How is my CMA Exam Score Determined?

The two most common questions that Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Candidates ask us about the exam are “How is my exam score determined?” and “What percent of the questions do I need to get correct in order to pass?” I will answer both of these questions, but first we need to look at the structure of the exam.

CMA Exam Structure

Each Part of the CMA Exam consists of 2 sections:

  1. 100 multiple choice questions (MCQs) that are 75% of your final score.
  2. Two essay questions that are 25% of your final score. Each essay question will be made up of smaller individual questions based on the facts given, usually between 4 and 6, called “Requirements.”

A few notes about the exam questions:

  1. Of the 100 MCQs, 10 of them are questions that are being evaluated by the ICMA as possible future exam questions, and they are not included in determining whether you pass or fail. This means that only 90 of the 100 MCQs are part of your exam score.
  2. You need to get 50% of the MCQs correct to move on to the essay questions, otherwise your exam will end immediately after completing the MCQs and you have failed the exam.

How Your Exam is Created

When you take your exam, the computer selects your MCQs and essays out of a large database of questions. This process ensures that everyone’s exam is different. As you know from your studies, some MCQs are simple definitions and others are more difficult, such as long calculation questions. Because of this, it is possible that the exam that you get is slightly easier or slightly more difficult than an “average” exam.

In order to address the varying difficulty of each exam, the ICMA assesses the difficulty level of your exam compared to an exam of average difficulty. If your exam is a little bit more difficult, you can miss a couple more questions than someone whose exam is a little bit easier than average, and still pass. However, it is important to remember that the difference between an easy and a difficult exam is only a question or two.

How is the Exam Graded?

Of the 90 questions that are graded on your exam, each question is weighted the same, and you need to get 45 of them correct to go to the essays. It does not matter if you get the 45 easiest questions correct or the 45 most difficult questions correct – each question counts as one correct question. You are not penalized for wrong answers, so you should never leave a question unanswered. If you do not know the answer and want to Mark the question and look at it later, that is fine. However, before you mark the question, select an answer choice, even if you have to guess. With a guess, you have a 25% chance of getting the question correct. If you leave it unanswered, you have a 0% chance.

In grading the essays, you start each question with zero points. For every individual step or calculation that you do correctly, you get some number of points. Therefore, it is possible that you get 75% of the points for an essay question even if you do not get the answer completely correct. Also, it is critical that you show your work so you can get partial credit for anything that you did. Finally, you should never leave any question completely blank – you will get zero points if you do that. If you write something, you have the chance to earn some points.

How Your Result is Determined

Based on the difficulty of your exam, the number of questions that you got correct in the MCQs, and number of points you received on the essays, you are given a “scaled score” between 0 and 500. You need 360 to pass, however, a score of 360 does NOT translate to a 72%. It is simply a score and not a percentage of anything.

What percentage do you need to pass?

You need to get at least 70% of the points overall between the MCQs and the essays in order to pass. If you get 70% of the points, you will pass. If you get less than 70%, you will pass only if your test was considered to be more difficult than the average test. But, the best strategy is to aim for 75% of the points, and then you do not need to worry about anything related to the difficulty of your exam, scaled score, or that you may fail the exam because of one question.

How can I manage the risk and cost of not passing the CMA exam?

HOCK’s exclusive “You Pass Or We Pay” Guarantee is the benchmark for CMA candidates who want to pass the exam. We are so confident in our CMA Complete materials that if you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, we will pay the exam fee for you to take the exam again (a $415 value per Part). No other company offers a guarantee like this. In this video, Brian Hock explains HOCK’s exclusive “You Pass Or We Pay” Guarantee included with our CMA Complete Exam Prep.

If you have any remaining questions about how the CMA exams are graded, we will be glad to answer them.

Brian Hock


  1. santu on June 10, 2015 at 6:39 am

    Thanks for valuable tips

  2. dania on June 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for this article, it is really helpful.

  3. Anil on June 10, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Very informative and brought more confidence

  4. ehab on June 11, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Thank you for this article ,it is really valuable .

  5. mowafak on June 11, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    but i have one question if you please
    about this ….
    “Of the 100 MCQs, 10 of them are questions that are being evaluated by the ICMA as possible future exam questions, and they are not included in determining whether you pass or fail. This means that only 90 of the 100 questions are part of your exam score.”
    did you mean by that 10 mcq the most difficult ones or easiest ?

  6. HOCK international on June 11, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    The 10 questions that are being evaluated could be of any difficulty – easy or hard. You have no way to know which questions they are, so you just have to do your best on all 100.

  7. Deepak on June 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Nice article sir,
    I have one question:

    In the last window that is in Feb-15 I got 340 in Part-II and accordingly I failed, wanted to know in which section I got what marks,is it possible . Mean to say that in MCQ and essay how much.

  8. HOCK international on June 13, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    No, the ICMA does not provide the split of the grading for an individual’s exam. You know that you got at least 50% correct in the MCQs because you advanced to the essays, but other than that there is no way to know what part of your score was MCQs vs. essays.

  9. Tarun on June 20, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Mr. Hock

    As per article pass point are 70% where as I was told that it is 72%

    Which one is correct ?

  10. Waqas Ahmed on June 20, 2015 at 1:57 am

    Thanks Mr. Hock, very informative and helpful article.

  11. HOCK international on June 20, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Tarun, we received this information from Dennis Whitney, Senior Vice President of the ICMA, a few weeks ago at the IMA Middle East Conference in Dubai. All information presented here is correct and current.

    You may have been told 72% as the calculation of 360/500, but as stated, this is not how the scores are determined.

  12. Santhu on June 22, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for the very informative article. I have a question, if we score 70% in MCQ, do we have to score any minimum marks in Essay to pass the exam. Kindly advise.

    • Lynn Roden on June 22, 2015 at 11:59 am

      Hi Santhu. The CMA exam is graded as a unit. That means if you are weak in either the MCQs or the essays, but you are strong in the other section, you may make up for your weakness. But if you score around 70% in the MCQs, you would need to score around 70% in the essay section also in order to pass. As discussed above, the exact score you need to pass varies depending on the difficulty of your exam.