UWO ranked top in the nation for CMA pass rates

Accounting students at UW Oshkosh ranked first in the nation for first-time pass rates on the international Certified Management Accountant exam with a 95%.

The March 2019 issue of Strategic Finance used data from the Institute of Certified Management Accountants spanning from the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2017 to rank the schools with the highest pass rates on the CMA. UWO ranked top on the list for first-time pass rates with 14 new participants and 18 total candidates.

The CMA prepares students for jobs in the management accounting profession. This is opposed to the Certified Public Accountant exam, which is required for many public accounting jobs. Management accountants are employed by the company for which they do accounting work while public accountants are hired as contractors for different management accounting companies.

UWO accounting professor Dr. Steve Makar said he would describe the CMA exam as a broad exam that goes beyond accounting.

“The CPA exam is a mile deep, the CMA is a mile wide,” Makar said. “It’s a broad, multi-discipline exam with a lot of economics, a lot of finance and accounting.”

According to Gleim, a company that helps students prepare for the CMA, the exam is taken in two four-hour parts with the first having a 35% pass rate and the second having a 50% pass rate in recent years. Each part is comprised of 100 multiple-choice questions and two essay questions.

College of Business Dean Barbara Rau said she feels an enormous sense of pride in both the students and the faculty.

“I am just so happy that their results reflect how hard I know they all work,” Rau said. “Our accounting faculty are so dedicated to student learning, and the students appreciate that.”

Makar developed a program in 2005 that helps students prepare for the exam by giving them the opportunity to talk to alumni who have passed the CMA. Makar said he contacts students who attend these Q&A sessions to see how passionate they are about taking the exam and offers about 10 ambitious candidates a scholarship opportunity that pays for the cost of the exam (about $800).

“I tell students when they come to the Q&A sessions, ‘Okay, you’re sitting here as a student, but I want you to pay it forward. Once you pass the exam, you come back and help the next students, and then it keeps going,’” Makar said.

UWO 2018 accounting graduate Ben Kleist took the exam using the scholarship offered by Dr. Makar.

“Dr. Makar really promoted [the CMA exam] in all of his classes; he did a really good job of letting students know it was available,” Kleist said. “It’s a good thing to put on a résumé, showing employers that you actually have some varied interests in accounting.”

Since graduating, Kleist has accepted a position as an auditor for the Milwaukee public accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Rau said she encourages students to take exams like the CMA in their field of study.

“Certification and licensing exams are important for signaling students’ mastery of content in their field but also their interest and commitment to their future profession,” Rau said. “The more you know, the easier your entry into your first professional job.”