I Pass the CIA Exam!

How to Approach the CIA Exam as a Non-English Speaker

I received a reader’s email asking how a non-English speaker should pick the language for the CIA exam: Should he pick his native language or stick with English?

Here are my initial thoughts.

Challenges of Studying for the CIA Exam in Another Language

There are lots of challenges, as you can imagine, but I highlight the most common ones here.

1. CIA Review Courses are Practically Available in English Only

Most review materials are available in English only. Gleim has a Spanish version, and that’s about it. With the different terms and possibly different ways of wording a question, it takes a lot longer to understand and study for the exam.

I understand there may be local live CIA classes teaching in local languages. Although I normally don’t recommend that (given the quality of lecturers is unproven and hard to keep track of),  you may want to consider this option if your English is not up to the required level.

2. Complaints about the Translated Version of the CIA Exam

The CIA exam is available in different languages. I have to give credit to the IIA for making this happen — other candidates have no choice but to take the English exam for the CPA, CFA, and CMA exams.

But then, I heard from my readers that the translation is awkward or even misleading in some cases. There are English notes on the side, but reading each question in two languages takes a lot of time (and imagine the confusion!).

My Recommendation about Taking the CIA Exam

Because of the limitation in both the CIA review courses and the CIA exam, I would still go for the English version if your ability to read in English is good enough.

This is obviously a subjective comment, so I suggest a test: How do you feel after reading one full page of the New York Times or the Washington Post?

Do you feel like you:

(A) Understand the content and are fine if asked to read further?

(B) Are tired, can’t really grasp what the articles mean, and don’t want to move on to the next page?

If the answer is A, take the English version; if B, take the version in your local language.

What Do You Think about Taking the CIA Exam in Another Language?

I am not the best person to give recommendations because, while I am bilingual, I probably prefer to read and write in English anyway.

Because of this, I’d like you to join in the discussion. For those who have a more obvious non-English mother tongue, what do you think? How did you approach your own exam? I’d love to hear your thoughts and expand this post further. Thank you!

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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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