CIMA® Certification Examination Information


The CIMA® certification process requires candidates to pass a Certification Examination.


CIMA® Certification Examination


Exam Format

  • 140 multiple-choice questions: 125 scored, 15 non-scored pretest questions.
  • 5 hour-long, computer-based examination at local Pearson VUE testing centers or through Proctor U for online testing.
  • Calculator Policy
    • Approved use of one of the following calculators: HP 10b, HP 10bII, HP10bII Plus, HP 12C, HP 12C Platinum, HP 17B, HP17BII, HP 17BII Plus, as well as the Texas Instrument BA II Plus, BA II Plus Professional, and BA II Plus Business Analyst (newer and older versions of all are allowed). The Institute does not endorse or recommend any specific model.
    • Candidates are required to clear their financial calculator's memory prior to an exam. Any notes, including manually programmed formulas, will not be allowed in the testing area. If the calculator has notes/formulas printed on the calculator, or includes any other information, it must be removed or covered by solid color tape. Calculators are subject to inspection by test center staff.
  • Approved use of the Sample Formula Sheet will be electronically accessible to candidates at the time of testing.

Study Considerations

  • Preparation for the exam is entirely self-study; 150 hours of preparation is recommended.
  • Varying study resources results in quicker success.

Scheduling, Testing and Fees for the Certification ExamTesting Center

  • The exam is offered year-round at Pearson VUE testing centers or through Proctor U for online testing.
  • The fee for an initial exam attempt is included with the CIMA® certification program application fee.
  • A 30 day wait period between attempts, and retake fees apply. Retake fees are US$225 for Institute members and US$325 for nonmembers. Exam attempts are unlimited.
  • The Institute requires all candidates who have completed the executive education program to sit for the certification exam within a 90 day scheduling window. If candidates are unable to sit for the exam in their specified window, a rescheduling fee of US$225 for Institute Members (US$325 for nonmembers) is required to open a new 90 day exam window. 

The CIMA® certification Core of Body of Knowledge includes five knowledge domains covering 22 knowledge sections that investment advisors and consultants with at least three years’ experience are required to know.


CIMA Core Topics
If you are a candidate for CIMA® certification, the exam will test the major topic areas below.


Exam Percentage Domains Sections
15% Fundamentals Statistics and Methods, Applied Finance and Economics, Global Capital Markets
20% Investments Vehicles, Equity, Fixed income, Alternative investments, Options/futures, Real assets
20% Portfolio Theory and Behavioral Finance Portfolio theories and models, Behavioral finance, Investment philosophies and styles, Tools and strategies
20% Risk and Return Attributes of risk, Risk measurements, Performance measurement and attribution
25% Portfolio Construction and Consulting Process Ethics, Client discovery, Investment policy, Portfolio construction, Manager search and selection, Portfolio review and revisions

Certification Exam Pass Rates


The table below reflects the CIMA® Certification Exam’s pass rate for specified periods.

Time Period First-Time Testers Re-Testers

 Most Recent Quarter Pass Rate: 01/01/2023 – 03/31/2023

55% 25%
*Past 2-Year Pass Rate: 04/01/2021 – 03/31/2023 51% 31% 

*Reflects statistics relating to the CIMA® Certification Exam under blue prints from two separate Job Task Analysis Reports

Developing and Scoring the Examinations

A reliable and defensible exam begins with a job analysis, a study of the knowledge, skills, activities, and tasks performed by a typical candidate seeking CIMA® certification. The process requires a representative sample of volunteer certification holders to write knowledge, skill, and task statements (KSAs). These statements are put before the industry at large in the form of a survey. Practitioners rate the KSA statements based on criteria such as level of importance, frequency performed, etc. The results directly inform which categories are included on the examination and the percentage of questions selected for each category. A new job analysis is conducted approximately every five years to identify major changes in the work activities covered by the certification.

Standard setting is the process by which test programs establish a cut-score, or minimum score required to pass a test. Criterion-referencing compares people to an objective standard of performance or knowledge regardless of test form, time, and location by explicitly linking the passing standard to the purpose of the exam. Criterion-referenced standard setting is not strictly data driven. Rather, it is based on the sound professional judgment of subject matter experts (SMEs).

Before beginning the standard setting activity, SME participants often take the test, so they can read the items (test questions) in a context similar to test candidates. Next, SMEs think about a hypothetical person who performs just well enough on the job to be considered successful. Then, SMEs describe the performance level required to be able to just pass the test (i.e., just good enough to be certified or move onto the next level). This is the minimum standard required to be certified, licensed, or considered for selection/promotion. Test candidates that meet that criterion are traditionally referred to as Just Sufficiently Qualified (JSQ) Candidates or Minimally Qualified Candidates.

ExamOnce the performance level is defined, SMEs review the test content and make multiple independent rounds of judgments about what type of test score constitutes a JSQ level.

Between rounds, SMEs share their first judgments with each other and facilitators provide impact data, such as the percentage of all candidates who answered a selected-response test item correctly. The discussion and impact data are important to ensure that SMEs have a shared understanding of the JSQ level, which enhances their level of agreement. After the discussions are complete, the SMEs independently make a final judgment without further discussion. The analyst calculates a cut-score later and provides the recommendation to the policy making body. The analyst uses equating techniques across forms to ensure that candidates are treated equitably regardless of which items appear.

For more information about the Certification Exam, download the Candidate Handbook.