CIA Exam Pass Rate in 2014 to 2016: You will be Surprised…

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Finally.

The IIA has decided to disclose the CIA exam pass rate on an annual basis:

IIA-run Exams2014 Pass Rates2015 Pass Rates2016 Pass Rates
CIA42%39%40%
CCSA47%48%49%
CFSA66%64%56%
CGAP70%71%69%
CRMA63%59%56%

Note: These are global pass rates. This means scores are reflective of all exams delivered in all countries, in all languages for exams delivered via computer based testing (CBT). Source: IIA website

In the past, when the data was not disclosed, the most quoted CIA exam pass rate was 45% (although the percentage may come from one unverified source). According to Hock International’s previous estimate, the pass rate was around 50%.

The actual 2016 CIA exam pass rate is even lower.

CIA Exam Pass Rate Lower than CPA, but Comparable to CMA

It may be a surprise to many that the CIA exam passing rate is lower than to that of the CPA exam (45-55%) and the CFA exam (43% for Level 1), given the general impression that the CIA exam should be easier.

CPA
CFA
CMA
CIA

One reason is the the CPA exam has a much high entry barrier: those who are allowed to sit for the exam must have an education equivalent to an accounting major, and that he or she must have 4-5 years of higher education.

There Could Possibly be Regional Difference as Shown in the CMA Exam

In addition, the CMA exam is similar to the CIA exam in that there is a substantial number of non-US candidates. The administrator of the CMA exam discloses pass rates by region, and you will see that the level differs considerably by region. In particular, the non-English speaking regions have the lowest performance in both Part 1 and Part 2.

US CMA Exam Pass Rate Trend

The regional difference in CIA exam performance is likely smaller due to the fact that:

  • The exam is offered in 17 languages throughout the world.
  • It is 100% multiple choice questions (instead of essays that require good English writing skills in the CMA exam).

Having said that, I have readers complaining that the translation is not done properly. It is a US-based exam and we should expect the format and writing style to be pretty much American.

If English is not your first language, bear in mind that the overall pass rate may not be a good indicator in your situation.

Other IIA Certificates (e.g. CRMA) have Higher Pass Rates. Should I Take Those Instead?

The CIA certification is the most well-recognized among the IIA offering. It is also the most versatile and the one most suitable for internal audit generalists.

If you don’t have current plans to further specialize within internal audit, or that you aspire to become a senior IA professionals with strategic and management roles, the CIA certification is the one to go for.

Because of this, I wouldn’t pick a certification based on historical pass rates. We should make the decision based on the needs of our long term career.

The respective eligibility requirements also lead to a difference in pass rates. For example, the CRSA exam requires candidate to at least pass the Part 1 exam. This rule limits the CRSA exam candidates to serious takers who have a good foundation in internal audit. As a result, the CRSA exam pass rate is naturally higher than that of the CIA exam.

The CIA exam pass rate is quite low and the reasons behind are complicated. But then, every candidate has an equal chance of success. We can improve our chance with better planning and more effective study strategies.

Your Next Step

Let’s focus on doing our best in the exam preparation. Here’s what you can do:

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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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  • Harris Johnson says:

    I am in Liberia , West Africa and want to prepare for the CIA exams. How do i go about this? i need the following information;
    1. Documentation required for the test
    2. Cost of study materials
    3. Nearest test center in West Africa

  • Lyndon Remias says:

    Is Pass rate per part? What is a person only took one part? How is that factored into the pass rate?

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Lyndon,
      Quoting from the IIA website: “These are global pass rates. This means scores are reflective of all exams delivered in all countries, in all languages for exams delivered via computer based testing (CBT).”

      They don’t provide further breakdown. Regards, Stephanie

  • Art Yip says:

    Thanks Stephanie, very interesting info! I am surprised to hear how low the CIA Exam pass rate for 2015 is too! For what it’s worth, I’ve heard from my colleagues that the CIA exam has gotten harder in recent years. It’ll be interesting to see how the CPA exam pass rates will change in 2017 and thereafter also, due to the upcoming CPA exam changes!

  • Jen W says:

    While the pass rate percentages are great to see, I’d love to know the actual number of individuals who took the exam per year the percents are posted. Are these figures available anywhere?

  • Neamatullah says:

    Thank Stephanie for posting the CIA pass rate, previously the passing mark of CIA exam was 600 out of 750 marks per part can you please tell me that how much is the passing mark per part now.

  • Julia says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Will the IIA release your actual score if you passed the exam?

    Thanks,
    Julia

  • Jessica Hall says:

    Hi Stephaine,

    How much time does it takes for a candidate to pass all the parts of CIA on an average.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Jessica,
      I didn’t run a survey on this, but it really depends on the candidates’ background. I think I have got a couple who passed within a couple of months, but most probably need 3 months to prepare for each part, so around 9 months to a year to pass all 3 parts of the exam. Regards, Stephanie

  • Qasimsalam says:

    I have attempted Part 1 three time 1st 475 2nd 590 and third 566 my result so what i do any suggestions

  • Dawn says:

    Hi stephanie, is gleim still good for UK entrants?

    • Stephanie says:

      Sure Dawn – Gleim isn’t perfect but is the best out there in my opinion.
      The exam is the same everywhere, so certainly apply to UK exam takers. Cheers, Stephanie

  • John S says:

    Hi Stephanie, I registered for a CRMA exam, and realised that I will need to do CIA part 1, while checking I saw that I am eligible for CIA part 1 exams, do I need to pay CIA appplication fees again?

    Kindly help

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