Preparing for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam is a significant time and energy investment. We all have professional, family, and personal commitments which can prevent us from devoting the necessary time to study and take practice exams. If we do not guard our time, we can quickly fall behind in our preparation.
Passing the CMA exam is all about managing priorities, not time
I’ve passed the CMA and the CPA exams, and the biggest challenge I faced was creating a regular study routine. When I made study time a part of my daily routine, I was able to stay on track and devote the necessary time to properly prepare. I made studying for the exam a top priority, and I found sufficient time to prepare for the exam with a new job and personal commitments throughout the week.
You can also find the time to prepare for the exam if you intentionally manage your priorities, then manage your time. We all have 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. The key is to effectively manage that time to maximize your investment of energy.
Five tips to help you manage your priorities to prepare for the CMA exam
- Select your exam date as soon as possible – The Institute of Management Accountants offers the exam in three two-month windows. The windows are January-February, May-June, and September-October. As soon as you decide which window fits your schedule, reserve your date and time. This will give you a firm end date around which you can manage your study time.
- Create a weekly time schedule – You must identify the times each week where you will make studying for the CMA exam a priority. Michael Hyatt has produced an Excel spreadsheet version of a weekly calendar template which you can use to schedule your time. I have also created a Google spreadsheet template which you can copy and edit to suit your purposes. Use either of these templates to schedule your ideal week and prioritize your schedule.
- Take advantage of your lunch break to study – Not only will this allow you to get your mind off of your daily work, you will sneak a bonus hour of study time during the day. Over a 12-week study period, using your lunch breaks to study can add up to 60 hours to your study time.
- Take breaks during your study – Your break routine will vary, but you cannot sit down for hours at a time. I work best when I focus for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. After every four cycles, I take a 15-minute break. We are wired to work hard and then rest. Structure your study time to take some breaks.
- Take one day a week off from any studying – When I studied for the CMA exam, I took Fridays off. I did not touch my books at all. Your mind needs the escape and the ability to process and link all of the material you have learned. You can return to your studying the next day refreshed and with more motivation.
I studied 12–15 hours a week when I prepared for the exams. I studied two to two and a half hours four days a week, four hours on Saturday, and three hours on Sunday. Over a 12-week period, this allowed me to study up to 150 hours for the exam. I passed each of the prior exam’s three parts on my first try. I credit my preparation before studying and my creation of a weekly study schedule with passing the exam.
How will you prepare to study for the exam? Share your thoughts in the comments below!