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