The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification is the most well-known and highly regarded certification in the internal auditing industry. In fact, the CIA is so prestigious that it is the gold standard in internal auditing. And to earn the CIA, most candidates must meet a strict set of CIA certification requirements.
However, in order to make this certification more accessible to all internal auditors, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the organization that offers the CIA, has created an accelerated track for individuals who are already members of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and certain other accounting bodies. So, if you already have an accounting certification and/or are a member of specific accounting bodies and would like to earn the CIA, you may be able to do so via this special opportunity called the CIA Challenge Exam.
The manner in which the IIA is enabling CIA candidates to earn the CIA faster is a special exam program. The IIA calls this program the CIA Challenge Exam, and they are offering it to accountants and auditors who already have certain other accounting certifications that are listed below. Therefore, if you currently hold these certifications, you can use the IIA Challenge Exam to take a faster and more cost-effective route to the CIA certification.
A special note for candidates who live in the United Kingdom/Republic of Ireland or South Africa: You must be a member of the IIA to join the CIA Challenge Exam program. Furthermore, the program is not available to candidates who live in Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, or mainland China. However, candidates from Chinese Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao are eligible.
The challenge exam is a single-part, condensed version of the traditional, 3-part CIA exam. And you shouldn’t find this exam to be much of a challenge at all, as you are already experienced in securing accounting certifications. So, if you’ve been thinking about earning the CIA, then now is definitely the time to do so.
If you are taking the ACCA-specific version of the exam, the exam application, registration, and scheduling will begin on August 1, 2021 and only lasts until September 30, 2021.
However, if you aren’t already a member of the ACCA or one of the accounting bodies listed above, then you will have to embark down the normal path to become a CIA because the IIA has stopped accepting applications for new CCSA, CGAP, and CFSA candidates. The organization will continue to recognize these certifications.
But, because the IIA believes the CIA is the most effective way for today’s professionals to demonstrate their level of education and training, the organization is encouraging more people to follow the CIA path by cutting back on other certification options.
Again, Challenge Exam provides you with an easier way to acquire the CIA certification. And the CIA certification is very valuable for several reasons. Specifically, you can enjoy numerous CIA benefits to your career and your lifestyle, such as:
So, if you can qualify for the Challenge Exam, taking it and earning the CIA certification would be very advantageous for you.
To take the CIA Challenge Exam and receive the CIA certification, you must meet the cut-and-dry criteria the IIA has laid out. These criteria include:
However, even if you meet these criteria, you still only have a limited time in which to apply and sit for the Challenge Exam.
|Application Window||August 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021|
|Registration and Scheduling||All year|
|Testing Windows||February-March 2021, June 2021, November 2021, January 2022, April 2022, July 2022, and November 2022|
Plus, keep in mind that once you register for the exam, you have 180 days to schedule and take it. But overall, the program window is 3 years. So basically, that means that once you join the CIA Challenge Exam program, you have 3 years to study and pass the exam.
The IIA assesses a comprehensive application and requires an exam fee for the CIA Challenge Exam. However, the fee is considerably less than the regular CIA application and exam fees.
The application fee is included in the CIA Challenge Bundle, which includes the following:
|IIA Members Fee||Non-IIA Members Fee|
|$1,195 USD||$1,545 USD|
The fee to take the exam includes a high-level study guide as part of the CIA Challenge Bundle.
However, unless you are intimately familiar with the content tested on the Challenge Exam, we do not recommend that you rely on these high-level supplementary materials alone. I’ll provide further recommendations below.
The study guide uses on-demand online reading material and other tools to teach the exam’s syllabus. It also has 150 practice questions designed to mimic the questions you might see on the exam.
You’ll also get access to a video tutorial of IPPF, or the International Professional Practices and Framework, which is covered on the exam.
When the IIA announced the opportunity to take the CIA Challenge Exam, some CCSAs, CGAPs, and CFSAs, as well as members of other qualified accounting professionals, were already in the process of taking the CIA exam. If you are in this position, then I have some good news for you. The IIA will also allow you to take the CIA Challenge Exam even if you have already completed one or more of the 3 CIA exam parts.
But, the IIA will not issue any refunds for past exam fees. Further, your fees cannot be transferred to the Challenge Exam. And, you will have to pay full price for the Challenge Exam. However, if you sit for the CIA Challenge Exam and do not pass, you will still retain credit for any of the CIA exam parts you did pass. And, you will have 3 years to complete all of the CIA exam parts.
So, to incur this benefit, you must let the IIA know that you are a current CIA candidate and wish to take the Challenge Exam.
For CCSA, CGAP, and CFSA holders to do so, log into your IIA Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS) and submit an incident. Then, in the subject line, enter “Admin Request to expedite the incident.” Finally, in the body of the record, let the IIA know that you want to sit for the CIA Challenge Exam.
To notify the IIA of your switch, log into your IIA Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS), go to your account, and select the option to “inactivate” your CIA program. Once you do that, simply follow the instructions in this article to apply for the Challenge Exam.
The CIA Challenge Exam consists of 1 exam part. The CIA Challenge Exam questions are all multiple-choice questions, and you’ll have 3 hours to answer them. The exam is only available in English.
The IIA has explained that they designed the Challenge Exam to bridge the gap between the CIA exam syllabus and content covered in other accounting certification exams. The CIA Challenge Exam syllabus also emphasizes the International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF).
So, the Challenge Exam syllabus specifically includes 3 sections:
A high-level overview of the exam content in each section includes:
|1. Essentials of Internal Auditing||A. Foundations of Internal Auditing|
|B. Independence and Objectivity|
|C. Proficiency and Due Professional Care
D. Quality Assurance and Improvement Programs
|E. Governance, Risk Management, and Control|
|F. Fraud Risks|
|II. Practices of Internal Auditing||A. Managing Internal Audit Activities|
|B. Planning Engagements|
|C. Performing Engagements|
|D. Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress|
|III. Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing||A. Business Acumen|
|B. Data Analytics|
|C. Information Technology and Security|
Noting the similarities and differences between the Challenge Exam syllabus and the 3-part CIA exam syllabus could be useful to your preparations.
As mentioned, the window of time in which to apply and sit for the CIA Challenge Exam is not long. However, you likely already know some of the exam material so that you can work within the condensed timeline.
To begin the application process, visit the IIA website and log into CCMA, or the Certification Candidate Management System with your user information. If you don’t have an account, you will see an option to create a profile. Navigate to the “Apply for Certified Internal Auditor” section and choose “CIA Program for Qualified Chartered Accountants and Certified Public Accountants.” When you complete the application form, you must also pay the Challenge Exam fee. Then you’ll be directed to upload a letter of good standing from a qualified accounting body and complete an electronic character reference.
You must complete your application from August 1 to September 30, 2020. However, you have all year to register and schedule your exam. Plus, you must take the exam in one of the following testing windows: February-March 2021, June 2021, November 2021, January 2022, April 2022, July 2022, and November 2022.
If your application is not approved, you will not receive a refund of your fees.
When you register and schedule your exam, you will be given the option to take the exam at a Pearson VUE testing center or online on your own computer. (The IIA is temporarily allowing candidates to sit for their exams online for health and safety concerns. So, this is only a temporary exam change.) However, since this option might be new to professional accountants accustomed to taking credential exams at a testing site, here’s an overview of the process:
As a certified auditing or accounting professional, you already have an advantage for your CIA Challenge Exam preparations. But as you determine your exam date, you should still account for study time.
Because the CIA Challenge Exam covers content from the CIA exam, you can use CIA study materials to prepare for the Challenge Exam. A full CIA prep course addresses all of the CIA exam content, so it will contain everything you need to pass the Challenge Exam. To ensure that you know the exam content, a good CIA course usually includes materials such as textbooks, video lectures, audio lectures, and flashcards. What’s more, such a course also contains a test bank of practice questions and practice exams as well as adaptive technology to verify that you truly understand all of the information.
If you need help choosing your CIA Challenge Exam study material, I recommend a review provider like Gleim or Hock. The Gleim Premium CIA Review System includes 45+ hours of video lectures taught by seasoned professional educators and reviews questions that previously appeared on the CIA Exam. The Gleim test bank, one of the largest on the market, explains both the right and wrong answers to questions. Plus, Gleim’s adaptive e-learning platform uses SmartAdapt Technology to help you study more efficiently.
The Hock CIA Review Complete package is another effective study tool. Hock’s review system includes PDF textbooks, video lectures, study flashcards, and mock exams. Users can access the Hock test bank online or via a mobile app. The test bank includes 2,600+ multiple-choice questions that have appeared on previous CIA exams.
Or, you can contact me for a personalized recommendation. Then, once you determine the right course for you, you can use my CIA review discounts to save on your Challenge Exam prep.
Hopefully, come exam day, you’ll be completely ready to pass the CIA Challenge Exam (you can even use these CIA tips to help). But in the event that you don’t pass, you can also retake the exam. To do so, you must pay $795 if you’re an IIA member and $945 if you’re a nonmember. Plus, you can take the exam as many times as needed to pass within your 3 year CIA Challenge Exam program window.
Like the 3-part CIA exam, you must score a 600 or higher to pass the Challenge Exam. Similarly, the score is scaled or cut — this means that there isn’t a number of questions that you must get correct to pass. Furthermore, since the score is scaled, there isn’t a way to derive a score in the form of a percentage. For example, the IIA makes 750 possible points available, and candidates must score at least 600 points. However, this does not make the passing mark 80% because the score is scaled.
The pass rate for the CIA Challenge Exam (all versions) is between 39-42%.
However, average pass rates for the traditional 3-part CIA exam hover around 43%. So, yes, you are reading that correctly: the pass rate for the exam that already certified professionals are taking is lower. While many candidates may find this particular pass mark pretty shocking, this piece of data may meet expectations for others.
First, if you are taking the Challenge Exam, you are effectively cramming 3 already difficult exams into 1. So, candidates taking the traditional CIA exam have much less material to review at once, as they usually sit for one part at a time. Therefore, candidates can focus on a subset of the IIA’s CSOs (e.g., Part 1), which may allow them to achieve higher scores.
Also, if you then consider that Challenge Exam candidates are only utilizing high-level materials to study from if they do not supply your own, it makes more sense why the traditional CIA exam has higher pass rates. In contrast to the Challenge Exam, traditional CIA exam candidates supply their own materials and do not rely on limited guidance and resources.
If you move forward with the ACCA CIA Challenge Exam Package, you’ll receive 125 practice questions. However, traditional CIA candidates study upwards of 3,000 practice questions. So, given that the Challenge Exam is essentially testing the content traditional CIA candidates face, relying on 125 questions instead of 3,000+ questions likely adds to the low pass rates.
Finally, sitting for the Challenge Exam is expensive — more expensive than sitting for the traditional CIA exam. While I’m with you in that I’d rather sit for 1 exam than 3, given the cost of the Challenge Exam, I can’t recommend only relying on the brief materials the IIA provides. Instead, please select a CIA prep course that will prepare you to pass the Challenge Exam on your first attempt. Due to the expense, time, and frustration, you might incur as a result of failing, I encourage you to prepare for the exam properly from the beginning.
As a member of ACCA or another qualified accounting body, you have a unique and wonderful opportunity to earn the prestigious CIA certification in a fast and cost-effective manner. Remember, the CIA certification offers immense benefits, so I encourage you to take advantage of the IIA’s offer before time runs out.
Or, if you don’t qualify for the CIA Challenge Exam, you can still earn the CIA certification by taking the regular CIA exam. And you can learn everything you need to know to do so by signing up for my free CIA e-course.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.