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Why You Need a CMA Exam Prep Course
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 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 just properly study and pass the first time.
Therefore, I recommend enrolling in CMA classes or finding a CMA course that fits your learning needs. I’m going to compare several CMA prep courses with very different approaches, tools, and price points. I’ll point out the pros and cons of companies like Gleim CMA, Hock CMA, Wiley CMAexcel, Surgent CMA, and more.
Since most companies offer different levels of classes, I’ll review the premium package for each, just to make things fair. I hope my unbiased opinion helps you find the right fit.
CMA Course Comparison
Until You Pass
Until You Pass
Interactive Learning Platform
Print and digital
Print and digital
CMA Practice Test
Price (before discounts)
Brief Course Overviews
Gleim CMA has been providing exam reviews for over 40 years. The Premium CMA Review 2021 Edition includes:
- Study planner
- 45+ hours of video lectures with in-depth discussions
- Audio lectures
- Hard copy and digital CMA books
- 3,000+ MCQs and essay questions
- Access until you pass guarantee
- Online practice exam designed to look and feel like the “real” exam
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.
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:
- Personalized study planner
- Access to 62 hours of video lectures
- Test bank with 3,532 MCQs
- 66 sample essay question
- Hard copy or PDF books
- Digital flashcards in PowerPoint format
- Unlimited access to the materials
- 4 full mock exams
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.
And last but certainly not least, Surgent CMA Review, is another highly rated course that has bite-sized video lessons; PDF textbooks; 60+ hours of video lectures; 3,945+ 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 who have an unlimited budget purchase, as it is the most expensive course. What's more, while the IMA does endorse Wiley, the materials you purchase from Wiley do not include any additional information that Gleim, Hock, and Surgent don't cover. In other words, Wiley does not get any inside information as a result of the IMA's endorsement. 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:
- 5,000+ MCQs
- 16 sample essay questions
- 66 hours of video lectures
- Partner Until You Pass Guarantee
Course Inclusions: The Different Learning Components That May Be In Your Course
Every CMA Exam review provider uses different tools to get you to the same goal line. I’ll assess some elements that I think a good CMA course should include.
Adequate Access Length
Some CMA courses only give you access to materials for a certain among of 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?
A lot of 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 sections of the exam? If you don’t chose a provider with unlimited access, you might have to pay additional fees that quickly add up.
I suggest a provider like Surgent CMA, who offers an access until you pass guarantee.
Practice Essay Questions
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, chose your 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 this many problems, you’ll be better prepared for the CMA Exam.
Test Bank and MCQs
Each year, IMA releases the questions that appeared on the previous year’s exams. Review providers collect these questions and add them to test banks. You can use these questions to practice your skills and make sure you understand all of the nuances you might use in your CMA career.
For some students, going through test banks makes up the bulk of their study time. For this reason, you should pick a review provider that offers a lot of questions. Some providers give you a relatively limited number of questions.
Gleim CMA, for example, has about 3,000+ MCQs in their test bank. That might sound like a lot, but over the course of those 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 3,900+ MCQs. If you work through that many practice MCQs, you are going to be much more prepared for the CMA Exam.
Learning Platform or Performance Tracking Software
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 their own platforms that can 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 assess 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 that 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 that you might already know.
At some point in your studies, you will inevitably have questions about the material. 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 helps 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).
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.
Video and Audio Lectures
Many CMA candidates rely on video and audio lectures for the bulk of their studies. Therefore, I recommend that you chose 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 to learn more about what topics these videos might cover, Hock has posted a list of their videos.
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 likes to read textbooks, takes margins in the notes, and highlights 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.
High-quality practice exams are often a key component to successfully passing the CMA Exam on the first try. I recommend that once you feel you might be 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 prep you for the pace and feel of the actual exam.
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. Having access to quality practice exams is another tool you can use to pass the CMA Exam on the first time.
What to Focus on When Selecting a CMA Class
With so many elements to consider when picking a CMA class, how do you narrow down the field? First, take a moment to think about 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 take advantage of these tools.
When you purchase an online comprehensive review course, some of them come with the option to attend live classes; students meet in a traditional classroom setting with an instructor and other students and participant 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. Surgent CMA's classes are online; students can watch pre-recorded lectures that are augmented by multi-media elements that reinforce learning.
Study on Your Time
You’re probably starting to wonder how you are going to carve 100+ hours out of your already busy life to study for the CMA Exam. Before you pick a review provider, carefully consider the amount of time you’ll have to study, how to best maximize that time, and when and where you plan to study.
Online full courses that come with videos, online text, and even online personal support have made studying much easier for busy professionals. With the use of mobile platforms, 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 your 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 add 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’re likely to 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 that has 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 Surgent CMA's Ultimate Course, for example. It’s slightly more expensive than you may have budgeted for, but it’s also a high-quality course, has tons of MCQs, unlimited practice exams, and unlimited access to updated content until you pass the exam. (It’s still less expensive AND more robust than the Becker CMA review course.
Furthermore, once you add in my CMA promo code 2021, you can start to see the overall value in a provider like Gleim, Hock, and Surgent; check out my article for your CMA exam promo code.
Why You Should Choose an Online CMA Class
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 be spending a lot of your “free” time in traffic just getting to class. Those precious hours are more efficiently spend studying. If you opt for an online class, you can “go to class” on your time.
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. When I was in graduate school, most of my classes met for 3 hours at a time! After an hour, my eyes just started to glaze over, and it became harder and harder to concentrate.
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.
Both Hock and Gleim CMA offer bite-sized lessons that are usually less than 30 minutes. Also, the videos are in the online platform, along with the text, so that you can focus on absorbing the material.
Learn at Your Own Pace
If you enroll in live CMA classes, you will have to 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 in a short amount of time, which inherently means that 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 that you’ve already mastered, and slow down when you reach new content. Therefore, this pace is one of the best reasons to choose online courses.
Course Quality and Consistency
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 into delivering the very best lectures possible.
CMA Test Prep vs. Comprehensive Study Materials
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 that are no longer relevant in the CMA field and no longer 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 you 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 to just 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.
Best CMA Review Course
I’ve reviewed four strong comprehensive CMA test prep courses for you. They all have their 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.
CMA Prep Course Discounts (2021) -- Black
Save 30% on Gleim CMA Review
This Gleim CMA Review discount applies to the Premium CMA Review System.
You can use this to receive a Gleim CMA Part 1 discount and/or a Gleim CMA Part 2 discount.
You can also save 30% on the Gleim CMA Mega Test Bank using this same Gleim CMA Review discount.
If you're looking for a Gleim CMA test bank discount, use the button below to save on that as well.
There are even more Gleim CMA Review discounts here.
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Save 25% on Surgent CMA
This Surgent CMA discount applies to the Surgent CMA Ultimate Course.
All other Surgent CMA courses and materials are 25% off.
Find out about Surgent CMA Review.
Save 50% with the Hock CMA Discount
Hock International CMA discount applies to the Hock CMA courses.
Find out about Hock CMA Review.