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How Is the Certified Internal Auditor Exam Scored? CIA Passing Score

cia exam passing score

If you’re wondering, “What CIA passing score do I need to clear the CIA exam,” you’ve come to the right place. To become a Certified Internal Auditor, you need a good score to pass the CIA exam. After all, passing all 3 parts of this exam is one of several CIA requirements. And you must finish all of these requirements within 3 years of entering the CIA program. Therefore, you’ll want to pass the exam efficiently, and learning as much as possible about the exam helps you accomplish this. For example, you need to know the CIA passing score. However, you must also know how the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) grades the exam and how to access your CIA exam score report. So, read this post about the required passing score for the CIA exam and how the IIA determines that you’ve earned this score.

What Is a CIA Exam Passing Score?

In short, a CIA passing score is 600 or higher. This number is the same for all 3 CIA exam parts. So, the CIA exam Part 1 passing score, the CIA Part 2 passing score, and the passing score on CIA exam Part 3 are all 600.

What is the score of a passing CIA exam?

Furthermore, the range for a CIA exam score is 250-750. The IIA converts each raw CIA score (the number of questions answered correctly) to this scale. Consequently, your score is not a straight calculation of how many CIA exam questions you got right. For instance, a total score for CIA exam Part 3 of 600 does not indicate that you correctly answered 80% of the questions.

How Is the Certified Internal Auditor Exam Scored?

The IIA has fully computerized all 3 parts of the CIA exam, which are:

  1. Essentials of Internal Auditing
  2. Practice of Internal Auditing
  3. Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing

Additionally, the exam contains only multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Part 1 has 125 MCQs, while Part 2 and Part 3 each have 100 MCQs. None of the exam parts present candidates with essays, case studies, or any other kind of question.

For this reason, the computer that you use to take the CIA exam grades your entire exam.

Gleim CIA Discount

What grade do I need to pass the CIA exam?

What’s more, the IIA calculates the CIA passing marks for each exam according to its difficulty. As a result, the number of questions a candidate must answer correctly can differ from one CIA exam to another.

Ideally, the IIA’s Board of Regents sets the CIA pass mark at 75% of scored questions answered correctly. So, if you answered 75% of the questions correctly, you would pass the CIA exam.

Nevertheless, on CIA exams that are more difficult, the Board of Regents may occasionally lower the passing mark to less than 75%. In these instances, the Board of Regents sets the new passing mark as equal to a scaled score of 600. Then, they scale all other scores around the passing score.

So, for example, if you took a CIA exam of standard difficulty, you might need to answer 75% of the questions correctly in order to receive a CIA passing score. However, if you took a CIA exam of elevated difficulty, you might only need to get 70% of the questions right to pass that exam.

While we do not know all of the details of the IIA’s scaled scoring system, we do know that it is fair.

Where Do CIA Exam Questions Come From?

Do you know where the CIA exam content comes from? In short, a group of professionals, selected by the IIA, writes the actual exam questions. To be able to write CIA exam questions, professionals must hold an IIA designation, such as the CIA. The IIA Global team then trains the professionals on how to write questions. Also, the IIA Global team reviews questions submitted by professionals and asks for revisions if necessary. And the IIA Global team can even reject questions for any reason.

Typically, before a question counts toward a score, the IIA will insert the question into candidates’ exams. However, the IIA calls these pre-test questions, and they do not count toward your score. Furthermore, you cannot tell the difference between pre-test and regular questions. The IIA looks at the data surrounding the pre-test questions (how many candidates answered it correctly, how long it took candidates to answer, etc.). Then, the IIA evaluates if all, some, or none of the pre-test questions should be added to future exams as regular questions.

Which Questions Contribute to Your CIA Exam Score?

The CIA exam is not adaptive. Thus, the difficulty of the questions doesn’t change according to your prior answers.

Besides, the lack of variety among the CIA exam questions allows the IIA to weigh all of the questions equally. And the IIA positively grades the exam, which means they don’t penalize you for getting a question wrong.

Still, the IIA does not score all of the questions on your exam. For instance, some questions do not contribute to your score because they are pretest questions. The IIA places pretest questions throughout the CIA exam to see if these questions adequately test a candidate’s knowledge on a given topic. The IIA uses the data they collect to decide if they should use these questions as scored questions on future iterations of the exam.

On the CIA exam, pretest questions look the same as scored questions. Therefore, you can’t distinguish between the 2. And again, they appear randomly throughout the exam, so you shouldn’t try to guess which questions are pretest. Instead, you should answer all CIA exam questions to the best of your ability.

Yet, if you encounter a particularly challenging or unfamiliar question, you can take comfort that it is probably a pretest question. All the same, you should answer it as well as you can and move on.

When Will You Receive Your CIA Exam Score?

Do you know how long until your official score on the CIA exam arrives? Well, thankfully, because the computer grades the exam, you’ll receive a CIA exam unofficial score report immediately after you exit the Pearson Vue testing room. That is, there aren’t any CIA exam score release dates.

If you earned a CIA exam score of 600 or more, your score report will say “Pass.” Plus, the IIA doesn’t disclose the actual score to those who receive a CIA exam pass score. After all, the IIA believes that all candidates with passing grades are equally qualified for the certification.

But, if you didn’t score at least 600, you will receive a numeric score somewhere between 250 and 599. In this instance, the IIA gives you a numeric score so you can see how close you came to passing.

The IIA has a CIA exam score check, too. You’ll find your official CIA exam results in the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS) on the IIA’s website 24-48 hours after you take the exam.

But sometimes, the IIA finds a reason to analyze your exam results further. And this additional analysis may take up to 45 days to complete. Furthermore, your officially published scores may be invalidated in instances of score anomalies or demonstrations of misconduct or breaches of the IIA’s Code of Ethics.

What Happens If You Don’t Get a CIA Passing Score?

If you don’t study properly, you won’t reach the grade needed to pass the CIA exam. And if you didn’t pass your exam part but instead experienced a CIA exam fail, your score report will provide you with a numeric score. (In contrast, you won’t receive a numeric score if you pass.) Additionally, your score report will also give you an analysis of your performance if you fail the exam.

In essence, this performance assessment summarizes the level of success you achieved with each major content area of that exam part. Examples of the feedback you’ll receive on your performance assessment include, “You performed competently in this area, but review is still recommended before retaking this exam part.” Or “You need moderate improvement in this area.” And finally, “You need significant improvement in this area.”

Your performance assessment will appear in CCMS. For that reason, you can use your performance assessment to guide your studies as you prepare to retake this CIA exam part.

Retaking a Failed CIA Exam Part

After you review your performance assessment, you should take the steps necessary to schedule this exam part again so that you can retake it. The IIA does not limit the number of times you can retake an exam part, so you should start the process as soon as you can.

To retake a CIA exam part, you must re-register in CCMS. You can complete the CIA exam registration process again as soon as your official score report appears in your profile. When you re-register for the failed exam part, you must pay the CIA exam fee for that part again as well.

After you reregister, you’ll receive another authorization to test from the IIA. When you do, you can visit the Pearson VUE website to schedule a new testing appointment for that exam part.

But, because the IIA imposes a 30-day waiting period on exam part retakes, your testing appointment options will begin 30 days after the date you took the failed exam part. So, during this time, you could move on to another CIA exam part due to the fact that studying for 10 hours a week enables you to prepare for another exam part in about 7-12 weeks.

Even if you don’t skip ahead to the next exam part that you need to pass, you should still stay in study mode during these 30 days, as losing your study momentum will make passing next time even harder.

How Many People Receive a CIA Exam Pass Score?

The most recent CIA pass percentage is about 48%. Having floated just above or below 40% in the past several years, the average Certified Internal Auditor exam pass rate is about 42% when calculated over the previous several years.

In the chart below, you’ll see we don’t have exact rates for the 2022 or 2023 CIA exams because the IIA has been slower to release pass rates in the last few years. But according to latest data available from the IIA, the most recent CIA pass rates are as follows: 45% for CIA Part 1, 50% for CIA Part 2, and 54% for CIA Part 3.

Annual CIA Pass Rate 2019-2023

Year 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Pass Rate 42% 41% 48%

Annual CIA Pass Rate 2014-2018



2015 2016 2017


Pass Rate


39% 40% 42%


So, the number of people who receive a CIA exam passing score each year is relatively low.

However, as you can see the CIA pass rate has recently been on the rise. The steadily climbing pass rate is encouraging for current and future CIA candidates, and two factors may be the cause.

First, the number of people earning the CIA certification in the last decade has increased dramatically. The IIA awarded its 100,000th CIA certification in 2011 and then granted the 185,000th CIA certification in 2023. This occurrence demonstrates significant growth in just a few years.

Second, the CIA exam prep industry has made significant improvements to its courses quickly. Originally offering little more than printed textbooks and small test banks, the most popular courses now include video lectures, audio lectures, expansive test banks, digital books, and adaptive technology within innovative and easy-to-use online platforms. Many courses also come with access until you pass and several layers of customer support. With these modifications making the CIA review much more efficient and effective, more candidates have passed the CIA exam and pulled up the CIA pass rate.

How to Pass the CIA Exam

1. Get the best CIA exam prep for you

To give yourself the best chance at receiving a CIA exam passing score on your first attempt with each exam part, you must use a CIA review course. The CIA exam difficulty level is high enough that trying to pass without a review course will lead you to waste time, money, and effort.

A CIA review course is full of the study resources you need to understand the exam content, develop your internal auditing knowledge and skills, and get the necessary support for sticking to your CIA study plan. These resources usually include:

  • Digital or physical books
  • Video lectures
  • Audio lectures
  • A bank of practice questions
  • Performance tracking software
  • A study planner
  • Customer service access
  • Limited time access

Finding the best CIA review course for you does take a bit of time. You have to do your homework on each course by investigating the following features:

  • Inclusion of materials that fit your learning style
  • Course author
  • Frequency of course updates
  • Levels of customer service
  • Presence of adaptive technology within the course platform
  • Customer reviews
  • Quality of video lecture professors
  • Course value based on the price
  • Types of guarantees
  • Duration of the course access period
  • Provider’s longevity in the industry
  • Availability of course demos
  • Presence of exam emulation within the course
  • Number of practice questions provided

The course you choose must contain everything you need for CIA exam success. So, you must not settle for a course that doesn’t satisfy your needs in most areas. To avoid investing in the wrong course, you should research the most popular CIA courses on the market. Then, when you’re ready to purchase your ideal course, you should use these CIA review discounts to save big.

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Use the right exam prep for a CIA passing score

The course you choose must contain everything you need for CIA exam success. So, you must not settle for a course that doesn’t satisfy your needs in the vast majority of areas. To avoid investing in the wrong course, you should research the most popular CIA courses on the market.

For instance, you could start by exploring one of the most popular CIA courses. Check out Gleim CIA Review. Gleim is popular because its SmartAdapt propriety technology helps you study more efficiently. Plus, Gleim has a large test of practice questions, and working through sample questions is one of the best study methods.

2. Give yourself enough time to study sufficiently

Your CIA review course will include many study units and thousands of practice questions. And, to know that you’re completely ready to pass, you must give yourself enough study time to get through most, if not all, of the material in your course. The adaptive technology in your course may say that you’re ready to pass before you finish every chapter or practice quiz. But otherwise, you should prepare to finish your course to ensure you’ve studied enough.

I recommend the following study hours for each exam part:

CIA Exam Study Hours

Exam Part

Minimum Number

Safe Number

Part 1

30-40 hours

55-65 hours

Part 2

30-40 hours

60-70 hours

Part 3

40-50 hours

85-95 hours

The amount of study time you should budget to pass each exam depends on your familiarity with the exam content. If you have a lot of internal auditing experience, you may be able to study for just the minimum number of study hours. However, if you’re new to the profession and need to better grasp the basics, you should plan to put in a safe number of study hours.

Basically, you must make sure that you’ve studied long enough and well enough before exam day. If you don’t, you’re more likely to achieve a CIA exam fail than a CIA exam passing score.

3. Strengthen your weak areas

Once you have the right CIA review course and have adjusted your schedule to fit in all the study time you’ll need, you must start studying. And the best way to study for the CIA exam is to focus on your weak areas.

Discovering and strengthening your weak areas takes your knowledge of every internal auditing concept to a deep level. Therefore, this study approach prepares you for every CIA exam question. Even if you encounter a particularly conceptual question, you can use your firm grasp on the internal auditing fundamentals to reason your way to the right answer.

A CIA review course with adaptive technology is the perfect tool for detecting your weak areas. This review course uses your performance on diagnostic quizzes to identify your weak areas. Then, it directs you to the content explanations relevant to improving these areas. After that, an adaptive CIA course presents plenty of practice questions about your weak areas so that you can further progress your knowledge.

If you don’t have an adaptive CIA course, you can take similar steps to address your weak areas. Pinpointing your troublesome topics from your performance on practice quizzes takes more effort but will still help you maximize your study time. Reading the explanations for the right and wrong answers to every practice question you complete is also essential for mastering all of the exam material.

4. Take time to relax before you test

To keep all of the information you’ve been learning throughout your review time fresh in your mind, you should keep studying through the week of exam day. However, you should stop studying the day before your testing appointment to give your mind a chance to relax. This should give you the best chance at a CIA exam pass grade.

Cramming exam content in the last remaining hours before your exam isn’t a good idea because it will leave you too mentally exhausted to perform well. Therefore, you should give yourself enough time to calm down and rest up prior to your appointment.

You should take an extended study break in the last 24 hours before your appointment, including some of your favorite activities. Watch a movie, nap, exercise, go shopping, hang out with friends, and do anything other than study.

You need your mind to be at ease and stress-free when you reach the testing center. If it’s not, you won’t have the stamina and mental stability you need to pass the CIA exam.

What to Do to Get the Best CIA Exam Results

It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a CIA part 1 passing score or if you’re ready to tackle parts 2 or 3: you must put in some time before the big exam day. In addition to knowing what a passing score for the CIA exam is, you also need to be prepared to study.

For example, you could start your journey toward a CIA passing score by checking out the Gleim CIA review courses.

Another resource you can use to secure a CIA exam passing score is my free CIA e-course. This course walks you through the entire CIA certification process. It also tells you how to pass each exam part on your first try. So, learn more about my course or sign up below!

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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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