Understanding the CMA Exam Passing Score

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification can be a valuable asset to increase your management knowledge and broaden the breadth of your accounting career. Accountants and financial professionals around the globe obtain the certification.

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) conducts the two-part CMA Exam, the passing of which is needed to become a certified CMA. Preparing for the two parts of the CMA Examination can be challenging, but understanding your CMA scores can be only as confusing.  Your CMA score depends on your understanding of the examination content, and how the CMA Exam is scored can create a difference in your passing. The 2022 CMA Exam pass rate was under 50 percent, so it’s important to understand how to interpret your CMA score to see if you need a retake. 

How is the CMA Examination graded? What takes into consideration a CMA passing score? Let’s look at the CMA Exam structure, the skills you require to succeed on the exam, and the most relevant topics on the test.

A Sketch of the CMA Exam 


The CMA content specification highlights explain the topics covered on the CMA Exam.

CMA Exam Structure

Each of the two exams (Parts 1 and 2) is a four-hour paper, which consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 essay questions and You’ll have 3 hours to complete the multiple-choice section, and 1 hour to complete the essay questions. 

Essay questions need both written and quantitative answers. You must be able to explain the concepts in a logical flow and create calculations to answer a particular essay question.  For instance, in case you’re asked to explain the internal controls required for cash management, your essay answer must describe the risk of cash theft, and the internal controls that assist to prevent theft.

Think of yourself in the post of a CFO: you must be able to describe concepts to the business manager and discuss the necessary accounting data. This is the reason behind the essay questions.

Required Exam Skills/Abilities

The CMA Examination apportioned a required skill level to every question. Assume, for instance, that you’re answering a question concerning the statement of cash flows. The questions will be given one of three levels:

Level A (i.e. knowledge and comprehension):  You are questioned to recall and describe the purpose of the statement of cash flows.

Level B (i.e. Level A, in addition to application and analysis): You are given 5 accounting transactions, and must post them to the formal statement of cash flows category.

Level C (i.e. Level B, in addition to synthesis and evaluation): You are asked to determine the requirement to raise additional capital to fund operations, provided a company’s profitability and recent cash position.

As the skill level rises, you are asked to consider financial data more vastly and connect financial concepts to create informed and complex decisions.

How is the CMA Examination Graded?


Approximately 14 days after your examination results are available; you’ll receive a performance report through email. In case you do not pass, you’ll get performance data on each key topic area on the exam of where you scored well and where you are required to improve. 

Here are some important facts related to CMA Exam scoring, and the CMA passing marks:

During the month of January and February of 2022, more than 5,000 students took parts 1 and 2, and the CMA passing rate was 45% for both parts

The CMA marks range is 0-500, and the minimum passing mark is 360 for both parts of the exam

Multiple-choice questions highlight 75% of the score, and the essay questions conceal 25%. A candidate must earn at least 50% on the multiple-choice section to advance to the essay questions; but, you do not naturally have to pass the essay parts to pass the CMA Exam

You are granted partial credit for essay questions; in case your essay addresses some of the steps to compute the answer, you’re awarded scores

Planning for Examination Success

Be sure to utilize the content specification overview and the learning outcomes to assist plan your study. You must be capable of correctly answering questions in each topic area to earn a 360 score on each exam. In case you’re weak in a particular area, spend more time on that concept. 

You may as well want to plan your study based on the relative weighting of each topic. In Part 2, for instance, Decision Analysis is just 25% of the exam, and Risk Management is just 10%. Your study plan must include more time for Decision Analysis, as this is of greater weightage on the exam. 

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