How to Prepare for CMA Exam Essays

If you are preparing for the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) exam, you may have some concerns about the essay section. This concern is understandable and common among candidates. In fact, it’s a topic I’ve written and spoken about before, and it’s worth revisiting. 

The Good News: Unifying Your Study Efforts

A common misconception is that preparing for the Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) and preparing for the essays are two separate undertakings. The reality, however, is that the content tested in the essays is the same as that in the MCQs. What this means is when you are preparing for the MCQs, you are also preparing for the essays.

The Common Thread Between MCQs and Essays

Consider this: you might get a capital budgeting question in the MCQ section, and you could also get a similar question as an essay. The same goes for questions about ratios or any other topic.

For example, let’s say you’re asked to calculate the debt-equity ratio in an MCQ. You’ll carry out the necessary calculations, arrive at a number, and then choose the best answer from the options given (A, B, C, or D). Now, if you have a similar question in the essay section asking you to calculate the debt-equity ratio, you would perform the exact same calculation. The only difference is that you don’t have to match your answer with multiple-choice options.

Prepping the Right Way

Many essays are set up as a series of questions based on a given fact pattern, essentially resembling a set of MCQs without the multiple-choice aspect. The skill set you need to answer both MCQs and essay questions is the same, so as you go through your textbooks, watch videos, and tackle practice questions, remember that you are preparing for both types of questions simultaneously.

Additional Steps for Essays

While the core content and skills remain the same, there is one aspect where you might need to do a bit of extra work for the essay section. It would be beneficial to go through past essays released by the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) to become familiar with how questions are framed and what different types of requirements might appear. This will help you understand the types of questions that you are likely to encounter on the actual exam.

The syllabus tested is the same regardless of the format of the question. So, the key takeaway here is that as you’re preparing for the exam, you’re automatically preparing for all its components. There is no need to fragment your efforts; a well-rounded study plan will equip you for success in every part of the CMA exam. Happy studying!