IIA CIA Challenge Exam

cia challenge exam

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, so it’s not surprising that many candidates strive to pass the CIA Challenge Exam. 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.

Who Can Take 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.

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland Institute
  • Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA Canada)
  • CPA Australia
  • CPA license from any state board in the United States
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
  • Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (CPA Ireland)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA)
  • Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA)
  • Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)
  • Registro Oficial de Auditores de Cuentas (ROAC)
  • Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA)
  • South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA

More Certified Internal Auditor Challenge Exam Qualification Details

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, but you must schedule your exam by the end of January 2022.

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.

Why Take It?

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:

  • Prove you are a highly knowledgeable internal auditor
  • Increased earning potential
  • More and better job opportunities
  • Greater job security
  • Development of skills and abilities
  • Demonstrate your skills in organizational governance
  • Entrance into an elite group of professionals; only about 165,000 professionals have the CIA credential

So, if you can qualify for the Challenge Exam, taking it and earning the CIA certification would be very advantageous for you.

How Can You Qualify for the CIA Challenge Exam?

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:

  • Hold current membership in the ACCA or another approved accounting body; former members and students are not eligible
  • Obtain a letter of good standing from your accounting body before submitting your application

However, even if you meet these criteria, you still only have a limited time in which to apply and sit for the Challenge Exam.

CIA Challenge Exam Time Frames

Important dates for applicants approved in August-September 2021

Application window August 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021
Registration August 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021
Exam scheduling August 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022
First attempt testing windows November 2021 OR January 2022

Important dates for exam re-takers

Registration All year
Exam scheduling All year
Re-take testing windows November 2021, January 2022, April 2022, July 2022, or 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.

CIA Challenge Exam Fees

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:

  • CIA Challenge Exam Application Fee
  • CIA Challenge Exam Registration Fee
  • Challenge Exam Study Guide for Qualified CAs and CPAs plus practice questions
  • Access to the International Professional Practices Framework and Standards
IIA Members Fee  Non-IIA Members Fee
$1,195 USD $1,545 USD

CIA Challenge Bundle

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.

Important Note for Current CIA Candidates

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.

CCSA, CGAP, and CFSA Holders

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.

ACCA & Other Accounting Body Candidates

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.

What’s on the CIA Challenge Exam Syllabus?

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:

  1. Essentials of Internal Auditing(35% of the exam)
  2. Practices of Internal Auditing(43% of the exam)
  3. Business Knowledge and Internal Auditing(22% of the exam)

A high-level overview of the exam content in each section includes:

Challenge Exam Syllabus

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.

How Do You Register for and Schedule the CIA Challenge Exam?

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 and registration from August 1 to September 30, 2021. However, you have until January 2022 to schedule your exam. Plus, you must take the exam in a designated testing window, either November 2021 or January 2022.

Refunds of Challenge Exam Fees

If your application is not approved, you will not receive a refund of your fees.

Online Option

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:

  • You can take the exam on your own computer at home, at your office, or any quiet location with an internet connection.
  • You’ll use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox; you cannot access the online exam via Internet Explorer.
  • Pearson VUE recommends that you use a PC because the Mac version has bugs that have not yet been worked out. If you use a Mac, consider taking the exam at a Pearson VUE site.
  • Before you take the exam, visit the Pearson VUE online proctoring website and select “Run system test” to make sure your computer’s system meets the exam’s technical requirements.

How Do You Get a CIA Challenge Exam Prep Course?

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.

Studying with Gleim

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.

Hock CIA Challenge Exam Materials

In addition, Hock International has a specific course designed for users studying for the CIA Challenge Exam. Specifically, the Hock CIA Challenge Exam Materials package includes a PDF textbook, videos, and a test bank to help you pass the exam. The materials follow the IIA’s Challenge Exam syllabus, so you’ll review everything that could appear on the exam.

Plus, the whole system uses Hock’s PassMap, a study guide that leads you through the textbook and practice questions one step at a time. It also has a Personal Study Plan to help you stay on track. Basically, it shows you how many more hours you should study each week to keep up your progress.

What’s more, Hock also includes 22 hours of video lectures, all led by Brian Hock himself. And to get you ready to pass the CIA Challenge Exam, you can work through 1,340+ MCQs. All of the practice MCQs come from previous exams, so you can see the exact level of question difficulty you’ll encounter on exam day.

And finally, you can finish your Hock review with a mock exam. This practice test has MCQs not found elsewhere in your Hock course, so you can really gauge your exam readiness.

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.

Can You Retake the Challenge Exam?

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.

What’s a Passing Score?

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.

Pass Rates

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.

Why the low pass rates?

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.

How Can You Move Forward with the CIA Certification?

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.

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About the Author Stephanie

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.

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