The Certified Management Account Exam (CMA Exam) has several exam prep options at your fingertips, each involving different study materials and techniques. Your primary choices include: 

  • Full courses with adaptive learning 
  • Full courses with linear learning
  • Test banks, study guides and textbooks  

This comparison will help you evaluate your options, see why you should consider an adaptive course and examine the use cases for other study materials. 

Study option 1: courses with adaptive learning

Before comparing adaptive courses, you need to understand how adaptive learning works and be wary of courses that claim to be adaptive. 

What is adaptive learning?

According to, adaptive learning is defined as follows: 

“Adaptive learning is a methodology for teaching and learning that strives to personalize lessons, readings, practice activities, and assessments for individual students based on their current skills and performance.  

Adaptive learning software personalizes learning by using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to “adapt” the learning path offered to an individual student in real time. Later, the data captured by adaptive learning software can be analyzed by faculty and administrators to review the needs of individual students or groups of students in a course. They can then adapt instruction to those needs during a term, and they can revise a course between terms. Similarly, students can use data about their skills and performance to adapt their learning practices. 

Key terms in this definition include “real time,” “analysis” and “revise.” A truly adaptive course, like Surgent CMA Review, will optimize your study plan as you go. That means the algorithm reassesses yesterday’s progress as you answer questions today.  

In the background, the course continually evaluates which topics you need to revisit and where you should advance. 

Surgent’s adaptive learning technology

One of the top benefits of using Surgent is that you will never have to revisit older material. Other providers will have you study a section, complete a quiz and evaluate progress. If you pass, you move on – leaving room to forget older material and waste time re-learning.  

On the other hand, Surgent’s adaptive learning technology will constantly present you with questions mixing in old and new material. As you become proficient in the old material, it will drastically reduce (but never completely disappear). You’ll never go more than a few days without seeing material, so you’ll never lose progress. 

A truly adaptive learning course will empower you to study as efficiently as possible, maximize retention of information, and increase your odds of passing on the first try. Better still, an instructor (or in Surgent’s case – an exam coach) can analyze results to make further personalized recommendation. 

Study option 2: courses using linear learning

On the other hand, a linear learning course presents you with plenty of material, but leaves it to the learner to prioritize which content to study.  

This study-it-all approach is more time consuming – plus you risk taking an exam when you aren’t ready. That’s because you might forget older material as you progress. 

Similar to adaptive courses, linear learning courses include features like textbooks, flashcards, audio lectures and practice exams. The primary difference is how you’ll manually choose which content is your focus. 

Most people choose linear learning when they fear adaptive could steer them astray. Or, they are simply willing to invest the time in studying a full course. 

Study option 3: Textbooks, study guides and test banks

If you know which learning features you’ll prefer, purchasing standalone materials can help you mix and match. For instance, perhaps you prefer textbook learning and don’t want to purchase a course that includes audio features you’ll never use. 

If you already have a strong understanding of all exam content, are a strong test-taker and feel confident you’ll pass; these options can be a good tool to brush up on material. Or, they might be a good way to supplement other study tools. 

However, you’ll likely benefit from the unlimited practice exam, tutoring, and score predicting features that come with a full course. If you aren’t confident you’ll pass, the investment is well worth it for the added assurance. 

Is a CMA exam tutor worth it?

One of the best study tools at your disposal is a tutor. Just like adaptive technology, you’ll make a better decision when you understand the ins and outs of tutoring.  

The primary difference between Surgent exam coaches and traditional tutors is what they teach you.  

Surgent exam coach

Surgent has seen great success with coaching in these cases: 

  • The exam candidate has already failed and needs to try a new strategy 
  • They completed studies with a different provider and are looking for a new way to get ahead 
  • They already understand the course material and need help with test-taking 

Surgent coaches make efficiency the primary focus. Much like SAT prep, coaches will: 

  • Help you understand what to expect on the exam 
  • Help you select which order to take each section 
  • Help you develop study skills to increase the power of each study session 
  • Teach you answering strategies based on your personal practice exam results 
  • Improve your study/testing focus and endurance 
  • Help you reduce errors on the material you already know – meaning you can spend less time studying new material 

If you happen to have questions about the course material, Surgent provides an email address for content support. Separate from coaching, this feature is available for all purchasers. 

Traditional tutors

With other CMA prep tutors, course material is the primary focus. These tutors will: 

  • Help you understand what to expect on the exam 
  • Help you select which order to take each section 
  • Answer your questions about course content 

For this reason, traditional tutors are not helpful for exam candidates who already have a strong understanding of material. 

Ready to start studying for the CMA Exam?

Surgent has all of the tools and support to get you to the finish line. That’s why the Accounting Institute for Success lists Surgent as “one of the most comprehensive study tools on the market.”  

Key features include: 

  • Award-winning adaptive technology – Our patented A.S.A.P. Technology saves you hundreds of study hours, providing a fully personalized learning experience. 
  • Score prediction features – Our ReadySCORE metric updates in real time, so you know your predicted score at any given moment of studying. 
  • Unlimited practice exams – Whether you choose a package or individual section, you’ll get access to unlimited practice exams. 
  • Free automatic content updates – Your course updates in real time to match exam changes, so you’re always studying the most relevant material. 

Sign up for a free trial to give it a try and start studying.