The American Institute of CPAs is beginning to administer exams for the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation.

When the AICPA and its partner, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, first unveiled their CGMA joint venture in 2011, they said they would begin offering the credential in early 2012 to CPAs and CIMA members who already had three years of management accounting experience, specifically involvement in the practice of running a business (see AICPA Approves Joint Venture to Create Management Credential). They then planned to offer the CGMA exam to future credential holders starting this year.

At the AICPA’s Spring Meeting of Council in Washington, D.C., last week, Arleen Thomas, the AICPA’s senior vice president of management accounting global markets, discussed the new exam. “Now that the grandfathering period is over, it’s time to build a pipeline of CGMAs,” she said. “As we closed out calendar year 2014, we reached our goal of 150,000 CGMAs around the world. We had made a goal for ourselves back in about 2011 that we would reach that goal in 2018, so we were well ahead of ourselves, and we were really quite thrilled about that. For those of you who are not yet CGMAs, you have an opportunity next week to actually take the exam and start the experience.”

Thomas said CPAs would be able to sit for the CGMA exam on May 29. She then offered a preview of the test.

“The first thing you need to do is absolutely forget everything you know about the CPA exam,” she said. “It is as different as night and day from the CPA exam. The CGMA exam is a case study, and it’s ‘ripped from the headlines.’”

The case study is built around an oil company that is drilling in the Arctic Ocean. It includes pre-provided reading material about the company’s financial statements, mission, values, and the role that the exam taker plays in their organization as a senior financial executive. However, the company has many dry holes drilled that are not producing oil and as a result its share price is steadily falling.

“If I were preparing for this exam, I would probably go out and refresh myself on what is going on in the oil and gas world,” Thomas advised. “Look at competitors, look at who else is out drilling in the north seas, refresh yourself on oil and gas accounting.”

She recommended CGMA exam takers also look at companies that have experienced declining stock prices and how they managed to improve their performance.

CGMA candidates can take practice exams from Pearson Vue to prepare for the actual exam.

“Then the day I go to the Pearson Vue center, when I sit down, I start to get a series of triggers that force me to think and do a presentation to the board on various topics,” said Thomas. “You might think of it as a preliminary challenge that comes in at the last minute.”

Thomas suggested that CGMA candidates visit CGMA for a Day on CGMA.org to take an exam simulation. “It’s a game that simulates what it’s like to take the exam, and I really encourage you to do that,” she said. “It truly is a unique experience and we have run our learning experience down in North Carolina to help prepare the first batch of CPAs that will be taking the CGMA.”

She introduced Charles Robertson, vice president of products and consolidated analytics at TD Bank, in Greenville, S.C., who took the CGMA exam prep course in North Carolina. By videoconference, he told the audience about how he has been preparing for the exam. He said he liked the format of the training. They went through several possible exam scenarios and triggers for responses to the instructors.

“It really brought out the need to develop leadership and people skills, looking at strategies, truly building on more than the technical aspects of what we do so well as CPAs,” he said.

TD Bank has been encouraging many of its financial executives to become CGMA holders and is providing support for their training.