Six months ago I started my CMA journey when I finally found the strength to overcome my procrastination and the fear of failing the challenge of studying for the CMA exam. Having recently passed CMA Part 1 with a score of 430 using the HOCK materials, I wanted to share my experience in case it might help other CMA candidates.
After buying the HOCK Materials with the Videos, the best tip I got from reading the Study Plan was that “preparing for the CMA is like preparing for a marathon”. Being an avid runner and knowing the “mental challenge” behind a marathon, I started by carefully reviewing the Study Plan, understanding how it is laid out, and the commitment required to succeed. When running marathons, you don’t think about mile 26 when you’re at mile 5, but rather you break the longer course into small segments. Having graduated 13 years ago, having a family, and having a very demanding job, I could have not made it successfully without the HOCK method and materials. Here are some tips that I adopted to stay focused:
- I kept reminding myself why I was willing to put all the time and effort in earning the CMA credential. “What will I gain out of it once I cross the finish line?”
- I let all of my friends, family, and colleagues know that I was preparing for the CMA exams. They were all a great source of support and encouragement and would understand if sometimes I “had to study” instead of doing something else.
- The HOCK study plan should be followed meticulously: it will “break down” the long marathon into smaller segments that are much easier to manage.
- I had all the individual Parts organized into folders on my iPad, and used software to highlight and make annotations on the PDF.
- I liked to report the milestones of the study plan onto a calendar/planner and always have it in front of me – it helped to know where I was in the overall preparation, with a good “visual” on the progress towards intermediate and final targets.
- I made study sheets for each part of the materials using pen and paper. It is proven that “what goes through your hand, goes through your brain.” Printing out the most challenging questions and explanations helps solidify the material in your brain, and I made sure I had the MCQ printouts next to the study sheets for cross referencing.
- The MCQs and essays should be taken as you progress through the study plan. When going over the MCQs, use the strategy suggested by the ICMA and HOCK: weed out the obvious “no good” choices, think about the possible correct ones, and if you’re unsure mark the question and come back at the end if time allows.
- Organize your study time and space: during the week I studied 40 minutes in the morning before work and 40 minutes over lunch-breaks (not at my desk, because I would get distracted by phone and emails). In the evening at home I would study 1 to 2 hours, in the usual same spot dedicated to the CMA study (no mobile phone allowed). Over the weekends I would get up early and study a couple hours in the morning, then about 1 hour after lunch and finally 2-3 hours in the evening. Discipline and consistency make a huge difference.
- I scheduled my exam on a Monday, and took the preceding Thursday and Friday off from work. I had 4 full days to go over all of the materials, practice MCQs and essays, and I felt confident about my solid preparation. Eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising helped over the last 4 days, but were also crucial over the entire 4 months of preparation.
On exam day you are giving it all of your effort. No downtime is allowed: taking a break does not stop the clock from ticking, so there is no time to waste. I sat for 4 straight hours, very focused, relying on my preparation and on a very balanced breakfast (it is important to keep energy flowing to your brain over the 4 hours of the test).
Waiting for almost 2 months for the exam results was hard, because you just have to “wait” and there is not much more you can do. I used this period of time to:
- Recover from the effort, especially for the very first couple days after the exam.
- Catch up with family time and friends.
- Catch up with work.
I am now starting my next four-month journey to prepare for CMA Part 2; passing Part 1 gave me a lot of confidence and feedback about the methodology I adopted. Also, since I will be self-studying again, this experience gave me solid feedback about the reliability of the HOCK Materials and study plan.
I sincerely hope that my experience will help others—and good luck to all CMA candidates!
Giuseppe Venezia, future CMA