Passing CMA Part 1 exam : Clear Guide to Cracking the CMA USA Exam

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Passing CMA Part 1 exam : Clear Guide to Cracking the CMA USA Exam

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) USA is the highest Management Accounting Certification offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). This will enable you to formulate robust financial strategies and become proficient in financial planning, analysis, control, and decision making. 

With a CMA USA, you can become a financial planning analyst, controller, or even a finance manager. You may even get the chance to climb up the corporate ladder to become a CFO. 

To become a CMA USA, you must learn from the best CMA coaching institute in India, NorthStar Academy

What is the exam pattern and format for CMA Part 1 exam?

CMA Part 1 exam is a computerized exam conducted in two parts with 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 essay questions within 4 hours. 

You are eligible to take the exam on any weekday within the testing windows of January/February, May/June, and September/October through Prometric testing centers.

However, most people struggle to clear CMA Part 1 exam, with pass rates averaging as low as 35-45%. 

Here is all that you need to know about CMA Part 1 Exam study?

The IMA or the Institute of Certified Management Accountants is the globally recognized body that prepares Content Specification Outlines (CSOs) referring to the degree of coverage expected in each topic.

This can be helpful to you because :

  • Communicate the details of the exam content. 
  • Help the candidates in exam preparation. 
  • Equip trainers with adequate information for their courses.

The IMA defines the three levels of coverage as:

A: Requires knowledge and comprehension by the candidates.

B: Focusses on knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis.

C: The candidate needs the skill of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

The CMA Part 1 exam tests you at a skill level C for all areas which ideally means that all candidates must be completely knowledgeable about the material being studied. 

Skills required to be CMA USA:

  • Knowledge: It refers to the ability of the candidate to recall the material that was previously learned
  • Comprehension: One must be able to interpret and explain subject matter accurately. 
  • Application: It is the ability to demonstrate the use of the material in a situation
  • Analysis: One must be able to break down a subject matter or recognize relationships between components and identify critical elements
  • Synthesis: It refers to the skill to form hypotheses to create new operations
  • Evaluation: One must also have the ability to criticize, justify and derive conclusions from the material. 

PCMA Part 1 exam certification test covers Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics.

Six core sections are covered in CMA Part 1 Exam

  • External Financial Reporting Decisions 
  • Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
  • Performance Management 
  • Cost Management 
  • Internal Controls 
  • Technology and Analytics 

A. External Financial Reporting Decisions

Financial statements

  • Balance sheet
  • Statement of changes in equity
  • Statement of cash flows
  • Integrated reporting
  • Income statement 

Recognition, measurement, valuation, and disclosure

  • Asset valuation
  • Equity transactions
  • Revenue recognition
  • Income measurement
  • Valuation of liabilities
  • Major differences between U.S. GAAP and IFRS

If you have studied accounting in school or college, this should be an easy section and would include a majority of computational questions. 

B. Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting

Strategic planning

  • Analysis of factors affecting strategy
  • Alignment of tactics with long-term strategic goals
  • Characteristics of a successful strategic planning process
  • Strategic planning models and analytical techniques
  • Long-term mission and goals

Budgeting concepts

  • Operations and performance goals
  • Characteristics of a successful budget process
  • Resource allocation
  • Other budgeting concepts

Forecasting techniques

  • Regression analysis
  • Learning curve analysis
  • Expected value

Budgeting methodologies

  • Annual business plans (master budgets)
  • Project budgeting
  • Activity-based budgeting
  • Zero-based budgeting
  • Continuous (rolling) budgets

  • Flexible budgeting

Annual profit plan and supporting schedules

  • Operational budgets
  • Financial budgets
  • Capital budgets

Top-level planning and analysis

Pro forma income

Financial statement projections

Cash flow projections

Remember that budgeting might seem like the longest section of Part 1. In the CMA Part 1 exam, you will be expected to calculate various items such as the cost of goods manufactured, sold, and other items in the budget. 

You may even be tested on some conceptual questions such as the definition of budgeting. Section B is more in-depth than section A, however, the concepts are not difficult, but the questions in some budgeting scenarios may get lengthy or complex.

C. Performance Management

Cost and variance measures

  • Comparison of actual to planned results
  • Management by exception
  • Use of standard cost systems
  • Analysis of variation from standard cost expectations
  • Use of flexible budgets

Responsibility centers and reporting segments

  • Types of responsibility centers
  • Reporting of organizational segments
  • Transfer pricing

Performance measures

  • Product profitability analysis
  • Business unit profitability analysis
  • Return on investment
  • Residual income
  • Investment base issues
  • Customer profitability analysis 
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Balanced scorecard

Candidates are tested on the methods used for performance evaluation in companies. If you have worked in the accounting department previously, you must be familiar with most evaluation tools. 

Certain components in the syllabus, like standard costs, are used mostly in manufacturing companies as opposed to service-oriented companies. Hence, if you are working for a service company, you could benefit from spending more time on understanding the standard cost concept.

D. Cost Management

Measurement concepts

  • Cost behavior and cost objects
  • Actual and normal costs
  • Joint and by-product costing
  • Standard costs
  • Absorption (full) costing
  • Variable (direct) costing

Costing systems

  • Job order costing
  • Activity-based costing
  • Process costing
  • Life-cycle costing

Overhead costs

  • Fixed and variable overhead expenses
  • Determination of allocation based. Allocation of service department costs
  • Plant-wide vs. departmental overhead

Supply chain management

  • Lean resource management techniques
  • Theory of Constraints
  • Capacity management and analysis
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

Business process improvement

  • Value chain analysis
  • Process analysis, redesign, and standardization
  • Activity-based management
  • Continuous improvement concepts
  • Cost of quality analysis
  • Efficient accounting processes
  • Best practice analysis
  • Value-added concepts 

You need to develop expertise in various costing methodologies since this section will include calculations. 

E. Internal Controls

Governance, risk, and compliance

  • Internal control structure and management philosophy
  • Internal control risk
  • Corporate governance
  • Internal control policies for safeguarding and assurance
  • External audit requirements

System controls and security measures

  • General accounting system controls
  • Application and transaction controls
  • Network controls
  • Backup controls
  • Business continuity planning

The internal control questions are mostly conceptual, so could be a little ambiguous. With a lot of practice, you will be able to get the hang of identifying the correct answers. 

F. Technology and Analytics

Information systems

  • Enterprise resource planning systems
  • Accounting information systems
  • Enterprise performance management systems

Data governance

  • The life cycle of data
  • Controls against security breaches
  • Data policies and procedures

Technology-enabled finance transformation

  • System development life cycle
  • Process automation
  • Innovative applications

Data analytics

  • Data mining
  • Analytic tools
  • Business intelligence
  • Data visualization

This section will help you stay on top of market trends in the industry, so it is necessary to learn this section correctly. 

CMA USA exam format

CMA USA exam is a computerized exam with 2 essay questions and 100 Multiple-choice questions (MCQs). 

The four hours of the CMA Part 1 exam are divided into – 3 hours for the MCQs and 1 hour for the essays. 

You need to correctly answer at least 50% of the MCQs in your CMA USA exam to move to the essay question. 

In the CMA USA essay section, you must complete sub theory or calculation questions based on two scenarios describing a typical business situation.

While answering a conceptual essay question, write as much as you can about the topic so that at least you can gain partial credit.  

While all of this may seem overwhelming, please know that you are not alone. With NorthStar Academy’s comprehensive CMA USA program, you will get access to a framework for studying for success. You will be able to clear your exams on your very first attempt and make your parents proud. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. What is CPE?

As mentioned on the IMA website, “Once you’ve completed and passed both parts of the CMA exam, you must complete 30 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each year.

2. Who is the best CMA USA online faculty?

M. Irfat sir has widely been acclaimed as the best mentor for CMA USA. He is often referred to as the “God of Costing”. He has won the Teaching Excellence Award for his expertise and mentorship. 

3. Which institute is the best for US CMA online classes?

NorthStar Academy is the best institute for US CMA online classes. 

4. What is the passing rate for USA CMA?

USA CMA has an average passing rate of 35-45% globally.

5. Is the CMA Part 1 exam easy?

The CMA Part 1 exam can be cleared easily with the right preparation and studying with dedication. Institutes like NSA can help you achieve the right framework for success. 

Conclusion

Finally, if you want to dedicatedly spend studying time on CMA USA and To be sure of clearing your exam in the first attempt, you can enroll in Northstar Academy’s comprehensive CMA program to get access to experienced faculty such as M Irfat “Teaching Excellence Award”, learn from the basics, access to a global cohort, study materials, and exam preparation through aggressive mock tests. 


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