CMA Exam Changes in 2020

For any and all people interested in becoming Certified Management Accountants (CMA), there’s some big news: The 2020 exam is going to have some big changes. Consequently, you need to know everything that’s going to be different if you plan on earning CMA certification in the near future. Read on to learn about everything that the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) has announced.

Exam Changes Overview

What’s Different?

CMA Exam New TechnologiesBoth the titles and content of the exam are going to be different.

First, part one of the exam will have a new focus on technology. According to the ICMA, a CMA must be equipped to handle the new technologies that are revolutionizing their profession. Because of that, part one’s content and title will be changed to reflect new technological and analytical advancements.

Furthermore, part two will also be revised to reflect on the new ethical requirements for a new digital landscape. Hence, the ICMA plans to add onto both the Decision Making and Analysis and Professional Ethics portions of the test.

EXAM PARTREVISED TITLEREVISED CONTENTREMOVED CONTENT
PART 1Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
Integrated Reporting, Analytics and Technology
Internal Auditing
PART 2Strategic Financial ManagementEthics in Business, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility
Bankruptcy, Tax Implications of Transfer Pricing, and Off-Balance Sheet Financing

What’s Staying the Same?

The changes planned for the 2020 exam will not affect the structure of the exam. Instead, they will be focused on the content. 

Listed below are areas that will not be affected:

  • Exam costs
  • Testing windows
  • Types and number of questions (multiple-choice questions, etc)
  • The administration process
  • The registration process
  • Time spent on test
  • What is considered a passing score

Changes in Coverage Percentage

In order to account for the added content in the 2020 exam, the ICMA will be altering the coverage percentages of each of the exam’s content areas. This has been done to avoid changing the question count and time limit for the exam.

Listed below are the new percentages for content coverage:

CONTENT AREA2019 COVERAGE PERCENT2020 COVERAGE PERCENT
PART 1
External Financial Reporting Decisions
15.00%15.00%
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
30.00%20.00%
Performance Management
20.00%20.00%
Cost Management20.00%15.00%
Technology and AnalyticsN/A15.00%
PART 2
Financial Statement Analysis

25.00%20.00%
Financial Statement Analysis
20.00%20.00%
Decision Analysis20.00%25.00%
Risk Management10.00%10.00%
Investment Decisions15.00%10.00%
Professional Ethics10.00%15.00%

In part one, both Financial Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting and Cost Management exam content sections are going to be reduced in order to account for the new section. Additionally, the newly added Technology and Analytics section will be focused on information systems, data governance, data analytics, and technology enabled financial transformation. Ultimately, this added section makes the exam more balanced between the two parts, as both now have six sections.

Finally, part two has been re-balanced so that both the Decision Analysis and Professional Ethics sections can gain more focus.

Why Are These Changes Happening?

Changes to the exam are largely decided by a series of studies the ICMA completes every five to seven years. Essentially, these studies are job analysis intended to examine new responsibilities CMAs face and how that should be reflected in their certification exam. To do so, the ICMA consults with numerous accounting professionals to discover what new skills CMAs need to succeed in business. These results are then used to revise the certification test.

ICMA Logo

The most recent study has informed the ICMA that the test must be adjusted so that CMAs can be better prepared for their work. New innovations, such as automating work processes with AI and blockchain technology, mean that accountants must know how to work within an ever evolving digital landscape. Hence, a new set of skills are required and the test must be changed to reflect that.

Changes in the 2020 Exam Dates

The first appearance of the revised English exam will be on January 1st, Changes to 2020 CMA Exam Dates2020. Following that will be the appearance of the Chinese language version of the updated exam in April 2020. 

The final chance to take the current CMA exam is in the September and October testing block. That means that any tests after that will be using the revised version of the test.

Registrations for the 2020 English language exam are available for purchase now. Registration for the Chinese language exam will be available in November.

Additional Information

Should you finish your testing during the 2019 test window, you won’t have to worry about any of the new changes. However, if you only complete one part of the exam this year you will have to take the new version of the part two exam in 2020.

If you end up taking a part of your exam this year and a part of it next year, passing the 2019 test will still be valid if you’ve paid your entrance fee. You will also need to pass the second part within three years of completing the first part, otherwise that completion will no longer be valid.

Ultimately, there will be no changes to the CMA program in this way. It still must be fully completed within three years of paying for the entrance fee.

IMA Logo

The IMA’s support package for the exam will be updated to reflect the new changes. However, these materials may not be enough for you. If you want to be fully prepared for the new version of the test, consider paying for a CMA test prep course. Any CMA prep course worth their salt will be updating their course content to reflect the new changes, so don’t be afraid of purchasing an outdated system.

How to Prepare for the New 2020 CMA Exam

Prepare For CMA Exam

You may be wondering, how will these new exam changes affect me?

There are a few ways the test might impact you. If you’ve already taken part of the test, you can try to finish up the other part before the year ends. That would mean that you wouldn’t have to worry about any of the new changes. Basically, you have almost a year to complete the other part, so that option shouldn’t be any trouble for you.

However, if you need to take one or both parts next year you will see the new changes. But don’t panic; by the time you start studying, all of the prep courses will have changed to reflect the new test content. Besides, the new test is designed to help you succeed as a CMA. If anything, you’ll have an advantage over those who took it in 2019!

Ultimately, the new changes are not scary in the slightest and are intended to help you succeed in your new career. As long as you study up on what’s going to be on the test, you’ll be just fine!

Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Auditor, Tax Preparer and College Professor. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.