Are you preparing the first part of the Certified Internal Auditor exam? Here is an overview of the syllabus, exam content, format and level of difficulty of CIA exam Part 1.
Part 1 Exam Format
This is the longest exam section among the three, with 125 questions to be completed in 2.5 hours. All questions are multiple-choice. This means that you have 1.2 minutes for each question.
The examiners focus on concepts at a general and introductory level. Because of this, questions are straightforward. Computational questions are rare.
CIA Exam Part 1 Syllabus
1. Mandatory Guidance (35-45%)
- Definition of Internal Auditing
- Compliance with the IIA Code of Ethics
- International standards: IIA’s Attribute Standards, independence and objectivity, exercise due professional care, and develop necessary knowledge required in the profession.
2. Internal Control / Risk (25-35%) – Awareness Level
- Types of internal controls e.g. preventive, detective, input, output
- Management control techniques
- Internal control framework characteristics and use e.g. COSO, Cadbury
- Alternative control frameworks
- Risk vocabulary and concepts
- Fraud risk awareness e.g. types of fraud and fraud red flags
3. Conducting Internal Audit Engagement — Audit Tools and techniques (28-38%)
- Data gathering: collecting and analyzing data on proposed engagements
- Data analysis and interpretation: use audit tools and techniques to conduct analysis (e.g. ratio estimation, variance analysis, budget vs. actual, trend analysis, other reasonableness tests), conduct benchmarking and draw conclusions
- Data reporting: develop preliminary conclusions regarding controls
- Documentation: develop work papers
- Process mapping, including flowcharting
- Evaluate relevance, sufficiency and competence of evidence
How to Pass CIA Part 1 Exam
1. Tested on foundation subjects
In terms of CIA exam part 1 difficulty, the IIA does not disclose CIA exam pass rates, but most readers told me that they find Part 1 relatively straightforward. It is all about the foundations of internal audit that these professionals should have known by heart.
2. Questions may get tricky – know the concepts well
Having said that, to do well in conceptual questions, you must be able to tell the subtle differences between key definitions and terms.
I have quite a few candidates who can narrow down the answer choices to two, but always pick the wrong one at the end.
My suggestion is to go through these tricky questions very slowly. Apply the two answer choices as if they are two scenarios in real business situation. Go through the concepts you learn and decide which one intuitively makes more sense. You may take a long time to complete questions this way, but it is very useful practice to get that “intuition” you need for the real exam.
3. Analyze the typical fact patterns and question styles
You may also want to get familiar with the fact patterns and test-taking strategies of multiple choice questions. Working on lots of practice questions and keep in mind any systematic errors you may have (e.g. wrong answers in certain topics, or certain type of questions) will help a lot in passing this exam on your first try.
Does the Syllabus Overlap with Other Exams?
Yes to some degree. It matches the most with CPA Audit section, which focuses more on general (and external) audit, they share most of the underlying concepts and audit procedures.
CMA Part 1 exam also has a section on internal control. The concepts and question styles are also similar.
Here is a Summary in Video Format
For Your Further Reading
- CIA exam part 2
- CIA exam part 3
- Exam preparation tips
- Common questions that you may find helpful on this FAQ page.
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