Hello, this is Stephanie from IPasstheCMAExam.com. I’d like to talk about the essay portion of the CMA exam today, and explain how you can maximize your score using these tips on organization and time management. The Essay Grading System The essays are graded by trained subject matter experts using an approved scoring rubric to ensure objectivity and consistency. The essay is positively graded, which means you start with zero point and gain points once you are able to satisfy the requirement of the scoring rubric. It also means that there is no penalty for wrong answers. There is a maximum number of points for each essay.
Once you reach the full mark, the graders cannot give you extra points. This means that you won’t be able to rely on the essays to make up for lower performance in the multiple choice section. What are the implications? It means that you don’t need to worry too much about incorrect answers, but then, there is no need to write for pages and pages because there is a finite number of points for each argument or calculation you make. Also, since it’s a human and not a robot who will be grading your essays, the structure, flow and consistency is also very important. A number of CMA review course providers suggest writing in bullet points. I think it is a great idea, because it is a quick and concise presentation. Having said that, if the question asks for a specific format, such as a business letter, then you should follow the letter format and use bullet points within the letter. CMA Exam Essay Format The essay can be a piece of business writing, a calculation, or a combination of the two.
Computational questions are straightforward as long as you present your answer in a clear, accurate and logical manner. Please note that spreadsheet is no longer available on screen and you will need a calculator to complete the computation. The rest of the video will focus on how you can score points in business writing. What are the Graders Looking For? The CMA exam essay is meant to test your: knowledge of the exam content; ability to apply concepts in real business situations, and your ability to express clearly and logically in business writing.
Knowledge of Exam Content The essay question is based on the syllabus of the CMA exam. Therefore, as long as you prepare well enough for the multiple choice questions, you should also be doing well in the essay section. Having said that, essays often require a deeper understanding of a specific topic. Besides reading the review materials, you should spend sufficient time in the practice questions so the concepts sink in, and that you can learn how to apply the concepts in answering more in-depth questions. Ability to Apply Concepts in Real Business Situations Knowing the CMA content-specific facts does not mean you know when and how to apply them. When you face with an essay question, you should: Read each word in the question carefully to understand what the examiner is asking; identify the major concepts being tested; identify keywords that can be used in the piece of writing I use a mind map to brainstorm as many relevant keywords as possible, because inclusion of the correct keywords can easily help you score points. Other candidates list the keywords in bullet points, which is great too.
Ability to Express Clearly and Logically in Business Writing The CMA exam does not test your technical writing skills, but there is a basic requirement of writing in a concise and coherent manner. Therefore, you should focus on simple and clear writing and leave out the flowery, complicated words. For more tips on how to write clearly and logically, please refer to the section titled “How to excel in business writing” in this article on my website. Time Management and Organization Exams are meant to test your knowledge, but in practice, you need strategies to pass the exam. One of the most important strategies is time management. In the CMA exam, you are given one hour to work on two essay questions. If you are able to complete the first part of the exam, that is, the multiple choice questions early, you will be able to use the remaining time on the essays. For example, if you finish the multiple choice questions 20 minutes early, you will have one hour and 20 minutes for the essay questions. As a general rule, you should allocate half of the available time for each essay.
In our example, since we have 1 hour and 20 minutes, there will be 40 minutes for each essay. If you don’t have the extra time, then 30 minutes for each essay. As a time management strategy, you can divide the available time into three parts. The first 5 minutes A typical business writing consists of an introduction, main content and conclusion.
Spend the first 5 minutes understanding the question, write the introductory paragraph and brainstorm keywords. For example, the question asks you to compare two given costing methodologies, that is, job order costing and activity based costing, and make recommendation to the management of a particular organization in the form of a business memo. Your first step is to understand the question. There are two actions here: to compare and to recommend. Then, identify the keywords.
In this case, it is “job order costing” and “activity-based costing". Now, you are ready to write the introductory paragraph. My tips for you is to start the first sentence by rephrasing the question of the essay. In this case, I would write: to senior management, from Manager X in accounting department. The following is the pros and cons comparison of job order costing and activity-based costing. Please find my recommendation at the end of this memo.” Make sure all the action words and keywords are included. Don’t copy and paste straightly from the question because the examiner will assume that you don’t go through a thought process. Unless the subject is very complex, a few sentences are good enough for the introduction.
You can spend the remaining few minutes to brainstorm more keywords related to costing methodologies, their benefits and limitations. The next 20 minutes This is the time to organize and write the main content. Proper organization prior to the actual writing is extremely important to ensure the writing is clear, concise, logical and easy to understand. The best way to do it is to list out the content in bullet points, and fill them up with keywords to help you score points. Once you have a good outline, start writing. The last 5 minutes A good piece of business writing requires a concluding paragraph at the end. It can be in the form of a summary or recommendation. Remember what has been asked here.
In our example, we need to make a recommendation so make sure you pick one costing methodology and explain the reason. Similar to the introduction, the conclusion can be short. Once you are done, proof-read the entire piece of writing. If English is not your first language, you may want to allocate 10 minutes instead of 5 for writing the conclusion and for the proof reading. Confidence Improves Your Performance In the CMA exam, the essay section is shown only if you get at least 50% correct in multiple-choice questions. Therefore, congratulate yourself if you are able to move on to the next section. Most readers told me that essays are the easier part of the CMA exam, because the questions are mostly straightforward. So, stay calm, be confident, and give your best shot.
Write down the keywords, organize your thoughts, structure the essay in 3 paragraphs, and watch the time. You will be done before you know it! I hope this video gives you an overview of CMA exam essay questions, and tips on how to maximize your score and pass the exam. If you have any questions, please drop a note in the comment section. You may want to subscribe to my youtube channel for more tips and updates of the CMA exam. Thanks for watching and see you in the next video.
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