Latest CIA Exam Format (and Why Computerized Tests are Great)


cia exam format

Before you jump in to pursue the CIA certification, you might want to take a quick look at the CIA exam format, length and intensity of the exam, and the type of questions you are going to see on the exam day.

CIA Exam Format

The CIA exam is now fully computerized. This allows a smoother implementation of the exam across 500+ testing centers around the world.

Candidates have a much greater flexibility in scheduling their exams, practically any time during the year. The new format also encourages the proliferation of CIA exam prep online courses. This increases the competition leading to higher overall quality of the review materials and lower pricing at the same time.

Because of the computerization and the fact that all questions are in multiple choice format, you can get the (unofficial) score immediately after the exam. No more agony in waiting for weeks! The official score will be shown in candidates’ profiles on the IIA website. I haven’t heard of any case that the unofficial score is changed.

The computerization of the CIA exam means:

  • Flexible CIA exam date and location
  • It makes more sense to take online review courses. They have become more popular vs live classes in the US and increasingly in other countries

CIA Exam Duration

Part 1 is a longer exam while Part 2 and Part 3 have the same duration. There is no longer a Part 4 exam since July 2013.

Part 1 of the exam takes 2.5 hours, while Part 2 and Part 3 takes 2 hours. The current CIA exam format is 100% multiple choice, and therefore, you can get an unofficial score immediately after the exam.

DurationNo. of QuestionsAvg Time per Question
Part 12.5 hours1251.2 minutes
Part 22.0 hours1001.2 minutes
Part 32.0 hours1001.2 minutes

Introduction of CIA Exam Parts

I have this video going through the topic areas and format in Part 1, 2 and 3:

Question Type Compared to Other Accounting Certifications

The exam comprises 100% of multiple choice questions. The advantage of having only MC question is that it is easy to drill and monitor your progress using online prep software. Also, multiple choice is used to test a candidate’s breadth of knowledge, not the depth.

When Compared to the CPA Exam

As you can expect, the CIA exam is similar to what you may encounter in the AUD section of the CPA exam, and to a lesser extent, BEC and REG.

I haven’t taken the CIA exam, but readers have told me that both exams are “5 miles wide and 1 inch deep”, meaning they focus on the breadth of knowledge and not the depth. I would think this is more of the case for CIA exam, since all questions are multiple-choice and not the type we see in task-based simulations (case study questions) in the CPA exam.

When Compared to the CMA Exam

The CMA exam is known for its complex and lengthy questions. CIA exam seems to be slightly better in this aspect (question type more similar to the CPA exam). The CMA exam has 2 essay questions while there is none in the CIA exam.

Do You have Other Questions?

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For Your Further Reading

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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  • nayef says:

    hi my name is nayef from Jordan, I want to know the best way to study because I don’t know HOW , should I study every thing I’m the materials like university I mean. could u help me please.

  • Muhammad Ali Shiwani says:

    Hi,hope you would be fine
    I need comprehensive guidance regarding preparation of CIA part 3 More over I want IIA learning system book for part 3.

    Please entertain.

  • Eleanor says:


    MY CIA exam part 1 is tomorrow. I am quite nervous as I have heard the exam is a little tricky. I have passed the CMA exam, 1st time, I hope I would do the same with CIA (feeling so nervous now).

    • Stephanie says:

      Getting nervous is absolutely normal Eleanor. I hope you passed the exam! Stephanie

      • Eleanor says:

        I passed the exam with difficulties thou, as the questions are quite tricky. Had used almost 2 hours of the alloted time, since I have to review my answers twice.

        • Stephanie says:

          Hi Eleanor, so glad you passed! Yes, Part 1 is actually quite tricky. Many find Part 2 slightly easier (in terms of questions being less tricky). Good luck on your next part — I assume it’s Part 2? Stephanie

  • Diana says:

    Hello, I’m from Kazakhstan. My native languag is russian, by i had to prepair for exam in english because the Gleim course is only in english. During preparation i undestand that the level of my english is not enough high.
    Now i whant to register for exam and i want to choose english as exam language.
    Please tell me is it possible to pass exam in english and change language of the questions during exam? i meen is it it possible to have 2 language exam?

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Diana, it is doable but I can see how things would be easier in your native language. I would say, give the English version I try first, since it is only multiple choice (instead of essays) and as long as you understand the terms and questions you are all right.

      As to whether you can change the language of questions during exam? I don’t think so. You can choose to take the exam in a language other than English but there is no instant translation. Regards, Stephanie

  • Sylvie says:

    Hey just passed part one of the CIA can I get a job

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Sylvie, you can always get a job regardless of having a certification. But it can be helpful to increase the chance if you know how to “package” it. Ideally you should work towards the full CIA certification ๐Ÿ™‚ Stephanie

  • Amira says:

    Hi Steph,

    Next week is my third attempt to sit for CIA part 2 after failing in it twice! In the previous attempt I have studied thoroughly from Gleim and the additional practice advisories on the IIA website and yet got a failing score of 577.
    Could you advise what should I do to pass next week ? I am currently only relying on Gleim and extremely anxious that I will fail this time.
    surprisingly I did not find the exam tricky last time but I realized that there were many questions addressing topics not covered in Gleim which makes me hesitant to rely on Gleim.

    Appreciate your advise and your best wishes for me in passing this time.

    • Thiem says:

      Hi Amira,

      Have you taken the Part 2 yet, Did you pass, would you share something about part2 please. thanks

      • Amira says:

        Hi Theim,

        Yes I did last week and I passed!! Finally.. after two fail attempts. I have realized that I have applied a different technique when answering the questions in the third attempt which I did not apply for the first two attempts. While I was answering the questions, any question that I did not know the correct answer for I flagged it so that I could answer at the end. Apparently when I had 15 minutes to answer the flagged questions at the end, I was able to answer them with confident without over analyzing. Also, another technique I applied is that I did NOT over analyze the question. The more you over think and over analyze, you waste your time and get the wrong answer. So what I did is that I paid attention to the key words in the question and what the question is EXACTLY ADDRESSING..

        -Materials that I have studied from:
        1) Gleim

        2) IIA ( The IIA is extremely detailed! I honestly think that the candidate wastes his/her time by using the IIA for part 2 when Gleim is already available. HOWEVER, I have used the IIA only for the chapters that I have difficulty with or are unclear in Gleim.

        3)Latest 2017 Standards: Available on the IIA website. I feel that this is the most useful material to refresh your memory with while revising the last day as it combines all standards.

        On the day of the exam:
        I made sure I had sufficient hours of sleep, had my coffee and power breakfast in the morning to keep me ALERT and FOCUSED.

        Hope this helps!

        Good Luck..

        • Stephanie says:

          Very detailed and systematic. Thanks Amira, and of course, really happy for you!

        • Thiem says:

          Congratulation!!! thanks Amira, I didn’t notice your reply, your advice also bolster my confidence that I can pass part 2.

        • Mokshita says:

          Hi Amira ,

          i just looked in to the conversation and i m also same as Theim, i failed in Part 2 twice and started prepararing again.
          u mentioned about IIA material , i searched for same n dint find it . Can you helpp me with any reference link to get to that material.
          I am referencing Gleim but would like to go beyond it little becaz i failed with 594 marks

          Thank you in advance

  • Melissa Budea says:

    I had also taken part 1 three times and passed on the 3rd time! It is trickier than you think but yes don’t over analayze questions and look to answer the question before looking at choices it helped me a lot! I used my remaining 25 minutes to over all 125 questions quickly and answer a handful of u answered ones. The key is to watch for key words and how they are used in questions, I found that helped me. I am hoping to pass part 2 on the 1st try! Good luck to all! Melissa Budea

  • Ramil says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for helping

    I want to get CIA certificatie because I love my job as auditor and I have more experience in this position.
    And I am going to get better job and one of the main requirements is CIA. That is why I have to get this certificate.

    I have some questions if you respond these it will be pleasure for me

    I registrated in IIA in 2014 and got ID number from them. I have not try to passing exam till nowdays (reason is hard work envoirement). As I know passing all CIA levels should be done in 4 yeas after registration (is it true?), I am going to pass CIA Part 1 in august 2018. Qusetion is:

    Should I pass exam CIA PART 1 in this case?
    Or can I registrate again in IAA (is it possible)?

    Thank in advance


    • morelel hill says:

      Morelel Hill i pass all of ican , wantes , and the needs i pass , food water fun drive walk run , smile cry joke longly. cia morelel hill .. thnk you .. corp morelel hill . military policeman iam going fishing ….

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