Each part of the US CMA exam has two essay scenarios. The US CMA essays describe a scenario and ask several questions that require a written response, a calculation, or both. US CMA exam essays are not graded by a computer. Your CMA exam essay will be graded by a subject matter expert, and partial credit may be given, so be sure to show your work!
For more information on how the CMA questions will look on the CMA exam, check out this comprehensive guide.
While the US CMA essays can seem daunting, they can be conquered with a good study plan and by employing these CMA essay tips:
1. Skim the essay scenario before you read the questions
By skimming the scenario, you’ll have context to help you understand the questions. Then you can read the questions to determine which areas of the scenario need your focus (this will help you avoid extraneous information).
2. Read the question to determine the requirements for the answer
Focusing on the requirements of the question will let you identify the important information in the scenario. You will only get full credit if you answer all of the components of the question, so checking off requirements as you work through the essay can help ensure you don’t miss anything.
3. Answer the easiest questions first
Within any essay scenario, some questions will be easier than others. Getting a few easy questions solved before you tackle a tougher question can help you build your confidence and get your essay started. You can pick up a lot of points quickly, so if you have to spend a lot of time on the other questions in the scenario, you won’t lose the opportunity to earn the easy points if you begin running out of time later.
4. Make sure your solution answers the question being asked
It is easy to get caught up in writing an explanation, and this can cause your essay to go off topic. Be sure to rein in any off-topic explanations and focus on answering the question that is being asked. Off-topic information won’t earn you any credit.
5. Show as much of your work as possible in your essay solution
You can receive partial credit for any part of your US CMA exam essay, so including all of your work allows graders to follow your analysis and assign all of the points you deserve. Even if your final answer is wrong, you could receive the majority of the credit for it if the bulk of your work is correct.
For example, if your final answer is wrong because of a calculation error, but you showed your work and the grader was able to determine you used the correct formula and chose the correct numbers, you can get partial credit.
NOTE: Graders will not penalize you for a mistake multiple times, so even if the mistake you made appears throughout your response, you’ll only be marked off for it once.
6. Organize your reasoning so the graders can understand it easily
Writing in an organized manner will ensure the graders can follow along with your process and thoughts. If a grader has to reread a section multiple times to understand what you’re trying to explain, that will probably cost you some points.
Remember, the reason there are essay questions is to ensure candidates can effectively communicate the reason behind the numbers and make recommendations based on their calculations to management. Your communication skills are just as important as your ability to calculate the answer.
NOTE: This really boils down to writing short sentences, staying on topic, and organizing your essay in a logical manner.
7. Go above and beyond the question requirements when time allows
Adding additional, on-topic content can be a great way to earn points on a US CMA exam essay. If you have time and your essay’s organization allows it, adding more detail to a topic demonstrates that you understand the topic and might help improve the grader’s understanding of your essay.
NOTE: It is easy to go too far with this, so be sure you have a plan for what additional detail you’d like to add. If you just start adding random or off-topic sentences to an otherwise well-organized essay, it could cost you.
8. Quickly proofread your responses to verify that they make sense
Spending a few minutes rereading your responses will help you catch obvious errors that can cost you points. In addition, it is a great opportunity to notice if anything is introduced out of order or doesn’t make sense.
(Source: Gleim CMA Review)
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