CMT program is self-study, so be sure to follow the required readings for each level.
For a complete list of exam topics, refer to the MTAs Reading List (In PDF).
You cannot choose to write both the research paper and the exam, you must choose one. If you choose to write a research paper, you must demonstrate your ability to integrate what you have learned in levels 1 and 2 with actual data analysis. If the peer review panel of the MTA Accreditation Committee reviewing your paper passes you, your paper could be published in the MTA's Journal of Technical Analysis.