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

I’ve got a reader’s email on how a non-English speaker should pick the language of the CIA exam: Should he pick his native language, or stick with English?

Here are my initial thoughts.

The 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. 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 in wording a question, it takes a lot longer to understand and study for the exam.

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

2. Complaints on the Translated Version of the CIA Exam

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

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

My Recommendation

Because of the limitation in both the review courses and the 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 New York Times or Washington Post?

Do you feel:

(A) All right, understand the content and fine if asked to read further?

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

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

What do You Think?

I am not the best person to give recommendation 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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