Why did I Fail? 5 Realizations after My CIA Exam Failure

cia exam failureLynnel is our new CIA exam blogger from the Philippines. She writes every Friday.

I mentioned about failing Part 1 in my first blog post. It was heartbreaking to see a “fail” mark and scoring near the passing score. After studying for months and dedicating time for review, it was like my world has fallen apart.

On the day of my exam, I was wondering why I failed. What went wrong? I was thinking all day and sat for more than 3 hours answering those questions. I felt that all my plans vanished in one failure.

I regained my motivation after a week of relaxation, planning and asking for advice on how to proceed. I am very thankful that I come cross this website which help me a lot on this journey.

The following is my realizations after the exam. (Disclaimer: realization listed below is my opinion. It may not be applicable to everyone)

1. False Assurance

On my software I scored 85% to 90%+ in each topic and still failed. In fact, scoring 90% above or even 100% does not mean that I, myself, understand the concept of the topics. I admit that there are times when I memorize the answers and I don’t have a good grasp of the concepts.

2. Overconfidence

I knew I was ready when I finished reading all the topics, practice advisories and answering more than a thousand questions. Four days before the exam I did not review the topics and just relaxed. I followed the advice to relax few days before the exam, but turned out it did not work for me.

3. Moving on Too Fast (and Sacrificed Accuracy)

CIA exams allot 2 and a half hours for part 1 (125 questions) and 2 hours for part 2 and 3 (100 questions) to finish the exam. On average it is almost 1 minute or few seconds more to finish the exam. I enrolled for a review class and we practiced answering short/easy questions in 30 seconds each.

In the actual exam, I finished the exam 30 minutes early and still had a chance to go through all the questions. In hindsight, 30 seconds was too short to answer each question right since I overlook/ misunderstood some of the questions.

4. Practice Test Simulation

Only until the day of my exam that I tried the practice test simulation. I answered too quickly, and got frustrated because I did not know the answers. I realized that practice test must be taken in the real exam test environment. On the other hand, I admit that I did not practice answering 125 questions on my software.

5. Electronic Reviewing

Electronic reviewing/ e book reading has a lot of advantages. Having said that, I tried to review using my laptop and I have a hard time understanding the concepts. The soft copy did not work for me and I switched to reading on hard copy. I was surprised by the result because I am more focused and I understand more of the concepts very well.

Every experience in life taught us lessons. And I believe on this part, realizations should come first before the exam. Every person is different but, everyone must know themselves very well.

Note from Stephanie

Thanks a lot for your well-thought reflections, Lynnel. It’s most important to know where we can improve upon. By reading your first-hand experience, readers can hopefully realize this before taking their own exams.

Different readers mentioned about your points in the past, so these are actually common “pitfalls” for CIA exam candidates. I am glad you put them all together in this post.

How is your study going? Keep up with the good work

Please rate this

About the Author Lynnel

Lynnel is a recent graduate, with a BSBA Major in Internal Auditing in the Philippines. Lynnel passed Part 1 and 2 on the same day, and Part 3 on her first attempt.

  • Annette says:

    Hi Lynnel, for me it is also 1, 3, and 4. Additionally to that I usually start cramping 2 weeks before exams. This is way too late and frustrates me and I even feel the need to read the book the morning of the exams, because I feel I did not spend enough time studying (opposite to your No. 2)

    • Lynnel says:

      Hi Annette,

      I believe it’s just a matter of good preparation before the exam. Also, I think I would still study 3 days before the exam to re-cap all the topics and answer a lot of questions. I hope that we could nail the exam next time. Best of luck to you! ?

  • Niv12 says:

    I took my CIA Part 1 today and failed with 551 . Have couple of questions
    1. Does that mean i got 90 questions right out of 125 ?is the total score 750 (125*6) ?

    I have been using gleim for my preparation and i prepared for 2-3 months .
    2. Can you pls let me know if i can start my part 2 now and give both part 1 and part 2 together ?
    3. is there a way to find out where i went wrong
    4. is there any time restriction that i should wait to take my part 1 again ?


    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Niv12,
      Thanks for your note. On your questions:
      1. It isn’t exactly a straight formula, so I am not sure if you can interpret this way.
      2. You can if you feel like it you have pretty much covered all of Part 1 and only need to drill on the practice questions. That’s what our blogger Lynnel did and she succeeded, passing Part 1 and 2 on the same day at the end.
      3. There is a diagnostic that shows you the weaker areas. It is quite general but useful as an indication.
      4. You have to wait for 90 days before taking Part 1 again.

      Hope it helps! Stephanie

  • James says:

    Lynnel and Stephanie-

    I am a student with no internal audit experience preparing for Part 2 of the exam. Other parts seem to be comprehensible, but in Gleim’s Engagement Procedures and Supervision part, the questions are impossible for me to do, with no experience to judge the correct answers. Do you guys have a recommendation on how to approach this, with any recommended reading materials for me? Thanks so much!

  • mohammed alsaeed says:

    Hi all,

    I have failed CIA exam first part last week scoring (522) and its good opportunity to understanding what I will face in real exam environment,
    I dint know why some people complaint about course providers which lead us to cause root triangle
    student-teacher-material, which I believe that most of time student is main root cause for failed
    In my case, I understood all topic in general but my main reason , I did not focus on my review due to insufficient time for preparing for the exam,

    second reason is people thought same question in course material will come in the exam, there is slightly differences between question in exam and course providers,

    third reason, the exam is so long that during the exam you may loss your focus and start panic to finish the exam

    Myself almost I solve 80 questions easy-moderated question then there are 20 I can solve but it needs more attention and there are 20 which are challenging showing how can you mastering that topic
    In my opinion for part 1, you should understand the risk-control relationship and main frames of internal audit


    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Mohammad,
      I admire your effort in staying object and making practical suggestions for yourself to improve. Can’t agree more. Best of luck to your next attempt! Stephanie

  • Ella says:

    Hi Lynnel,

    I am planning to take the CIA Exam. However, I am torn as to whether enroll in a review school or just do a self-study. What would you recommend? And if you would recommend a review school, what would it be? Thanks a lot!

    • Meghan D says:

      Hello Ella,

      Lynnel is no longer an active blogger with us, but she used a self-study review course. We definitely recommend this option for many reasons. But the biggest one being convenience. You can check out our recommended CIA review courses. If you have any questions about choosing a course, please send us an email at Stephanie[at]ipasstheciaexam.com.

      Kind regards,
      I Pass the CIA Exam

  • Courage says:

    Hi Lynnel,
    I want to take the CIA exams by the end of this year. I was wondering if it is necessary to take review classes or self study is sufficient to succeed in the exams? Thanks.

  • Extraordinary says:

    I failed part 1 CIA 3 times and my certification expired in November 2019. What should I do? Where I am living I can not do the exam and always have to travel to another country

  • Nhan says:

    I failed part 1 and just moved onto part 2. Passed part 2 on my 1st try and then passed part 1 recently on my second try. I definitely recommend moving on due to the 3 month blackout restriction when you fail an exam.

  • UK CIA Candidate says:

    I have been on this journey a while – having failed the CIA pt 1 once before (old syllabus). On Wednesday I failed it again. My score 595. Pass mark 600. My score equates to 79.3%.

    To say I am bitter is an understatement. I’ve put so much work into learning from past mistakes and I’ve revisited my approach to study to ensure I was on top of my learning – I already had the CIA text books. I addition I purchased the Wiley practice questions and the Wiley 2019 focus notes to provide further assistance. I have so far purchased a single exam and a single resit… something like 900 USD, and it looks like I missed a pass by a single question.

    I do think the IAA should have some sort of appeal process for this scenario. Missing a pass by just 5 marks is strongly indicative that I know my stuff and that, on the day, due to nerves or whatever, I made a few mistakes or made a bad (best option) choice. I think given the amount of money invested, the very close score, and the exam evidence that I had responded to previous learning points should trigger some sort of review process – as it’s more than obvious I’m invested in this. Sadly IIA’s response was rather curt as follows:

    “The IIA uphold its ethics and to protect the integrity of the exam we are unable to change candidate scores.
    We understand your disappointment in receiving a score that is just below the passing mark. However, we determined that your exam results are accurate and final”.

    This is a far from satisfying position to be in.

    • Meghan D says:


      I am sorry to hear that you’ve had troubles clearing Part 1, and I do agree that your position is a frustrating one. Please email Stephanie so she can try to provide you with some insight on what you can do differently on your next attempt. Her email is stephanie[at]ipasstheciaexam.com.


    • Cat says:

      Sorry you went through that but please know that you are not the only one. I think they should allow us to retake the test sooner than 3 months. I have to start over to study the materials so many times. I’ve bombed it twice now, close in scoring to 600 like you.

  • Ofilwe Khunou says:

    wrote CIA part 1 and failed i got 559 using Gleim,. I need an advice on how to prepare for part 2, and i would like to try out Surgent.

  • Danial says:

    Greetings, I have taken part 1 and failed last year. my score was 531 . I thought I prepared very well but apparently not . I was unable to study for another try during the past 12 months. last week, I started studying full force and I am now allocating 2 hrs each day for studying. I am very keen on passing all parts.

    I have heard that the iia made some changes to the exam. can you please explain in what way.

    I also noticed that there are some websites selling old exam dumbs (questions). I am thinking I might buy one of those just for practicing. however, I am afraid that those are scams and designed to make me fail the exam. would you recommend buying those questions? just for extra practice.

    I also have noticed in my official exam report that there is a line saying “mastery/passing score: 68”. what does that mean? I am quite confused.

    sorry for the long post and thank you all for sharing your experience.


    • Meghan D says:


      I am so sorry to hear about your last attempt. The IIA CIA Exam Changes are listed in detail on this site.

      Also, I wouldn’t purchase any old exam questions from any site that wasn’t a valid CIA exam prep course. So, please check out your options for the Best CIA Review Courses.

      Finally, regarding your report, I recommend reaching out to the IIA directly with this question 🙂

      I hope this helps.

      I Pass the CIA Exam

  • Nguyen says:


    I came across this forum when I failed my CIA Part 2 at a score of 594 – I think I missed one correct answer. I used the Gleim study book and test bank for all 3 parts of the exam. I passed both Part 1 and Part 3 in the 1st attempt and passed Part 2 in the 2nd attempt.
    I still remembered how disappointed/frustrated I felt when seeing the test result paper of Part 2. It took me a month to find back the momentum to study again (indeed I went on vacation for 2 weeks).
    I did follow the advice to move on with Part 3, to read outside of the Gleim study note and also not re-do the questions more than 2 times (as you tend to memorize the questions already). At that time, I purchased the CIA Practice Exam questions by the IA Foundation out of curi-ousity and also want to challenge myself with possibly different style of questions. I personally would not recommend to buy this book in addition to the Gleim test bank. From my own expe-rience, the real test questions are anyway different from both the Gleim test bank and the CIA practice exam questions. I remembered maybe there was one or two questions from Gleim/ CIA practice exam questions did appear in my real test. The questions in part 3 of the CIA practice exam questions are different and a bit easier than the Gleim one, however there are quite a few questions in part 2 of this book I found very familiar (sometimes even repeating itself) and similar to Gleim’s. I paid 50EUR for the books of 300 questions (I have IIA member discount when buying this book) and I found it is not value for money (again this is my per-sonal view only).
    I wanted to leave this comment here to first thanks for keeping this blog on for new joiners of this journey and also for retakers like me. It was good to know that you are not alone. Of course everyone is different and you know yourself best, but when you failed, reading similar experience helped you to analyse yourself and know where to fix your problem. Secondly I also hope my own experience could help you somehow.
    Good luck!
    I can do it and surely you can!

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