Before you embark on the CIA journey, you might want to understand how tough it is to get the qualification. For example, how is the CIA exam difficulty when compared to other popular accounting qualifications, notably the CPA? Let’s take a look.
One aspect that is welcoming to most candidates is that the CIA exam is 100% multiple choice questions. Most candidates prefer this type of simple, straight-to-the-point, black and white type of questions rather than the task-based simulations and written communications in the CPA exam.
The similarity is that both CPA and CIA exams are computerized. The main difference is that for the CPA exam, there is a task-based simulation section which represents around 40% of the total score.
These questions are essentially “condensed case studies” for examiners to evaluate your knowledge in a specific area. They are meant to test how candidates apply the concepts in real business situations, and as you can imagine, this gets a lot more complex than multiple choice questions.
CPA Exam is likely more complex and more difficult to prepare.
There are currently 3 exam parts. Part 1 is the longest with 125 questions. Part 2 and Part 3 each has 100 questions. You are given 2.5 hours and 2 hours respectively, implying that you have 1.2 minutes per question.
There are 4 exam parts: FAR and AUD sections are the longest with 4 hours each. AUD and BEC are 3 hours each, totally 14 hours.
You are generally given more time per question for the CPA exam, but given the complexity many candidates still run out of time, especially for FAR and REG.
CPA Exam has more parts and total duration doubles that of the CIA exam.
The CIA exam content was very similar to the AUD, BEC and REG sections of the CPA exam — a mile wide but only an inch deep. the overall style of the exam and the way questions were worded were both similar.
Most candidates find the majority of Part 1 and Part 2 of CIA exam to be a review of what they have been doing in audit. Therefore, most people seem to have the confidence of passing on their first try.
Part 3 is closer to BEC and probably comparable to the pre-simulation version and covers economics, and other business type sections.
There are considerable overlaps between the two exams, but CPA exam’s coverage is broader.
CIA Easier than CPA?
It is safe to conclude that the CIA exam is likely less difficult, especially if you have internal audit experience.
Part 1 and Part 2 should be relatively straight-forward for most candidates with relevant experience. Part 3 would be more of a challenge as it covers wider topics, covering IT, business process and financial management.
Here is the Summary in Video Format
For your Further Reading
- CIA vs CPA: Which is More Useful for My Audit Career?
- What’s my odds to pass? Looking at the CIA exam pass rates
- What is the upfront cost to get the CIA title?
Here is a list of the most commonly asked questions related the Certified Internal Auditor exam.
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