Exam Tip: Preparing for the Essay Questions

We know that preparing for the essay problems on the CMA Exam may seem intimidating, so we have prepared some tips that will hopefully help you feel more comfortable with the essay portion of the exams.

First, preparing for a specific topic for a problem is very risky. The essay portion of the exam is a bit of a lottery, because there are a lot of topics that may be covered, but you will only be asked about a few of them. There will be some topics on the exam that you know better than other topics. If you are “lucky” and they ask you about the topics you know, then that is good. However, it is possible that they will ask you about topics that you are not as strong in. In this case, you will have more difficulty answering the questions, but do not panic. Answer what you can to the best of your ability, and move on to the next question. Come back to it later if you have time.

Secondly, remember that you do not need to get 100% correct on the problems; you will receive partial credit for what you do correctly and are not penalized for what you do incorrectly. Do not worry if your calculations do not “balance” perfectly. If there is a problem that has multiple steps to it and you make a mistake on the first step, you do not automatically miss the remaining steps. When grading, they will say, “Let us assume that the answer from step one is actually correct. If that is the correct answer, did they perform step 2 correctly?” If after you have completed all of the steps you still have time, then you can go back and try to make an answer “perfect.”

Next, you want to be certain that you answer every part of each question. Any part of the question that you leave blank will be a 0. If you write something, you at least have the chance to receive partial credit. It is much better to receive 25% partial credit than no credit at all, and that could make the difference between passing or failing.

Finally, be prepared for a qualitative question as part of an essay question. For example, it is an easy multiple-choice question to ask, “What is the maximum price we will pay to an outside supplier?” There is a formula and a correct answer. However, in a problem, it would be possible that the first step is to ask you to calculate something, and then the second step asks a conceptual question, i.e. “And why is this important?” Continuing the example about the maximum price we would pay, the second part of the question could be, “What other factors would need to be considered in addition to the price?”