The CIA exam Part 3 is the toughest for most candidates.
Here is a collective effort on tips, potential pitfalls and experience sharing.
CIA Exam Part 3 Syllabus
For those who are new to Part 3, here is the coverage of the exam:
1. Governance / Business Ethics (5-15%)
- Corporate/Organizational Governance Principles.
- Environmental and Social Safeguards.
- Corporate Social Responsibility.
2. Risk Management: Proficiency Level (10-20%)
- Risk Management Techniques.
- Organizational Use of Risk Frameworks.
3. Organizational Structure/Business Processes and Risks (15-25%)
- Risk/Control Implications of Different Organizational Structures.
- Structure (e.g. centralized/decentralized).
- Typical Schemes in Various Business Cycles (e.g. procurement, sales, knowledge, supply-chain management).
- Business Process Analysis (e.g. workflow analysis and bottleneck management, theory of constraints).
- Inventory Management Techniques and Concepts.
- Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)/Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)/E-commerce.
- Business Development Life Cycles.
- The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Framework.
- Outsourcing Business Processes.
4. Communication (5-10%)
- Communication (e.g. the process, organizational dynamics, impact of computerization).
- Stakeholder Relationships.
5. Management / Leadership Principles (10-20%)
- Strategic Management.
- Organizational Behavior.
- Management Skills/Leadership Styles.
- Conflict Management.
- Project Management / Change Management.
6. IT / Business Continuity (15-25%)
- Application Development.
- System Infrastructure.
- Business Continuity.
7. Financial Management (13-23%)
- Financial Accounting and Finance.
- Managerial Accounting.
8. Global Business Environment (0-10%)
- Economic / Financial Environments.
- Cultural / Political Environments.
- Legal and Economics — General Concepts (e.g. contracts).
- Impact of Government Legislation and Regulation on Business (e.g. trade legislation).
CIA Exam Part 3 has the same format with part 2: 100 questions to be completed in 2 hours. All questions are multiple-choice. This means that you have 1.2 minutes for each question.
Overlap with Other Accounting Exams
Given the broad coverage, it is not surprising that the syllabus overlaps with quite a few accounting and finance professional exams. Here are the major ones for your reference:
You can find Part 3 questions scattered across the 4 parts of the CPA Exam. The one that hit the most is BEC, which stands for Business Environment and Concepts. You will definitely have Governance, plus some form of Organization and Communications. IT, econ and business law are also important sections in BEC.
Financial management is covered in FAR exam (which stands for Financial Analysis and Reporting). The depth of Part 3 accounting is a lot less than FAR though, so no worries.
Interestingly there are also notable overlap in this number one finance professional exam, particularly in CFA Level I. These study sessions include ethics, economics, financial reporting and analysis and risk management. Level 2 covers the same topics, but the weighting is shifted towards the financial products and therefore the overlap with CIA Part 3 is less obvious.
Professional ethics and risk management are the bigger overlaps, but overall you can see elements of Part 3 throughout the CMA Part 2 exam.
Here is a Summary in Video Format
CIA Exam Part 3 Difficulty
Most candidates find Part 3 the hardest. You will likely notice that in the practice questions, and again on the exam day.
My own conclusion is that Part 3 covers exam topics that are beyond audit, and therefore candidates (mostly internal auditors) cannot base on their experience to answer questions. They also seem to be more conceptual in nature. Questions tend to be lengthy and tricky.
In other words, there are more materials that they need to memorize and understand in order to properly prepare for the exam. It is important to go through the theoretical questions first, then work on the computational questions as extra practice.
I Failed Part 3. What to Do?
I suggest that you read my post dedicated to retakers for a self-evaluation process. Once you get the diagnostic report showing the weaker areas, you can check out the following for further action. This list is created with the help of Art Yip, a most helpful reader and CIA exam candidate who passed all parts of the CIA exam in his first attempt.
Governance and Risk Management
We find that the actual exam questions tend to be slightly harder than the practice questions from any providers. To get better prepared for these sections, you may want to read the IPPF Practice Guides which can be downloaded on the IIA website (under Supplementary Guidance). They are free for IIA members.
Here are some specific tips from Art:
I recommend reading any Practice Advisories and Practice Guides that covers Governance and Risk Management. Practice Advisories PA 2110-1 to PA 2120-2 are very helpful. The Practice Guides on Assessing Organizational Governance in the Private Sector, Coordinating Risk Management and Assurance, and Risk Management using ISO 31000 are excellent for preparing for these 2 areas. If you can get familiarized and understand the concepts in these readings, it should give you a boost in tackling these 2 seemingly troublesome topics for a lot of candidates.”
Organization Structure, Management / Leadership and IT
Gleim practice questions are helpful, but if you need a better grasp of concepts, the IIA Learning System explains the topics very well.
Communications, Global Business Management and Financial Management
Gleim does a good job in covering these two sections. No need for other supplements.
In particular, Financial Management is tested at a basic level in Part 3. There is no need to spend too much time practicing the calculations. You just need a basic understanding of the theory behind the questions.
If you have specific questions on how to retake Part 3, Art is kind enough to answer your questions here.
So What Exactly do I need to Download?
Unlike Art, Lynnel uses Gleim as the only review course material for Part 3, but she downloads the following supplementary materials:
- PG-Assessing Organizational Governance – Public Sector
- PG-Assessing Organizational Governance – Private Sector
- PG-Coordinating Risk Management & Assurance
- PG-Evaluating Corporate Social Responsibility
- ISO 31000
- PA 2110-1 to PA 2120-2
- GTAG 1
- GTAG 4
- GTAG 17
A Success Story to Share
David passed Part 3 with the help of these tips. He shares his story and insights here as a thank you to our community.
Last but not least, follow what David did and read the wisdom in the comment section below. Best of luck!
For Your Further Reading
- CIA exam part 1
- CIA exam part 2
- CIA exam preparation tips
- Common questions that you may find helpful on this FAQ page.
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