, unlimited practice exams, and unlimited access to updated content until you pass the exam.
The Becker CMA review courses also start at a slightly higher price point, but they are much more affordable once you factor in my Becker coupons.
Furthermore, once you add in my CMA promo codes for 2023, you can start to see the overall value of a provider like Gleim, HOCK, and Surgent; check out my article for your CMA exam promo code.
Some CMA review providers offer live classes, similar to classes in a university setting. Others offer CMA online classes. Although both methods deliver certain benefits, I prefer online classes for several reasons.
First, online classes have a lot of flexibility. Live classroom settings can provide social benefits. But unless you live near one of the limited class locations, you’ll spend a lot of your “free” time in traffic just getting to class. Those precious hours are more efficiently spent studying. If you opt for an online class, you can “go to class” on time. (That’s one of the reasons I love Becker CMA’s LiveOnline offerings.)
Have you ever wondered why TV shows are 30 minutes long? It’s because most people can really only devote 30 minutes to a topic before they need a break. Most of my classes in graduate school met for 3 hours at a time! After an hour, my eyes just glazed over, and concentrating became harder and harder.
Thankfully, most educators are catching up to research about how the brain learns. I prefer CMA study materials with shorter online lessons; they often offer the best CMA study material and are the best way to learn for most candidates. Not only can you squeeze short online lessons into your day—or even your lunch break—you’re also more likely to remember the material because short lessons aren’t overwhelming.
HOCK and Gleim CMA offer bite-sized lessons that are usually less than 30 minutes. Also, the videos are on the online platform, along with the text, so you can focus on absorbing the material.
If you enroll in live CMA classes, you must follow the instructor’s pace. Most CMA candidates tell me this makes them feel rushed. The instructors have to cover a large amount of material quickly, which inherently means some content might be glossed over.
With online classes, you can study at the pace that is best for you. You can skim through material you’ve mastered and slow down when you reach new content. Therefore, this pace is one of the best reasons to choose online courses.
Online classes tend to provide greater course quality, consistency, and reliability. Course providers only need one instructor to cover the material for an online class but might need dozens of instructors to cover live classroom settings. Also, when you only need ONE instructor, you can spend the time to find, nurture, and cultivate that instructor to deliver the very best lectures possible.
You might have noticed that some CMA review companies offer comprehensive courses that include books, flashcards, banks of test questions, live or online classes, video and audio lectures, etc. Other providers might sell this same sort of learning tool ala carte.
You might be tempted to purchase one of these individual products over a comprehensive course. For example, some CMA candidates only study with a test prep bank of CMA exam questions. I do not recommend this for several reasons.
First, a test bank is just that – a collection of questions that have appeared on previous exams. Some providers update these questions frequently, but some do not…meaning that you might get stuck with questions no longer relevant in the CMA field or covered on the exam.
Second, if you purchase individual products, you won’t receive any personal support. To use our test bank example again, what happens when you come across a question, and don’t know the answer? How are you going to figure out the answer? Who can you go to for help? Unfortunately, it’s too easy just to skip the hard questions when you only use a test bank to study. You might end up reviewing the material you already know, which isn’t helping you efficiently study for the CMA Exam.
Therefore, it’s best to stick to all-in-one packages like Becker’s CMA Review Pro or Gleim’s Premium CMA Review System.
I’ve reviewed four strong comprehensive CMA test prep courses for you. They all have strengths and could be right for you based on multiple factors. But if I have to name a “best” CMA review course, that would be Gleim CMA.
Gleim CMA has a strong industry reputation for innovative learning tools and test prep materials. I appreciate Gleim’s high-quality instructional videos, the adaptive technology, detailed textbooks, and access until you pass guarantee.
But still, Becker CMA is also an excellent brand that has completely revamped and improved its materials. Plus, Becker offers an interactive learning platform, plenty of MCQs and sample essays, and unlimited practice tests. And Becker prioritizes personalized support through LiveOnline classes, the CMA Academic Support portal, and one-on-one tutoring.
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Gleim CMA discount applies to:
You can use this to receive a Gleim CMA Part 1 discount and/or a Gleim CMA Part 2 discount.
This Gleim CMA discount will appear automatically in your shopping cart!
Read my in-depth review of Gleim CMA Review. Additionally, there are even more Gleim CMA Review discounts here.
Becker CMA discounts are available on the Becker Pro and Becker Advantage CMA prep courses.
Discover my in-depth review of Becker CMA Exam Prep. Also, you can find Becker CMA discounts here, too!
This Surgent CMA discount applies to the Surgent CMA Ultimate Course.
Other Surgent CMA courses and materials are on sale, too.
Find out about Surgent CMA Review. Also, you can compare Surgent vs. Gleim CMA.
HOCK International CMA discount applies to the HOCK CMA courses.
Find out about HOCK CMA Review.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!