CIA Certification Exam

A Certified Internal Auditor is an accountant who has been designated to conduct internal audits. In order to become certified, candidates must take the CIA exam.

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is in charge of the CIA certification. 

In general, internal auditors are subjected to a code of ethics, meaning that they are guided by a set of principles that they use to conduct their business with integrity.

Summary: Try one of the CIA exam practice resources below to see what you already know.

Free CIA Certification Exam Resources

 Resource Notes  Number of Questions 
 Gleim: Free CIA Exam Questions  Authentic, exam-emulating questions with scores broken down by topic.    Sample questions for parts 1, 2, and 3, when you sign up for free.
 IT Exams: CIA Exam  CIA exam sample questions.  566 sample questions.
 Wiley CIA Certification Exam Review  Access to the full Test Bank, Part 1, and questions aligned to the syllabus.  6,800 CIA exam questions. Must sign up for free trial.
 Official IIA Glossary  Official PDF of terms from the IIA.  14+ pages of terms to know. 
 CIA Exam Part 1 Flashcards  Flashcards for CIA certification exam part 1.  59
 CIA Exam Part 2 Flashcards  Flashcards for CIA certification exam part 2.  93
 CIA Exam Part 3 Flashcards  Flashcards for CIA certification exam part 3.  255
Official CIA Certification Handbook  Official CIA certification handbook.  20+ pages of information.

CIA Exam Outline

To become a Certified Internal Auditor, you must pass all three parts of the CIA exam. The CIA exam is thought to be the most difficult aspect of becoming a CIA, so sufficient preparation is critical to passing. The CIA exam syllabus exists as a resource to help prepare you for the test. 

 Section Description   Number of Questions  Testing Time Total
 1  Essentials of internal auditing.  125  150 minutes
 2  Practice of internal auditing.  100  120 minutes
 3  Business knowledge for internal auditing.  100  120 minutes

The total length of the exam is 6.5 hours. Each of the sections are broken down into more parts, with different focuses. Due to the amount of time allotted and number of questions, you have around one minute 12 seconds to complete each question. 

CIA Certification Part 1:

  • Foundations of Internal Auditing (15%)
  • Independence and Objectivity (15%)
  • Proficiency and Due Professional Care (18%)
  • Quality and Assurance Improvement Program (7%)
  • Governance, Risk Management, and Control (35%)
  • Fraud Risks (10%)

CIA Certification Part 2:

  • Managing the Internal Audit Activity (20%)
  • Planning the Engagement (20%)
  • Performing the Engagement (40%)
  • Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress (20%)

CIA Certification Part 3:

  • Business Acumen (35%)
  • Informational Security (25%)
  • Information Technology (20%)
  • Financial Management (20%)

The provided CIA exam syllabus from the IIA tells candidates what skills they need to possess in order to pass the test. The IIA expects those wishing to become CIA certified to be able to perform an audit engagement with minimal supervision, apply knowledge to evaluate risks, and understand the IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework (IPFF) to use when appropriate. 

The CIA Exam focuses on a handful of topics related to internal auditing. These topics include: 

  • Risk management
  • Auditing processes
  • Documentation standards
  • Governance and business controls
  • Fraud
  • IT and security systems

For more information, check out the official site.

CIA Certification Exam Requirements

In order to be eligible for the CIA exam, candidates must meet a couple of requirements. These requirements are split into entry and exit requirements. 

Entry Requirements:

Candidates must have one of the following:

  • Bachelor's degree or higher
  • Hold an active Internal Audit Practitioner designation
  • Possess five year of internal audit experience

Candidates must also have a character reference. This reference must be submitted by someone with a CIA, CGAP, CCSA, CFSA, CRMA, QIAL, or your supervisor. 

Finally, a candidate must be able to produce proof of identification.

Exit Requirements:

Candidates must pass all 3 portions of the CIA exam within the program eligibility period. Candidates must also meet the work experience requirement. You can read more about required work experience here

Finally, candidates must agree to a confidentiality agreement and a code of ethics agreement. 

CIA Exam Scheduling, Fees, and Registration

Make sure that you understand how to schedule your CIA Exam, the costs that go along with it, and the registration requirements. 

Scheduling your CIA Exam

Before you schedule your CIA Exam, you must first adequately prepare. Study for all three parts of the exam and their specific focuses. There are no CIA exam testing windows, so there are no blackout periods for test taking. You can take the exam year-round, but need to schedule your exam within 180 days of registering for the exam. 

To schedule your CIA Exam, take the following steps: 

  1. Create a profile in the IIA Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS). 
  2. Apply to the CIA program. 
  3. Upload required documents like your proof of education, government-issued ID, proof of character, and proof of experience. 
  4. Register for the exam parts. 
  5. Schedule your exam parts. 

You have four years to complete the program certification process after application approval. 

How much does it cost to take the CIA Exam?

There are various membership and application fees that change depending on your IIA membership status and if you are a student or work in academics. The chart below lays out the current fees for the CIA Exam.

   IIA Member  Non-IIA Member Student or Professor 
 Membership Fees  $225  $0  $40
 Application Fees  $115  $230  $65
 CIA Exam Part 1 Fee  $280  $395  $230
 CIA Exam Part 2 Fee  $230  $345  $180
 CIA Exam Part 3 Fee  $230  $345  $180

As you can see, the costs can be quite high. If you are an IIA Member, including the annual membership fee, you will pay $1,110 to take your CIA exam. There are additional fees in certain scenarios, as well. These include: 

  • A $100 60-day exam extension fee. 
  • A $75 exam reschedule or cancel fee. 
  • A $275 12-month Certification Program Eligibility Extension fee. 

CIA Exam scoring

The CIA exam is difficult and the pass rate is low. In 2017, only 42% of CIA hopefuls passed the exam, around six in ten candidates failed. The CIA exam is not an adaptive exam, meaning that the difficulty of the questions do not change based on how you answered previous questions. This is unlike the CPA exam. The questions are scored with equal weight, and you will not be penalized for a wrong response. 

Parts 2 and 3 of the exam are quite a bit more difficult than Part 1 and a candidate will need a 75% in order to pass. This makes the exam pass rate quite low. Due to the difficulty of the test, the number of correct responses in each part changes from year to year. This way, you are not focused on the minimum requirement to pass, and instead focusing on having a deep-level of understand of the 

A passing score is 600 or above, while graded on a scale from 250-750. There is no limit to the number of times you can retake any of the CIA exam parts, but you must wait at least 90 days before your next attempt. 

Preparing for the CIA Exam

While there are no prerequisites to take the CIA certification exam, it is important to be adequately prepared for the exam. It is recommended that you register with IIA so that you can speak with them about the exam, get advice about studying, and even take an assessment to see what type of studying preparation is best for you. 

Download the syllabus for each exam part so that you can become familiar with the concepts that the test expects you to know. Create a study schedule using the practice exams and study guides provided above. While it depends on your experience, expect to spend 130-180 hours studying for the CIA exam. 

CIA Certification Frequently Asked Questions

Are CPAs and CIAs the same thing?

No, CPAs and CIAs are not the same thing. CIAs work internally as an employee of their organization.

CPAs may be employed by a company, but they generally work as an external worker brought in when needed for auditing purposes.

Who can take the CIA Exam?

To take the CIA Exam, you must be accepted into the CIA program. CIA program requirements include holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher and have an active Internal Audit Practitioner Designation OR Have five years of internal audit experience.

Is the CIA Exam difficult?

The CIA Exam is considered to be difficult. The average passing rate is around 40%, with many having to retake one or more parts of the exam before they pass.

Which is the hardest CIA Exam part?

Part 3 is generally considered to be the hardest of the three parts of the CIA Exam. It focuses on financial management and information technology, which can be a struggle for those who don’t specialize in those areas. It has the reputation of being the hardest part to pass.

Are there continuing education requirements for the CIA Exam?

The IIA requires 40 hours of CPE every year. If you pass the CIA Exam, you have 80 hours of CPE awarded to you. This means you have 40 hours for the year that you become certified and another 40 hours for the following year.

Last Updated: 1/19/2021