If you’re thinking of tackling the CMA exam, you should definitely consider a CMA review course. After all, the right materials will help you study better, which means you could study less in the long run. So in this article, I’ll give you some tips about finding the best CMA exam course for your learning style and budget.
The IMA (or Institute of Management Accountants) grants the CMA credential, which is recognized around the world. Each year, the IMA releases the CMA exam pass rates, which tend to hover around 50%. Plus, the IMA estimates that most candidates spend at least 150-170 hours studying for each half of the 2-part CMA exam. What’s more, candidates who don’t study—or just as importantly, study with the wrong materials—often fail on their first exam attempt.
If you fail an exam part, you can re-take it. However, the re-take fees are substantial, so you want to avoid them. Therefore, you might as well save yourself some money upfront by studying with a CMA exam prep course. But with so many on the market, which should you choose?
To help you select the best CMA exam prep for your learning style, I’ve reviewed the most comprehensive packages from some of the top courses: Becker CMA, Gleim CMA, Hock CMA, Surgent CMA, and Wiley CMAexcel. And after this course comparison, I’ll share some tips on what to look for when selecting a CMA course.
|Becker CMA Review Pro Course||Gleim CMA Premium CMA Review 2021||Hock CMA Review Complete||Surgent CMA Review Ultimate Pass||Wiley CMAexcel Platinum Review Course|
|Access Length||Until You Pass||Until You Pass||Unlimited||Until You Pass||Until You Pass|
|Interactive Learning Platform?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Test Bank / MCQs||3,000+; more will be added in summer 2021||3,000+||3,532||3,945+||5,500+|
|Video Lectures||55+ hours||45+ hours||62 hours||60+ videos||66 hours|
|Textbooks||Print and digital||Digital and print||Both print and digital||PDF only||Ebooks and print available|
|CMA Practice Tests||Unlimited||Unlimited||4||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Price (before discounts)||$2,099||$1,599||$1,249||$1,699||$1,800|
Becker is a well-known name in the accounting industry. After all, Becker has been helping CPA and CMA candidates pass their credential exams for decades. However, in the past, Becker partnered with a third-party provider who actually wrote all of Becker’s CMA materials. But now, Becker has completely revamped its CMA courses. And consequently, all of the Becker materials are written by the company’s team of accounting experts. Therefore, the new Becker CMA video lectures, textbooks, and test bank match the quality the industry has come to expect from Becker.
Specifically, the Becker CMA Review Pro course comes with unlimited access to 70 practice essays and 3,000+ MCQs with more to be added in summer 2021. Plus, it also includes digital and printed textbooks, even though some providers are only giving PDFs these days. Of course, the course also has video lectures, all led by Becker’s expert instructors. Each video is short and only covers one topic, so you won’t have to sit through hours of dull lectures.
What’s more, Becker’s courses use adaptive software called Adaptive2U Technology by Sana Labs. In a nutshell, this software constantly accesses your performance as you answer MCQs. Next, the technology figures out what content you’ve mastered and probably don’t need to study anymore. But more importantly, it also pinpoints what topics need more practice. Then, it curates your lessons and directs you toward texts and videos that will strengthen your weak areas. Basically, this approach could help you study fewer hours.
Plus, Becker CMA Review Pro course gives you outstanding personalized support. In fact, it comes with five one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions with a Becker instructor. In addition, you can take Becker’s LiveOnline courses, too. And you can actually interact with your instructor and ask questions in real-time.
Gleim CMA has been helping accounting professionals pass their credential exams for over 40 years. And because of the value of their courses, it’s no wonder that so many candidates study with Gleim. For example, the Gleam CMA Premium Review includes 3,000+ practice MCQs and 167 sample essays, more than any other provider out there. Plus, you’ll also get 45+ hours of video lectures including the “Deep Dive” series, audio versions of many lectures, Gleim’s famous textbooks (print or digital), a personalized study planner, and access to your online materials until you pass the CMA exam. And when you take a Gleim mock exam, you’ll notice that the Gleim platform looks and feels just like the real CMA exam.
Gleim is another company that uses an e-learning system called SmartAdapt. Basically, it works by keeping track of your performance on practice questions and quizzes. As it monitors what content you’ve seemed to master, it will suggest content to study for the questions you’ve been missing, too.
Here’s one thing to note about Gleim: if you don’t already have a strong accounting background, you might be unfamiliar with some of the terms and concepts used in the Gleim course. So before you start to answer practice questions, just take some time to study first.
Hock CMA is popular with both international and US-based CMA candidates because of the high quality of its courses that are offered at a more affordable price point. Take the Hock CMA Review Complete package, for example. It’s a good value because it includes 3,500+ practice MCQs, 66 essay samples with answers, study texts (digital or hard copies), 4 practice exams, digital flashcards, 66 hours of video lectures, and even a personalized study planner. And just as importantly, the Hock CMA Review Complete package also gives you unlimited access to your online materials until you pass the exam. This way, you don’t need to repurchase your package if you happen to fail an exam part.
Plus, Hock’s guarantee should give you some peace of mind about purchasing a Hock course, too. According to Hock’s policy, if you work through most of the study material included in your course but still don’t pass one of your CMA exam sections, Hock will pay your exam re-take fees. I think that shows you that Hock has a lot of faith in their CMA courses.
And finally, you should also check out Surgent CMA Review. After all, Surgent comes highly rated from its previous users. If you go with the Surgent CMA Review Ultimate Pass package, you’ll receive 3,945+ MCQs that have detailed answer explanations, 65+ sample essays, full-length practice exams, flashcards, and 60+ hours of video lectures. What’s more, you’ll get free updates in case Surgent updates the study materials.
Surgent is a strong course for several reasons. First, Surgent’s lessons are bite-sized, meaning you can squeeze them into your busy life. Second, Surgent’s top courses come with access to virtual CMA coaching sessions, and that could be a big study boost.
And third, Surgent uses an award-winning e-learning platform called A.S.A.P. Technology. The software creates personalized study plans according to your anticipated exam date in combination with an analysis of your performance on practice questions. Basically, it works by directing your studies toward what content you don’t seem to know yet based on how you answer practice questions. And according to Surgent, this direction greatly reduces the number of hours their users spend studying for the CMA exam.
You can compare Surgent CMA against Gleim CMA, both popular CMA prep courses.
Wiley CMAexcel is a popular CMA study course because it is one of the IMA’s Strategic Partners. Basically, this means that the IMA trusts Wiley’s study material, so it might be right for you.
Wiley’s Platinum Review course includes plenty of study tools to keep you learning, like over 5,500 MCQs (multiple-choice questions), 16 sample essays, and 66 hours of instructional videos. Plus, you receive a personalized study planner, a mobile app, 800+ pages of study text available online, flashcards (digital or printed), and unlimited mock exams.
Moreover, Wiley breaks its courses into “Bite-Sized Lessons” that are designed to be short but effective. Wiley’s courses also use an e-learning Efficient Learning System. And what’s more, many candidates have crammed with Wiley’s “11th Hour Final Review” and found that it went over some of the exam’s hardest content right before their exam day.
And if you happen to fail the CMA Exam after studying with Wiley, the Partner Until You Pass Guarantee means that you won’t have to repay to keep studying with your Wiley course until you receive a better score.
It’s also worth mentioning that Wiley now uses an interactive learning platform, similar to many of today’s top CMA review courses. The FocusMe Technology monitors your performance as you work through the course and answer practice questions. Once it starts to learn what topics you need to study more, it will suggest study material and practice questions that will strengthen your weak content areas.
Each CMA exam review company has developed slightly different learning tools, but they share a common goal. Simply put, they’re all designed to help you pass the CMA exam. But most courses include some sort of textbooks or study materials that are reinforced with video or audio lectures, practice questions, and other learning devices like flashcards.
However, the type of study materials and content delivery methods that work for you might not work for the next CMA candidate. Therefore, it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you begin to search for the CMA exam review course. After all, you don’t want to waste a lot of money on a course that ultimately just doesn’t work for how you learn.
Firstly, consider the access length of CMA exam courses. After all, most courses put the bulk of their material online, and you need a username and password to access them. Some courses only give you access for a limited amount of time – 12 or 18 months are common. So that means you can only study with your course during that timeframe.
When you first start to study for the CMA exam, 12 months might seem long enough. However, keep in mind that the CMA exam is actually given in two parts, so you’re essentially studying for two big exams and not just one. And most candidates spend hundreds of hours studying, which takes a while when you already have a job and other commitments. Plus, it’s inevitable that something in your personal or professional life will delay your studies for a bit. So really, it’s best to take a long-haul view of your study period.
So what happens if you purchase a course with only 12 months of access and you haven’t passed both parts of the CMA exam yet? Well, you’ll need to repurchase your course, and that’s a big expense.
Therefore, I suggest purchasing a course with unlimited or “access until you pass,” meaning that your online login will be valid until you’ve passed the CMA exam. This type of unlimited access course can cost a little more upfront, but you could very well end up spending much less because you never have to repurchase your course materials.
Plus, an unlimited access course takes away the pressure of a ticking clock counting down the days until your CMA review package expires. And when you’re already under so much pressure, why not make this one thing a little easier on yourself?
Both Part 1 and Part 2 of the CMA exam includes essays and multiple-choice questions (or MCQs). Each essay is broken down into 2-7 smaller responses. Basically, you’re presented with a real-world scenario and then you’re asked to explain how you would respond and why.
Although some CMA candidates struggle with the essays, you can master them with practice. Therefore, look for a course with plenty of practice essay questions. And of course, make sure the essay samples have answer explanations, too.
Most CMA exam review providers refer to their collection of practice MCQs as “test banks.” The questions usually come from two places. First, the IMA writes new CMA exam questions each year and then releases the old ones as study material. CMA courses compile these previously released questions into their test banks. Or, some providers have CMA experts that write questions similar to what you’ll see on the exam.
The size and quality of a test bank are really important. To start, look for a course with thousands of MCQs. After all, one of the best ways to get ready for the exam is to practice with MCQs over and over until you start to ace them all. And if you only have a few hundred or even just one or two thousand questions, you’ll have to review the same questions. And that just doesn’t help you learn as quickly as you would if you had more MCQs at your disposal.
These days, e-learning software with performance tracking is taking over the education market. After all, you more often see e-learning in K-12 classrooms, so it’s not surprising that many CMA exam review courses are using similar platforms not. Besides, this kind of software can build a personalized learning experience that ultimately leads to few study hours.
But how do these courses work? Well, here’s a short outline of a typical scenario:
Even if you’ve been in the accounting field for a while, you’ll probably have a question about the CMA exam content at some point. After all, the CMA exam is an “academic” one. That is, it tests you on material or nuanced details that you might not use in your daily practice.
Therefore, it’s useful to have access to accounting experts via your CMA exam review course when you need some help. However, review companies give you that help in different ways. Some have live (or live online) classes, so you can ask an instructor your question in real-time. Others have expert forums, and users post questions and receive a response in a certain time period.
The IMA’s Learning Outcome Statements is the official syllabus for the CMA exam. It’s fairly lengthy since the CMA exam is actually given in two parts. Therefore, it can be easy to look at the syllabus and feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that you’ll need to study.
However, that’s where a good personalized study planner comes in. A study planner will help you do just that…plan out your studies so that you’re guaranteed to cover all the material in time. The top courses include a customizable study planner, and I think they can be a big key to your overall success.
If you’re like many candidates, you’ll do a lot of studying with video or audio lessons. Besides, after going through college, most of us learn through lecture formats. Plus, you can watch videos on your own time and take notes as you go alone to learn even more. So it’s important to focus on the quality of a course’s lectures before you purchase it.
But when it comes to CMA exam review courses, what exactly does “quality” look like? Well, the answer honestly depends on the user. However, here are some things to consider:
So since lectures are such a critical component of a review course, how will you know anything about the quality of the lectures? Well, most CMA exam review providers offer free trials. Therefore, I suggest signing up for a trial and taking a look at the videos before you make a final purchase.
Of course, despite the availability of video lectures, most of us still study the old-fashioned way: by reading a book. Therefore, the quality of a course’s textbooks or study notes is important, too. Besides, a lot of people—myself included—like to study with books because they can highlight and take notes in the margin.
But don’t think that all CMA exam textbooks are equal. For example, some companies will send you hard copies. Others, though, only provide you with online texts or even just a PDF that you’ll have to print and bind yourself. So if you don’t like e-books, take note.
Mock exams are another critical component of a good CMA exam review course. After all, you won’t really know if you’re ready for the exam until you sit down and take a practice exam. And like the point I just made about textbooks, don’t’ assume that all providers have the same mock exams. They don’t. In fact, some are better than others. So what should you look for?
In the end, how do you pick the CMA exam review course that will work for you? Consider these suggestions:
Education researchers how most people learn best, and it’s really fairly straightforward. To maximize your study time, use this 1-2-3 punch: read, hear, and then engage with the materials.
But how do you do that with a self-study course? To begin, read the material in your textbook or study notes. Then, listen to that same material in a video or audio lecture. And finally, reinforce the content by interacting with it, either by answering practice questions, quizzing yourself with flashcards, taking a mock exam, or even engaging in a class discussion.
When you interact with content via these three methods (reading, hearing, and engaging), you learn the best.
The IMA claims that most candidates spend 150-170 hours studying for each part of the CMA exam. In sum, that’s more than 300 hours. And that’s just an average, so you could spend even more time getting ready for the big day.
Therefore, to maximize your efforts with your CMA exam review course, study at a time that’s best for you. Are you a morning person? If so, find a way to carve out some time to study every morning. Or are you a night owl and like to stay up after everyone else in the house has gone to bed? Conversely, will you be studying on-the-go with your online course?
Whatever works best for you, create a schedule and stick to it.
Of course, as with any big purchase, you might not be able to ignore your budget when you’re picking a CMA exam review course. Plus, you don’t want to waste valuable resources on a course that isn’t right for you.
However, don’t automatically dismiss a course because you initially think you can’t afford it. Instead, consider your CMA exam review course as an investment in your future and your career. After all, CMAs have better access to top job positions and higher salaries than their uncredentialled co-workers. So even if there is an up-front cost, it’s likely that you’ll make up for the cost of your course when you start to see better salaries.
In addition, I suggest purchasing the best course for you because you’re going to save yourself a lot of study time. And time is money, right?
Plus, many courses offer payment plans so you can spread out the cost over time. And of course, keep in mind that substantial discounts are often available. So even if you think you can’t afford a top course, you might be pleasantly surprised after you factor in a deep discount.
Remember: My sister site has CMA exam review course discounts that will save you a lot of money.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that some CMA review providers have comprehensive courses that include lots of different study tools like textbooks, flashcards or study notes, video or audio lectures, a test bank with thousands of practice questions, and maybe a mobile app. On the other hand, companies also sell so-called “supplements,” which are basically just components of their comprehensive courses that they are selling piecemeal. For instance, companies sometimes sell their test banks (collections of practice questions) or textbooks as stand-alone learning tools.
So which is better? Should you purchase a comprehensive course, which includes a lot more study materials but has a higher overall price? Or should you just buy one or two supplements and save yourself some cash?
Well, based on my personal experience, you’re better off purchasing the best full comprehensive CMA course that you can. And let me tell you why.
First, supplements don’t have all of the tools that you really need to study. For example, let’s say that you pick up a textbook from one of the companies I’ve reviewed here. Even if you read it cover to cover, you still don’t have practice questions to challenge yourself. And you can’t take any mock exams when you think you’re ready to take the real exam. And even more importantly, you won’t have any sort of professional expert support at your fingertips when you get stuck with a study problem.
Second, if you only purchase a supplement, you won’t be able to take advantage of a company’s access until you pass guarantee, if it has one. Moreover, you also won’t be able to get free updates to your material. That is, the content of the CMA exam syllabus can change from time to time. When that happens, CMA review companies will change their study materials. However, if you purchase a stand-alone supplement, chances are that you won’t get a free update if the exam content changes. And that means you could be studying with outdated material, wasting your time on material that won’t even appear on the exam.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, you won’t be studying at your prime if you only go with a supplement. Earlier in the article, do you remember when I mentioned that you learn best when you read, hear, and engage with content? Well, that’s why comprehensive CMA exam review courses come with textbooks and lectures and ways to apply your knowledge through taking practice questions, sitting for a mock exam, or even taking part in a live classroom discussion. But if you only purchase a supplement, you won’t be able to take full advantage of the quickest way to learn.
I hope this article has given you some thoughts to consider before you purchase a CMA exam review course. After all, it’s a big decision because the right course could help you pass the CMA exam on your first try.
But among five strong courses (Becker CMA, Wiley CMAexcel, Gleim CMA, Hock International, and Surgent CMA), is there a best? Well personally, if I had to pick a course for myself, I would go with Becker. Let me explain why. First, Becker has completely rewritten its CMA materials, and now they are better than ever. Second, the bite-sized videos are great for working professionals who don’t have a lot of time for long lectures. And third, Becker’s e-learning software directs your studies in such a way that you’ll probably need to study fewer hours.
Basically, Becker helps you study better, which means you’ll be better prepared for the big exam day.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!