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

cia exam passing score

To become a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), you’ve got to take the CIA exam. 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 you can about the exam helps you accomplish this. For example, you need to know what passing the exam looks like. And, seeing how the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) grades the CIA exam may also benefit you. So, use this information to discover what a CIA exam passing score is and how the IIA determines that you’ve earned this score.

What Is a CIA Exam Passing Score?

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

Furthermore, the range for a CIA exam score is 250-750. The IIA converts all raw CIA exam scores (the number of questions answered correctly) to this scale. Therefore, your exam score is not a straight calculation of how many questions you got right. So, a CIA passing score 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.

What’s more, the IIA calculates the passing score for each CIA exam according to its difficulty. Consequently, 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.

However, 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.

Which Questions Contribute to Your CIA Exam Score?

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

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

However, the IIA does not score all of the questions on your exam. 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 questions. Instead, you should simply 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 in the fact that it is probably a pretest question. So, you should simply answer it as well as you can and move on.

When Will You Receive Your CIA Exam Score?

Because the computer grades the CIA exam, you’ll receive an unofficial score report immediately after you finish testing.

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

But, if you didn’t score at least a 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.

You’ll find your official CIA exam results in the Certification Candidate Management System 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 didn’t pass your exam part but instead experienced a CIA exam fail, your score report will not only provide you with a numeric score, but it will also give you an assessment of your performance.

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. Therefore, 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 90-day waiting period on exam part retakes, your testing appointment options will begin 90 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 90 days, as losing your study momentum will make passing next time even harder.

How Many People Receive a CIA Exam Pass Score?

The current CIA pass percentage is 43%. Having floated just above or below 40% in the past several years, the average CIA exam pass rate is about 41%.

CIA Exam Pass Rates





Pass Rate




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 2 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 150,000th CIA certification in 2018. This occurrence demonstrates 50% growth in just 7 years.

Second, the CIA exam prep industry has made significant improvements to its courses in a short time. Originally offering little more than printed textbooks and small test banks, the most popular courses on the market 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 CIA review much more efficient and effective, more candidates have been able to pass the CIA exam and pull up the CIA pass rate.

How to Pass the CIA Exam

1. Get the best CIA review course 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 just 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 the vast majority of areas. To avoid investing in the wrong course, you should research all of 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.

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 that 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 part depends on how familiar you already are 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 get a better grasp on the basics, you should plan to put in the 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 for you and you’ve 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.

The process of discovering and strengthening your weak areas takes your knowledge of every internal auditing concepts to a deep level. Therefore, this study approach prepares you for every kind of CIA exam question. Even if you encounter a particularly conceptual question, you’ll be able to 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 type of review course uses your performance on diagnostic quizzes to identify your weak areas. Then, it directs you to the content explanations relevant for 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 on your own to address your weak areas. Pinpointing your troublesome topics from your performance on practice quizzes takes more effort on your part but will still help you maximize your study time. Reading the explanations for the right and wrong answers of 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 so that you give your mind a chance to relax.

Cramming on 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 on the exam. Therefore, you should give yourself enough time to calm down and rest up prior to your appointment.

In the last 24 hours before your appointment, you should take an extended study break that includes some of your favorite activities. Watch a movie, take a nap, exercise, go shopping, hang out with friends: 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

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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  • mag says:

    Just completed my exam and scored 590. How far am i away from passing?

  • remon says:

    Just completed my exam with unofficial scored 594 and the result is fail, Is there any opportunity for passing when it is be official

  • idrissa says:

    I took the part 3 o n september 23 and got a failing score of 588 from the testing center.
    but I did not receive an official failing notice from iia. is there a chance that it can be overturn

  • XuanDao says:

    Hello Stephanie,
    I have signed. Thanks for your website.
    I come from Vietnam, and according to my findings. There is just “smart train” center organizes CIA course in Vietnam.
    So, if I study myself, could I pass?
    Please kindly give me some guidance.

    Many thanks

  • Catherine says:


    I just took the first CIA Exam and received an unofficial score of 590. Assuming the official score will be the same I will be re-taking the exam in the future. Does the 180 day time limit to take the exam still apply to my second attempt?


    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Catherine, bummer… it was pretty close to pass.
      I thought you only need to wait for 90 days? It applies to all the attempts for the same part. Regards, Stephanie

  • Yasser says:

    I just finished my cia part 1 exam. And my unofficial score is 595. Is there any chance to curve the score to 600 in the official result?


  • Mubashir says:

    First prepare Part III of CIA. After this,remaining parts will be easy. Because, student feels difficulty when he looks accounting in Part I & II Exam questions. When prepares Part III, rest become easy.

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks for your sharing. Part 3 covers more topics than Part 1 and 2. So the difficulty is more on wider coverage and not necessarily on more difficult questions. Regards, Stephanie

      • Mubashir says:

        I appeared two times in CIA-I & one time in CIA-II but unsuccessful. Exam questions were lengthy and of mostly accounts based scenarios. If person prepares part III first, then remaining parts become easy. However, I left CIA and started CISA which is one paper based.

  • Moustafa says:

    yesterday,i just passed CIA part 2 ,i only studied gleim &hock ,when i asked about my exam report, they said the exam report is not provided to applicants,the applicants only know if they fail or pass

    • Stephanie says:

      Moustafa, congratulations!
      That’s right, if you pass, there won’t be a score or a report; but if one fails then he would be given a report, aiming to help him understand the relative weakness that he can work on for the next attempt. Regards, Stephanie

  • Jenny says:

    Hi , I sit CIA part 3 and failed with a score of 576. I want to understand how many questions did I get wrong out of 100 questions.
    The pass score is +600 and I still can’t grasp how this translates into 75% pass score.
    My maths showed me to 80% pass score (my method 1 ) and a pass score 70% ( my method 2) based on the grading system (250-750).
    How many questions docI have to get right to get 600?

  • Emmanuel says:

    I got my unofficial CIA exams results and was so close to passing, i got 595.Any chances of getting a pass when i get my official results?

    • Rosy says:

      Hello, i am in the same situation than you!!!! Did you pass again the exam or your final score was enough to succed? Thanks for your response !!

  • Karim says:

    I just completed my CIA part 3 exam and have passed the exam successfully!

    wish you all the best 🙂

  • dinky says:


    Is gliem cia materials and test prep enough for passing out the exam. I am planning to give exam in mid november this year.

  • Sitti says:

    Hi Steph! Do the official results of CIA exam also shows the grade and performance per section for the passer?

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Sitti, there will be no grade/performance report if you pass. But if failed, then yes you get those for your reference and for an indication on how one can improve in their next attempt. Hope this is clearer? Stephanie

  • moataz says:

    i need to pass CRMA
    [ already study iia material and makeveer but failed

    • Stephanie says:

      Oh I see… we just started to cover CRMA but we will work hard to gather information to help those who need a retake! Please email me at if you are willing to share your experience, good or bad. Thanks! Stephanie

      • Antonio Villamor says:

        Hi Stephanie!

        I took my CRMA exam last Feb 23, 2020, and the CIA Part One last February 29, 2020. Thankfully, I passed both. The materials I used for the CRMA is the one that the IIA published. For Part One, I used GLEIM. GLEIM Part One and the IIA’s CRMA materials are, I think, complementary. Using both, I feel very confident when taking both exams.

        The only thing I would say GLEIM is that it did not allow me to take farther the Final Review Exam saying that I have proficiency level already. Although, I have to say, that some of my examinations work out was just okay. I scored 84 in my Exam Rehearsal, and I also took the IIA Prep Exam, which said that I pass. So, feeling confident and restless, I immediately took the Part One one week after I passed the CRMA.


    • Elijah says:

      Hi moataz.. How are you? Were you able to surpass the hurdle? Looking forward for your reply. Im planning to review for CRMA exam.

  • Dan says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Unfortunately I was not able to clear my CIA part 1 exam today.
    🙁 (only short by 5 points , 595). I need to moderately improve on Internal control and Conducting Internal audit engagements.

    Wanted to check if we get detailed report in CCMS showing which are the weak areas and which questions I have answered incorrectly ?or we get the same report which I got as a printout after the exam?

    Also, from my personal experience I would like to share, I am using Gleim , but I found lot of concepts that came during the exam were not covered in the gleim material, even in the test material also. How do I cope with it going forward ? I have already reviewed Lynnel blog and stories however I am still not sure how to move forward ?

    I geniunely completed all the test exam in GLEIM and scored more than 90%? Do you suggest going with some review material (IIA, Hock or Wiley)

    Sorry for long comment, one last query… as I have to wait 3 months window to give my part 1 again, should I give both the part together or give only 1st part.

    Any recommendations or help in above queries will be much appreciated’



    • Stephanie says:

      Oh Dan, that was really close…
      I truly believe that you try your best, and it was just a tiny bit off from the passing grade. I remember Lynnel mentioned some reading downloaded from the IIA site as well (maybe the practice guides?) As to whether another review material is helpful, I am not sure… maybe for the <10% incorrect questions from your Gleim test, make sure you know how to get to the correct answers?

      If you really want to get a supplementary material, I would try Surgent (i.e. Exammatrix). I can’t say they have the best questions, but the adaptive learning system, in which they feed you questions in your weaker areas, can prove to be very useful. You can check out my write up here:

      If you are this close you might as well also try Part 2. It depends on your time and whether you are able to commit to the studying.

      Stay strong! I am quite sure you can pass on your next attempt! Stephanie

  • Miri says:

    Hello Stephanie,
    I have failed part one two times with 585 and 595 points respectively. I used Glaim preparation materials and was doing well in both study and testing sessions as my overall average was more than 90%. But at the real exam I saw so different and “strange” questions that I’d never seen information related them in prep materials. I just wonder could these questions be the reason that I failed or not. Because if calculate my score it appears that I’ve answered 95 questions right and still failed the exam.

  • Rebecca McManus says:

    Where do you purchase authorized training guides to train and re train beginning assistants?

  • Saus says:

    Hi Steph,
    I was curious to know about this statement you made “…while we do not know all of the details of the IIA’s scaled scoring system, we do know that it is fair..”

    Kind Regards.

    • Meghan D says:

      We believe that the IIA is an upstanding organization with high ethical standards. The scoring is done by a computer and there are steps in place that inform the objectivity of the grading system. It would not behoove the IIA to randomly fail people and if this was the case, we certainly would all know about it. We hope this helps!

  • Elijah says:

    I finished the CIA part 3 exam this august. I’m Officially a CIA! Im really thankful to Steph for the regular emails of support and also to this community. Since Im a second taker for part 3, i find the exam somewhat maneagable compared last december ( i got 533) Or just maybe my 8 mos preparations help a lot to aced the exam. The exam covered a lot of info security ( as in 50%) especially in data privacy, byod, Disaster Recovery, data analytics, long questions on finman, etc..preparation is the key. Understand every concepts by heart. Never memorized the questions in gleim. If u have time, read the CISA REVIEWER – domain 5 of Protection of Assets to get you through INFO security. Never loose help. Just keep tryin. Have faith.

  • Ryan says:

    Thanks for your website, it provided me really great knowledge for the overall process for taking the exam. Much more clear than other sites, and actually tells you what you need to know about the process.

    A few questions for you. I unofficially passed the 3rd and final CIA exam recently. However, within the CCMS system, my exam is “on hold” and undergoing further review. I know this is mentioned as a possibility on this site and the IIA site, but…

    1. Do we know why this is needed? Isn’t this a computer graded exam? I’m having a hard time understanding why my exam is being further reviewed, when the results could be automatically generated…

    2. Is this something that you’ve heard of happening to others, and if so, how long does the review take? I’d like to get on the good side of my manager’s certification metric for Q4….

    3. Could my results be overturned (I didn’t break any exam rules, etc. I’m assuming that’s the only thing that a review could uncover to reverse a score)? I told my manager that I passed after seeing the unofficial pass and now I’m worried that was a mistake to do so before the results were official.

    Thanks, hopefully you can help ease my anxiety.

  • Ryan says:

    So I have some questions regarding the exam scoring.
    – Given the exam is graded by how many questions you get right, essentially the IIA is doing its candidates a disservice by not awarding them points for the pre-test questions?
    – Aligned with the question above if there are 100 questions, how do we actually know what percentage is needed to pass? The article mentions that a 75% ideally is needed but in come cases a 70% will suffice.. Is it even graded out of 100 questions given that some of these are pre-test questions?

    … I understand the IIA doesn’t gain, except for possibly a monetary incentive (ie. retake exam fees), for incorrectly scoring exams, but I believe it is pretty alarming that an organization that preaches high ethical conduct basically has zero transparency with the grading/scoring of the exam.

    • Meghan D says:

      Hi Ryan,

      The CIA exam has a cut score — there is no way to calculate a percentage.

      None of the major accounting certification examiners (AICPA, IMA, etc.) provide in-depth details about how their respective exam is scored. So, the IIA is operating in-line with how the rest of the accounting certification exams treat exam scoring transparency.

      Similarly, all the other accounting certification exams have pre-test questions. And just like the IIA, the other examiners do not count the pre-test questions when calculating the candidate’s score.

      I’d recommend reaching out to the IIA with your questions and concerns. Good luck!

      I Pass the CIA Exam

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