The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenges for businesses around the world. As various governments, businesses, and people work to transition out of lockdown and reopen economies, the risk management and value-creation skills of accounting and finance professionals are more critical than ever. In such a time, certifications such as the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) and CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) can provide great value. That’s why the ICMA® (Institute of Certified Management Accountants) staff and the ICMA Board of Regents are hard at work ensuring the integrity and relevance of the CMA and CSCA certifications, keeping up with the rapidly changing profession, and helping our CMAs to be ready for the future. At the same time, we’re focused on candidate safety and working to create ways to accommodate the demand for testing in this time of crisis.
NEW CONTENT SPECIFICATION OUTLINE
During the January-February 2020 testing window, we introduced a new CMA content specification outline. This revised CMA body of knowledge encompasses a powerful set of tools to help companies navigate a challenging set of forces.
A new content domain—Technology and Analytics—was added to Part 1, Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics. Mining data, performing advanced analytics on that data, and visualizing the data to help senior leaders make data-based decisions about the future of their companies are skills businesses need in these difficult and dynamic economic times. Part 2, Strategic Financial Management, now contains more content on business ethics and strategic decision making. Companies are under pressure not only to survive, but to reinvent themselves with different business models. Having a strong ethical framework as a guidepost helps decision makers and the financial professionals supporting them make the right decisions.
CMA candidates seem well prepared for the revised exam: The January-February testing window pass rate was 45% for both Part 1 and Part 2. For Part 1, this represents an increase from the 35% pass rate that candidates have been averaging over the last several years and is in line with the average of 45% for Part 2.
Although one can’t project these results to future testing periods, it’s encouraging to see candidates understand that these are important content areas, have studied hard, and are well supported by the review course publishers and instructors that helped them prepare. Results for the second testing window, which began May 1 and ended July 31, will be available in September 2020.
TESTING DURING COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in considerable uncertainty that affected many individuals’ plans for taking the CMA exam. To respond to this impact, ICMA extended the May-June 2020 testing window to July 31 and will begin the September-October 2020 window on August 1. The change provides six consecutive months of testing, giving candidates more flexibility, and should alleviate some stress about exam scheduling.
Prometric testing centers around the world have resumed operations. The health and safety of everyone is ICMA’s and Prometric’s priority, and Prometric has made modifications to its testing centers and facilities to ensure a safe test-taking experience. In addition, new procedures have been enacted to help ensure the health of those taking a test, including:
- All test takers are required to bring and wear face masks (medical mask or cloth) during the entirety of their time at the test center.
- Test takers are permitted to use gloves while testing.
- Social distancing practices will be enforced throughout the check-in and testing process.
- All Prometric test center staff members are required to wear protective masks.
- Points of physical contact/touchpoints between staff and test takers have been reduced.
- New and continuous cleaning protocols have been instituted.
For more detailed information on the revised testing center procedures, visit bit.ly/2ZHy0Gi.
THE BOARD OF REGENTS
Keeping current with the rapidly changing management accounting profession and making decisions that impact candidates during these challenging times is a team effort. ICMA staff works closely with the ICMA Board of Regents to manage the certification programs. Maintaining the integrity and high reputation of the CMA and CSCA programs is a primary goal of both the Board of Regents and ICMA staff.
The Board of Regents is a volunteer group of up to 21 CMAs, working across diverse geographies and industries, including both practicing management accountants and university faculty. Its specific responsibilities include developing overall strategy for the certification programs, creating policies for acceptance into the certification programs, revising content specification outlines as appropriate, reviewing and revising exam questions, establishing exam passing standards, forming policies for granting and maintaining certifications in good standing, and initiating new products.
Along with ICMA staff, the Board of Regents conceived of and developed the CSCA program, conducted the recent CMA job analysis study, and revised the CMA content specification outline. When a significant change to the exams is implemented, a passing standard for that exam must be established using the Modified-Angoff approach, a psychometrically valid method of setting an objective passing standard.
The Regents work with ICMA staff and another volunteer committee, the Exam Review Committee, to review proposed exam questions to ensure the questions are of high quality and appropriate for the CMA and CSCA exams. This ensures the reliability of the exams. A reliable exam means you can be confident in the pass/fail results of the exam and expect those results to be consistent.
A COMPELLING CERTIFICATION
Demand for the CMA certification remains strong. Although many key performance indicators were lower in this past fiscal year due to the pandemic, approximately 39,000 new candidates joined the CMA program, and there were more than 76,000 exam registrations. And the more than 13,500 certifications issued within the fiscal year is a record high.
The entire CMA community is making a difference in these times of uncertainty. Many companies will need to innovate their business models, and revise their long-term strategy to weather the pandemic. CMAs can help their organizations manage costs and forecast cash requirements, helping their companies to not only survive the economic crisis but also prosper. With their business insight skills, CMAs identify opportunities for growth and ways to finance it: Planning and analysis, data analytics, risk management, performance metrics, and decision support are all skills companies need today more than ever. Not only that, but CMAs can be trusted business advisors with a strong grounding in ethical decision making. As we all continue to find our way in the COVID-19 era, the ICMA staff and Board of Regents will strive to support CMAs and ensure they, in turn, can help their companies thrive.