Exam Preparation - Planning

In this post, we look at preparing for an exam using some of the same concepts that you might study while preparing for the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) or CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) Exam.


Planning is a topic covered in many professional exams because of how important planning is to a business. Without long-term planning, a company does not know what it is trying to accomplish. Every department within a company needs to have a plan too so that it can do what it needs to do to help the company achieve its objectives. Even individual employees need to have a plan so that they can help their department achieve its goals. With proper planning, a company can ensure that all of its components are moving in the same direction.

Just like a company, a candidate for a professional exam also needs to have plans, which we can break down into Long-Term, Medium-Term, and Short-Term.

Long-Term Plan

The first plan that you need is a strategic plan that encompasses what you would like to be doing in 5 years in your career, and which professional certification will best help you achieve your plan. You need to know:

  • What are the certifications in your chosen career?
  • What are the certifications most highly valued in the country where you want to work?
  • Which certifications does your company want for its employees?

Once you have selected a certification, you need to find determine:

  • Do you have the necessary education required by the exam? If not, how will you get it?
  • Do you have the necessary experience in order to be certified? If not, where can you achieve the experience?
  • What is the syllabus for the exam and what will you need to study to pass the exams?

Then, you are ready to create a medium-term plan to pass the exams and get any education or experience that you need.

Medium-Term Plan

The medium-term plan should set up a time frame for when you will pass the exams and get the needed education or experience if you don’t already have them. You need to find out what the average time is for preparing for the exam, and when the exams are offered.

For example, you may decide that it will take you 6 months to prepare for each part of the CMA Exam, and so you determine that you want to take Part 1 in early January and Part 2 in late June. Or, maybe you decide that it will take about 3 months to prepare for each Part of the CIA Exam, so you plan to take them in January, April, and July.

You should also decide the order in which you will take the different Parts of the exam. I usually recommend that you start with the Part that you feel will be easiest for you.

Short-Term Plan

You are now ready to start your short-term plans, including making a study schedule for each week. You should know when during the week you will be studying and set these times aside. If you are going to study Tuesday evening for 3 hours (for example), then when someone asks you to do something Tuesday evening, your answer should be that you are busy. Your scheduled study times should be committed appointments that you will not cancel except for an emergency.

Having a schedule will make all of your time less stressful. If you know when you will study, then in the time that you are not studying you can relax without thinking that you should be studying; your study time and your personal time can stay separate.

Just like a plan that helps a business achieve its goals, proper planning will make achieving your goal of earning a certification much easier.

What are some of your planning strategies to help you stay on track with your studies?

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

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