The IIA has decided to disclose the CIA exam pass rate on an annual basis:
|IIA-run Exams||2014 Pass Rates||2015 Pass Rates||2016 Pass Rates|
Note: These are global pass rates. This means scores are reflective of all exams delivered in all countries, in all languages for exams delivered via computer based testing (CBT). Source: IIA website
In the past, when the data was not disclosed, the most quoted CIA exam pass rate was 45% (although the percentage may come from one unverified source). According to Hock International’s previous estimate, the pass rate was around 50%.
The actual 2016 CIA exam pass rate is even lower.
CIA Exam Pass Rate Lower than CPA, but Comparable to CMA
It may be a surprise to many that the CIA exam passing rate is lower than to that of the CPA exam (45-55%) and the CFA exam (43% for Level 1), given the general impression that the CIA exam should be easier.
One reason is the the CPA exam has a much high entry barrier: those who are allowed to sit for the exam must have an education equivalent to an accounting major, and that he or she must have 4-5 years of higher education.
The CMA exam doesn’t have such prerequisite, and therefore the pass rate is similar (35%/50% for Part 1/Part 2).
There Could Possibly be Regional Difference as Shown in the CMA Exam
In addition, the CMA exam is similar to the CIA exam in that there is a substantial number of non-US candidates. The administrator of the CMA exam discloses pass rates by region, and you will see that the level differs considerably by region. In particular, the non-English speaking regions have the lowest performance in both Part 1 and Part 2.
US CMA Exam Pass Rate Trend
The regional difference in CIA exam performance is likely smaller due to the fact that:
- The exam is offered in 17 languages throughout the world.
- It is 100% multiple choice questions (instead of essays that require good English writing skills in the CMA exam).
Having said that, I have readers complaining that the translation is not done properly. It is a US-based exam and we should expect the format and writing style to be pretty much American.
If English is not your first language, bear in mind that the overall pass rate may not be a good indicator in your situation.
Other IIA Certificates (e.g. CRMA) have Higher Pass Rates. Should I Take Those Instead?
The CIA certification is the most well-recognized among the IIA offering. It is also the most versatile and the one most suitable for internal audit generalists.
If you don’t have current plans to further specialize within internal audit, or that you aspire to become a senior IA professionals with strategic and management roles, the CIA certification is the one to go for.
Because of this, I wouldn’t pick a certification based on historical pass rates. We should make the decision based on the needs of our long term career.
The respective eligibility requirements also lead to a difference in pass rates. For example, the CRSA exam requires candidate to at least pass the Part 1 exam. This rule limits the CRSA exam candidates to serious takers who have a good foundation in internal audit. As a result, the CRSA exam pass rate is naturally higher than that of the CIA exam.
Here is a Summary in Video Format
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Your Next Step
Let’s focus on doing our best in the exam preparation. Here’s what you can do:
- Read these most common questions from my readers
- Check out Part 1 format and study tips
- Pick the best review course and aim to score above 85% in the online practice questions
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