IMA highlights top-performing schools for CMA exam

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The Institute of Management Accountants is shedding light on the colleges and universities in the U.S. and other parts of the world whose students had the highest pass rates on the Certified Management Accountant exam.

The results this year indicated that five U.S. schools — Cornell University, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the University of Southern Indiana, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin in Madison — achieved an 90 percent pass rate or better, in contrast with the 50 percent global pass rate.

“It highlights the fact that schools who have a good strong accounting curriculum, particularly in management accounting, and particularly in covering the material on the CMA exam, those students are going to do well on the exam, and they’ll be better prepared for their careers going forward, especially those who are going to work inside industry as opposed to public accounting,” said IMA senior vice president of certifications Dennis Whitney.

In some cases, the IMA worked with individual universities on validating their curricula. “Some of them are what we call ‘IMA endorsed’ colleges and universities,” said Whitney. “We review their curriculum and then the IMA endorses them if they cover a certain percentage of the CMA exam, so some of them are endorsed, and others are just very strong universities who have very good accounting programs, particularly in management accounting.”

The schools that tend to achieve high pass rates provide students with alternatives to the traditional career in public accounting.

“They’re giving their students the education that there’s another career out there, that the CPA and auditing is a great career, and it’s a very important career, but it’s not for everybody,” said Whitney. “Many of those in the auditing profession wind up working inside organizations eventually. The other alternative is the management accounting career, which is a very rewarding one, and they’re giving them the courses that they need to help prepare them for that: more emphasis on corporate finance, more on decision-making courses, and more on management accounting, and also more of an emphasis on data analytics and technology.”

The IMA is planning to add more of a technology component to the CMA exam in the future, including data analytics (see IMA plans to update CMA exam with more of a tech focus). “Those are some of the skills that are in high demand today and will be even more so in the future,” said Whitney.

Ethics and decision-making will also make up more of the CMA exam, along with integrated reporting and sustainability.

“Sustainability and integrated reporting are not catching on as much in the U.S., but globally they’re very important, particularly in Europe, and companies in the U.S. are starting to adopt integrated reporting,” said Whitney. “The way they do it is a little different. Perhaps they have their own version of it, but we feel it’s important for management accountants to have some understanding of integrated reporting and the six capitals, for example, because this is a global certification, and the CMA is a global passport. You might be working here in the U.S. today, but sometime in the future you might be working in Amsterdam or Dubai, for example, and you need those skills.”

Outside the U.S., the IMA also saw some schools in Asia and Europe performing especially well on the CMA exam. In the Asia Pacific region, Ningbo University in China and De La Salle University in the Philippines ranked at the top, which both had 100 percent pass rates. In Europe, Bogazici University in Turkey, the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands had the highest pass rates. In the Middle East, the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Notre Dame University–Louaize in Lebanon came out on top.

The IMA also looked at the eight school countries in terms of the percentage of CMA candidates who end up actually taking the exam. China led the way among the different countries in terms of candidates who sit for the CMA exam, at 43 percent, followed by the U.S. at 19 percent. India came in third at 13 percent.

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