A Personal Counselor or Mentor is something that some exam prep providers include as a benefit of choosing their materials. While I agree that it is important that a review provider answer your questions as part of their support, there is no practical reason that you need to have a personal counselor as part of your exam preparation process.
Why do I say this? Because the exam that you take is not personal to you.
Everyone takes the same exam covering the same material tested at the same level of depth. The exam does not adapt its depth based on your background or experience. To say it one more time: EVERY candidate needs to know the SAME material at the SAME depth for the exam.
Because every candidate needs to know the same information, I am not sure what a personal counselor can do that you are not able to do for yourself. You can look at the results of your study sessions and determine how well you know a topic. In fact, you know more than anyone else can about how well you know a topic.
For example, let us say that there are 10 questions, and you know with certainty 6 of the 10 questions. That is 60% proficiency, but that is not enough and you need to study that topic more. Even though you do not know the other 4 questions, statistically you will get one of the four correct – giving you a 70% score. If you get lucky and guess two of those four correctly, you will score 80%, and someone else just looking at the percentage probably will say you are proficient and can move on to the next topic. But you know the truth, that you really are not 80% proficient on that topic.
In terms of guiding you through your studies, a personal counselor is not needed for this, either. Assuming that the study materials are set up properly with a good study plan, only you know best how much time you need to spend on each topic. When you are reading the book, watching videos, and/or doing practice questions, you know how well you know the topic and how much longer you need to spend to feel comfortable.
I believe that there are two essential support functions that actually add value to your studies:
- A detailed study plan that helps you go through the materials, points out the main topics and can be tailored to your pace of learning and time frame for study.
- Subject matter experts who can answer your questions about anything in the materials while you are studying. Whether it is a concept in the book or a question that you just can’t figure out, a knowledgeable person who is experienced in that exam should be available to answer your questions in a timely manner (one business day).
All of this to say, when you are making a decision about your study materials, be sure to look for things that actually add value to your studies, and not just what sounds good. At HOCK, we have continually refined our materials and processes since 2003 so that we can offer you the most comprehensive materials and support without any unneeded and potentially expensive extras.
HOCK Exam Prep with unlimited access and teacher support:
In my last two blogs, I have written about how review course providers and the certification-issuing organizations add value to their certifications. In this blog, I will look at what you should do in order to maximize the value that you get from having the certificate.
Conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times. As I wrote earlier, most certificates get their value simply because they are valued by the business community. Certificates have value because the people who hold the certificate create value for them. Every individual benefit from all of the others who hold the same certificate. In order to keep this value, each holder needs to act so that the business community as a whole will continue to value that certificate. For example, everyone who is a CIA is connected to everyone else who is a CIA. When a colleague finds out that you are CIA, their first impression of you will be based on what they think of the other CIAs that they know. If enough individuals behave poorly and unethically the “brand” that is CIA will lose value. So, if you want your certificate to retain or grow its value, you need to behave in a way that will bring value to that certificate and everyone else who holds it.
Have a responsibility
In addition to holding yourself to the highest standards of behavior, you also have a responsibility to hold fellow certificate holders to a similarly high standard of behavior. When others are acting in a way that does not bring value to the “brand,” you need to work with them to change their behavior. Even though any certificate can survive “a few bad apples” in the profession, everyone needs to work to make certain that there are as few as possible.
Market the certificate
In order to maximize the value of your investment (in both time and money), you also need to market the certificate, for example, help people know what the certificate is and what the requirements are to obtain it. If an HR person in your company is not familiar with the CMA, give them information about it. That information, coupled with your behavior, will help them understand the value of CMA. Also, use the letters of your designation on your business card, your CV, and anywhere your name is used.
Become active in a local Chapter
If you are able to, you should also become active in a local Chapter of your professional organization. Chapters help to grow the profession and are a way of letting the larger community know that the certification has value. While it may be difficult to see any specific, direct benefit from attending a Chapter event, you need to remember that you are part of a larger profession and that you will benefit indirectly from the success of the organization. Professionals before you built a brand that you are benefitting from, and you need to be certain that the professionals who come after you will be able to benefit from your professional organization in the same way you have.
I encourage you to be proactive in doing these things (and more) because your certificate will only have as much value as the effort that everyone puts into it.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
In my last blog, I wrote about the value that review course providers provide for a certification. In this blog, I will look at the value that is brought to a certification by the organization that administers the exam and awards the certification.
Obviously, the organization that offers the certification provides value to it. But, it is critical that the certification continues to hold its value and even increases in value. Remember that because most certifications gain their value only because the business community desires them, it is imperative that the organizations work to provide ongoing value. Aside from giving the certificate itself, some of the things that the organization must do are:
Keep the syllabus current
Every few years the organization should evaluate the content of their exams to make certain that it continues to be relevant.
Provide sufficient information about the content of the exam
The syllabus that they provide should be detailed enough to allow candidates (and material providers) to know what is on the exam without being so detailed that it is essentially a list of the questions. (I would add that the IMA does a spectacular job with the syllabus for the CMA Exams.)
Ensure that the exam is challenging
If the pass rate is too high, the certification loses value because it is assumed that anyone can pass. If the pass rate is too low, nobody attempts it because the return on investment is too low. For example, when the DipIFR (Russian) exam was first started, the pass rate was around 15% and the exam almost collapsed because of the low pass rate.
Maintain its own ethics surrounding the qualification
The exam creation and grading process must be above reproach. There should be controls and systems in place to ensure that if a person passes the exam that the world knows that this person actually passed the exam honestly and fairly.
Provide a fair and level field for all providers
When an examining body is involved in materials preparation and sells their own materials, this weakens the certificate because it draws into question the grading process. Even if there are controls in place and independence between the materials creation group, the exam creation group, and the grading process, there is still the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Require some form of Continuing Education
(It has different names in different organizations) So that their certificate holders maintain relevant knowledge.
Provide value to its members through things other than the certifications
Such as conferences, publications, webinars, networking opportunities to its members, or any number of other benefits that it can provide. If the only value that it provides is in the exam itself, the organization will have difficulty maintaining its membership and attracting new members.
While there are a lot of things that professional organizations need to do in order to maintain and build the value that their certificate has in the market, it is essential that they do these things because without the certification having value, fewer people will join the organization.
I am certain that this list is not complete. What are some of the other ways that your certifications (that you have or are in the process of earning) and their supporting organization could add even more value to your career?
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
Professional Certification – Requirement or Preference?
A professional certification gets value from one of two sources: either it is required by law or regulation, or the business community prefers its employees have the certification, even if it is not required by law. An example of the first type is the CPA certification in the United States, which is required by law in order for an individual to sign an audit report or prepare income taxes for another party. An example of the second type is the CPA certification in countries outside the United States. In other countries, a CPA license is not required by law for any specific activity, but the business community values it, and therefore being a CPA is valuable.
Most international certifications fall into the second category. One of the reasons for this is that most internationally recognized exams are in English and therefore they can be required by law only in countries that speak English. In non-English-speaking countries, the exam gets value because it is desired by the businesses there.
While it may not seem obvious, there are a number of groups that contribute to the value that a certification has in markets where the certification is not required by law. In this blog, I will write about one of them, and I will write about others in the future.
Review Course Providers
The group that I want to write about now is what I will call Review Course Providers (RCPs). They may be called different names in different countries, but these are the companies that deliver live-taught courses for candidates to prepare to pass the exam. RCPs are different than Material Providers (MPs), who only provide materials for self-study. For example, HOCK international is an MP, whereas HOCK UAE is an RCP, where live courses are offered.
RCPs play a critical role in the development of value for a professional certification in a few different ways:
- When there is an RCP for a certification, it shows to prospective candidates that the certification has value. If there is no value to the certification, there would not be a company providing training locally.
- RCPs play an important role in marketing the certification because they are marketing the certification as well as their own courses. For the organizations that offer certifications, RCPs are a critical element of the expansion of the certification to new areas.
- RCPs help keep pass rates higher. If the pass rate for a certification becomes too low, fewer people will attempt it because there is not a high enough chance to get a return on their investment. Or, if the pass rate is too high, there is also a decrease in candidates because both individuals and businesses perceive that it is too easy and does not have any value.
- RCPs also give credibility to the certification by demonstrating that the exam is independent. When the organization that gives the exam also provides training material, there is a perception that the exam is not serious or rigorous because the same organization is in charge of all of the steps of the process. It is a bit like the segregation of duties – ideally, one organization creates the exam and grades it, and other organizations provide the training. When the examiner is also a training provider there is a conflict of interest that decreases the value of the certification.
Whether or not you are using or used an RCP in your preparations for the exam, you should say a word of “Thanks” to the RCPs in your area; they have helped create and sustain the value of the certificate that you have earned or are in the process of earning. If you don’t know if there are any in your area, we have a list of RCPs using HOCK materials on our website.
You can send a short “Thanks” to your RCP as a comment below – let them know that they are appreciated!
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
The CMA Exam results came out last week and while there were many candidates who were successful, there were also some candidates who did not pass their exams. If you are one of these candidates, I encourage you to continue your studies and take a realistic look at how much you think you need to study to pass the next time you take the exam. Based on this assessment, you can determine when you should plan on re-taking the exam. As a general guideline, if you scored 320 or above, you are close to being ready to pass, and should probably plan to take the exam as soon as you are able to. If you scored less than 320, then you may want to plan a few more months of studying before you take the exam again.
Do you need a second Test Bank?
After results come out, we get requests from candidates who are looking to purchase a second Test Bank to study from. It is my experience that a second Test Bank does not add a lot of value to your preparations. All of the main providers use released CMA Exam questions as the foundation of their Test Banks. We all add some of our own questions to the Test Bank as well, but the majority of questions between providers will be the same. Therefore, even if you purchase a second Test Bank, you will not be getting a second set of questions to prepare with.
What additional materials should you consider?
If you are looking for additional study materials, I often recommend that you purchase Videos, especially if you do not have Videos already. While there are differences between the Textbooks of the main providers, a second Textbook is still a book that you read. Some candidates learn more effectively by listening or watching, so if you purchase Videos, you are getting a new way of learning the material, and a new perspective on that material.
Do you already have all of the materials from a provider?
If you already have a Textbook, Videos and a Test Bank and are still looking for additional materials, you should look to purchase the study tool that you think will be most beneficial to you. If you did not always understand the Textbook that you have read, another Textbook will bring value to you. If you did not like the Videos that you have, someone else’s Videos will provide greater value to you. If you have a Test Bank that does not have answer explanations to the incorrect answers, another Test Bank with incorrect answer explanations will be very helpful to you.
Use free samples before purchasing
Before you purchase a second of any study tools, make certain to use the free samples that all of the main providers offer so that you can see the Textbook, Videos and/or Test Bank you are looking to add.
Don’t give up!
While we would always prefer to pass an exam on our first attempt, the global pass rate for the CMA Exams is only about 50%. If you are in the position of having to take the exam again, I encourage you to keep striving for your goal of becoming a CMA. And while additional study tools may be helpful, make certain that you think carefully about what you already have and what would be helpful to you. This analysis will help you make good decisions about what additional investments you need to make to pass the exam on your next attempt.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
CMA Exam Videos are on 40% sale right now. Check out the free samples here: CMA Exam Videos.
What is ExamReady™?
Exam candidates frequently ask, "Am I ready to take the exam?" HOCK's ExamReady™ progress bar helps you determine when you are ready.
How does it work?
- ExamReady™ starts at 0 and counts up to 360, which is the passing score for the CMA exam.
- Your ExamReady™ progress will increase with the completion of study units, videos, MCQs, essays, and mock exams.
- You are in a good position at 230 to start your Final Review.
- When ExamReady™ reaches 360, you are prepared to take your exam with confidence.
How do I see my ExamReady™ progress?
ExamReady™ is available to students who have CMA Review Complete materials, and to those who have purchased both the CMA Review Standard and CMA Videos. ExamReady™ shows on the Personal Study Plan in the PassMap.
CMA vs. EA: Which Designation Is Better For Your Career
Are you considering the CMA certification vs. the EA designation? After all, becoming a Certified Management Accountant or an enrolled agent could both propel your career. However, the accounting field has lots of specific niches to fit every career goal and personality type. So before you start on your accounting journey, be sure you understand the roles and requirements of various accounting credentials. In this article, therefore, we’ll review the differences between the CMA certification and EA designation.
CMA vs. EA: Roles and Responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of a CMA versus an EA are very different. Basically, the CMA denotes that you have advanced critical accounting and financial management skills. Therefore, the CMA is especially relevant if you plan to work in a business environment or a globally-based company. In contrast, the EA is best suited for tax preparers who want to advance their career. After all, an EA is a tax professional with specialized expertise in US taxation.
What does a CMA do?
The CMA is considered the gold standard in management accounting. The Institute of Management Accounting started issuing the certification in 1972, so it has a long reputation. Plus, it’s one of the top certifications you can get in the management accounting niche. Today, the CMA has become the most popular management accounting certification in the United States. And it’s quickly becoming more common in developing areas like China and the Middle East.
What’s the role of an EA?
Enrolled agents are tax preparers with high levels of knowledge about taxation in the United States. In fact, the EA is the highest credential offered by the IRS.
EAs can perform many steps related to the preparation of tax returns, both business and personal. Essentially, they can do everything from file documents on a client’s behalf to going to IRS hearings for a client. EAs also advise parties on the tax implications of their business dealings and transactions.
CMA vs. EA: Exam Requirements and Format
The requirements, format, and content of the CMA exam are very different from the EA exam. So, let’s review the exams and how to qualify for them.
Qualifying for the CMA and EA exams
To qualify for the CMA exam, candidates must:
- Have an active membership with the IMA
- Pay an entrance fee to gain acceptance into the CMA program
- Register to take their first exam part within 12 months of enrolling in the CMA program
Once candidates have entered the CMA program, they have 3 years to pass the 2-part exam. Plus, candidates must meet the education and work experience requirements within 7 years of passing the CMA exam. Those requirements are outlined below, but you can take the exam without meeting them first.
In contrast, candidates don’t need to meet any education or experience requirements to get the EA or take the EA exam. Therefore, here’s a summary of how to get started with the EA exam:
- Go to the IRS website, create an online account, and apply for a PTIN, or Preparer Tax Identification Number
- Within your IRS account, register to take the 3-part SEE, or Special Enrollment Examination
- Once you pass your first part, you need to pass the remaining parts within 2 years
Understanding the CMA exam
The CMA exam has two parts:
- CMA Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
- CMA Part 2: Strategic Financial Management
Each part lasts 4 hours and includes 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and 2 essay questions. And in each part, you’ll answer the MCQs first. If you answer at least 50% correctly, you’ll be allowed to move on to the essays. It doesn’t matter which CMA exam part you start with first. However, you must register for your first CMA exam within 12 months of enrolling in the CMA program.
The SEE exam for Enrolled Agents
The SEE exam has three parts, each addressing a separate area of taxation in the US:
- Part 1: Individuals
- Part 2: Businesses
- Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures
Each part has 100 MCQs and takes 3 ½ hours to finish. Once you pass all the exam sections, you need to apply for your EA designation within 1 year.
However, some EA candidates can obtain the credential without taking the exam. Candidates who have been working for the IRS for at least 5 years don’t need to take the exam as long as they regularly applied and interpreted the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Usually, candidates who meet this benchmark have titles like appeals officer, special agent, settlement officer, tax or tax law specialist, or revenue officer or agent.
Passing your exams
The CMA exam pass rate is only about 45-50% globally. However, the EA exam pass rates are higher at 61-88%, depending on the exam part and the year. Still, about 69% of EA candidates pass their exams, which is higher than other accounting credentials like the CPA, CMA, and CIA.
Nonetheless, once you start to take either the CMA or EA exams, you have a limited amount of time to complete them. Therefore, it’s best to study with a proven review course. Even though you’ll have to invest in prep materials, the cost is often worth it in the long run. Besides, if you pick the review course that’s right for your learning style, you’ll probably study more effectively, significantly reducing your overall study time.
CMA vs. EA: Other Requirements
After potential Enrolled Agents have passed all parts of the SEE exam, they only need to apply for the EA designation to receive it. Therefore, EAs don’t have to meet any other education or work requirements.
However, EAs must meet annual CPE or CE (continuing professional education) benchmarks to keep their credential active. Specifically, EAs need:
- 72 hours of continuing education per 3 years
- In addition, 16 hours must be completed each year
- At least 2 of the annual 16 hours must be in an approved ethics course
Other requirements for the CMA
In contrast, potential CMAs still have education and experience requirements to meet once they’ve passed both parts of the exam. Then, they must acquire CPE hours to keep their credential active. However, as noted below, CMAs have two options to gain credit for their educational background.
- Education — Option 1: Receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university; your degree can be in any field.
- OR — Option 2: Obtain an approved certification from another accrediting body, which includes the CPA from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants or the US AICPA, the CA from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the CFA from the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, and the CIA from the Institute of Internal Auditors, among others.
- Experience: 2 years of continuous experience (or 4 years of part-time experience) in management accounting or financial management. Examples could include auditing, budget preparation and/or reporting, costing analysis, financial planning, risk evaluation, and others. Plus, you must meet the CMA experience requirements within 7 years of passing the CMA exam.
- CPE: CMAs must meet annual CPE (or continuing professional education) requirements. Specifically, CMAs need 30 hours of CPE every year to maintain an active credential.
CMA vs. EA Costs
The process to become a CMA or EA both include several different costs, so make sure you understand the fees before starting.
- IMA membership fee: professionals $245, students $39
- CMA program entrance fee: professionals $250, students $188
- CMA examination fee: professionals $415 per part ($830 total), students $311 ($622 total)
Therefore, the total CMA fees equal about $849 for students and $1,325 for professionals. Plus, there is an extra $15 application fee for first-time exam takers. Also, candidates should budget the cost of CMA exam review materials too.
- SEE exam fees per part: $181.94, for a total of $545.82 for all 3 SEE parts
- About $500 for EA review course materials
- EA enrollment fee (payable after passing the exam to receive the EA designation): $30
So in total, depending on the cost of your review materials, pursuing the EA costs just under $1,100.
CMA vs. EA: Salaries and Job Opportunities
CMAs can hold titles as diverse as budget analyst, CEO or CFO, cost accountant, controller, financial analyst, manager, internal auditor, senior or staff accountant, or treasurer. According to the IMA, CMAs worldwide make about 58% percent more than their peers who don’t have the credential. And higher salaries aren’t just reserved for CMAs at the height of their careers either. In fact, even CMAs in their 30s receive salaries that are about 49-50% higher than their non-CMA peers.
Enrolled agents have the potential to make larger salaries than uncredentialled tax preparers. Essentially, EAs have the skills needed to complete complicated tax returns, leading to higher earning potential. And therefore, on average, EAs make about 10% more per return than un-enrolled tax preparers.
EAs work in a variety of settings. For example, accounting, law, and investment firms frequently use the services of EAs. You’ll also find EAs in corporate accounting departments, state departments of revenue, and even banks. Therefore, EAs are always in need and always valued in the business world.
The Value of the CMA or EA
You’ll find CMAs working in the finance departments of major companies around the world. Their expertise in management accounting and financial planning is critical and always in demand. CMAs are essential to keep large businesses running, especially those in industry and manufacturing.
EAs, on the other hand, are valued because they can handle all sorts of tax matters. That is, they can deal with tax audits, collections, and even appeals with the IRS. EAs are fully authorized to represent clients and taxpayers in matters with all levels of the IRS. The only exception is that EAs cannot represent clients in tax court; only lawyers can do that.
Although CPAs and lawyers can also handle these same issues, their licenses are tied to a specific state or jurisdiction. But EAs, on the other hand, are recognized in any state because the credential is authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury instead of state boards of accountancy or state law boards.
CMA vs. EA: The Choice
The CMA and EA credentials are for candidates who want to pursue very different careers. The CMA might be the better choice for accountants interested in management, analytics, and financial planning. Plus, the CMA is recognized worldwide, so CMAs have the flexibility to work from many locations. The EA, however, is better suited for professionals who plan to specialize in taxation and only plan to work in or for clients in the United States.
Either path could advance your career, depending on your overall interests and goals.
HOCK international thanks Stephanie Ng for writing this article. Stephanie Ng is the author of the guide How to Pass the CPA Exam, and the person behind the I Pass the CMA Exam and I Pass the EA Exam sites.
If you decide that the CMA Exam is a better choice for you, check out our CMA free trial. The trial lasts for two weeks and includes all of the HOCK study materials for CMA Part 1 Section A and CMA Part 2 Section E.
Stephanie Ng is the author of the guide How to Pass the CPA Exam, and the person behind the I Pass the CMA Exam site. She has been answering questions about how to best prepare for the Certified Management Accountant exam since 2012.
Check out Stephanie’s latest review and analysis of HOCK CMA Exam prep materials, as well as the review of a blogger, who studied with HOCK to pass his CMA exams.
Code of ethics
Most companies and professional organizations have a Code of Ethics that employees and members must follow. It is important to remember that many of those ethical guidelines we have at work and in our professional lives are also important for us outside of work. When individuals act contrary to a Code of Ethics in their personal lives, people can also get hurt – just as in our professional lives.
Conflict of interests
Most Codes of Ethics require the disclosure of potential conflicts of interests, which arise when a person may be influenced in their decision as a result of an interest that they have that is in conflict with the decision that they need to make for their company. Conflicts of interest are not just at work; they are in our personal life, too, and can involve our friends, neighbors, relatives and people we have never met. Unfortunately, not everyone is motivated by a Code of Ethics in their personal life like they should be in their professional life.
For example, if someone asks me what company they should use to host their website, I have a potential conflict of interest because my brother owns a company that hosts websites. If I were to recommend my brother’s company, the question becomes whether I am recommending it because it a good web hosting company, or because it is my brother, or maybe even because I might receive a commission for every person that I refer.
It is not that conflicts of interest are automatically bad. However, an undisclosed conflict of interest is unethical, and potentially harmful. If I recommend my brother’s company and I do not tell the person that it is my brother’s company that I am recommending, I have potentially caused that person harm because I have not given them all of the information they need to make an informed decision. However, if I tell them that my brother owns the company, then I have not done anything to cause that person harm.
The disclosure of this conflict of interest may even be helpful to my brother. If I have acted and worked in a way that causes this person to respect me, the fact that it is my brother’s company may be the reason that the person chooses my brother’s company. By behaving ethically and professionally, my recommendation means more, and the fact that I am related to the owner of that company is a positive thing for the person who asked.
Ethics in our personal lives
In our personal lives it is also important to disclose conflicts of interest. I live in a state that recently deregulated its electricity market, which means that I am now able to choose which company I want to produce the electricity that I use. Needless to say, I was swamped with phone calls and mail from the different companies that wanted me to choose them. One evening I was talking to my neighbor and asked if he had chosen a company and how happy he was with his choice. He told me which company he had chosen and that he was happy.
Later, after I had made my selection, I found out that if I recommended others to select the company that I had chosen, they would pay me $50 for each person I recommended and signed up. When I read this, it made me wonder about my neighbor – did he make his recommendation because he was happy, or because he was going to get $50 if I selected the same company that he did?
So, when someone gives you a recommendation, (especially when it is a website giving you a recommendation), you should ask yourself if they have a conflict of interest that they are not telling you about. It might just change your mind about what decision you should make in a particular situation.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
Are you taking the CMA exam in May or June? Join the CMA Crash Course and MCQ Practice Sessions for only $108.
What is the Personal Study Plan?
The Personal Study Plan is the latest addition to PassMap - HOCK's topic by topic learning system - that will guide you week by week through your studies based on your target exam date. If your exam date changes, the study plan will adapt your study schedule accordingly.
How does the Plan work?
We know that your study schedule changes every week, so your Personal Study Plan:
- Is based on weeks rather than days.
- Stays constantly updated based on your progress.
- Shows you how much time you need to study each week to be ready for your exam date.
- Automatically adjusts your weekly study time if you fall behind or get ahead.
- Keeps you on track to pass your exam.
How do I set up my Plan?
The Personal Study Plan is available for CMA Parts 1 and 2. Students with the CMA trial can also set up a full study plan, and it will carry over when purchasing the HOCK CMA Review.