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CIA Exam Pass Rate: The Latest (and Surprising) Pass Rates for the CIA Exam


If you want to earn the CIA certification, you must pass the CIA exam. Consequently, you may be wondering just how many people pass the CIA exam annually. Thankfully, the IIA discloses the CIA exam pass rate every year. Therefore, we can assess the CIA exam pass rates to determine what they say about the exam and what they mean for you.

Annual CIA Exam Pass Rate

The IIA only releases the global CIA exam pass rate once a year. And, they only share the overall pass rate for the CIA exam. So, we cannot know the pass rate for each part of the exam.

Annual CIA Exam Pass Rate



2015 2016 2017


Pass Rate


39% 40% 42%


Using this information, we can see that the average CIA exam pass rate of the last few years is about 41%.

Potential Explanations for the CIA Exam Pass Rate Increases

As you can see, the CIA exam pass rates were healthy in 2014, and then they experienced a bit of a dip in 2015. But thankfully, since then, the pass rates have been on the rise, and I believe we can potentially credit these increases to a few specific factors.

First of all, CIA candidate numbers have climbed steadily in the past decade. Globally, IIA membership has spiked, going from 164,896 in 2008 to 193,592 in 2017. And the demand for the CIA certification has elevated along with IIA membership numbers. In 2011, the IIA celebrated the 100,000th CIA certification. Then, in 2018, they awarded the 150,000th CIA certification, achieving a 50% increase in just 7 years. Therefore, more people are taking the CIA exam, and as evidenced by the pass rates, more people are passing the exam.

How they are passing the exam leads me to my second explanation for the CIA exam pass rate rise: improvements in the CIA exam prep industry. In recent years, review providers have updated and refined their study materials, increased the number of online courses available, and created video lectures to accompany their courses. These modifications and more have helped each CIA candidate have a much better chance at exam success. And again, as recent pass rates seem to prove, the availability of better CIA review materials has bumped up the percentage of candidates achieving such success.

CIA Exam Pass Rates Compared to the Exams of Other IIA Programs

The IIA offers several programs for different accounting certifications, and they post the pass rates for these programs along with the CIA exam pass rates.

IIA Program Exams


2015 2016 2017




39% 40% 42%




48% 49% 53%




64% 56% 57%



70% 71% 69% 64%




59% 56% 58%


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 IIA did not publish the CIA exam pass rate data, the most quoted pass rate percentage was 45%. Although, this percentage may have come from an unverified source. According to Hock International’s previous estimate, the pass rate was around 50%.

As you can see, the actual CIA exam pass rate is a bit lower.

CIA Exam Pass Rates Compared to CPA, CFA, and CMA Exam Pass Rates

Furthermore, the average CIA exam pass rate is actually lower than the CPA Exam pass rate (45-55%) and the CFA exam pass rate (43% for Level 1). As many people believe the CIA exam is easier than these other exams, this fact is especially surprising.


CPA Exam Explanation

One reason for the higher CPA Exam pass rate is the CPA Exam’s higher barrier of entry. To sit for the CPA Exam, CPA candidates must have 4-5 years of post-secondary education equivalent to an accounting major. On the other hand, CIA candidates only need a bachelor’s degree or a certain number of years of internal auditing experience.

CMA Exam Explanation

Also, regional differences among candidates may explain why the CMA exam and CIA exam pass rates are similar. A substantial number of non-U.S. candidates sit for both the CMA and the CIA exams every year. Furthermore, the IMA reveals the CMA exam pass rate by region. So, we can see the differences in the CMA exam pass rates from around the world. Specifically, non-English speaking regions have the lowest performance in both Part 1 and Part 2 of the CMA exam.

U.S. CMA Exam Pass Rate Trends

Two facts most likely contribute to the regional differences in the CIA exam pass rates.

  • The IIA offers the CIA exam in 17 languages around the world.
  • The CIA exam consists solely of multiple-choice questions. Conversely, the CMA exam features essays that require good English writing skills.

Despite this, I have heard from past candidates that the translations of the CIA exam are not very good. However, the CIA exam is from the U.S., so we should expect the format and writing style to be very American.

Therefore, if English is not your first language, the overall pass rate of the CIA exam may not be the best indicator for your situation.

Considering Other IIA Certifications in Light of Lower CIA Exam Pass Rates

As you can see from the tables, all of the other IIA certification exams have higher pass rates than the CIA exam. So, should you pursue one of those certifications instead?

Well, the answer to that question depends on your job aspirations. But we can’t forget that the CIA is the most recognized certification the IIA offers. The CIA is also the most versatile and the most suitable for internal audit generalists.

Therefore, if you don’t currently plan to specialize in internal audit, or if you aspire to become a senior internal audit professional in a strategic or management role, the CIA certification is the one you want.

For this reason, I don’t recommend using the historical pass rates to select a certification. Instead, we should make a decision based on our long-term career goals.

Additionally, the eligibility requirements for these programs can also affect the pass rate discrepancies. For example, the CRMA exam requires candidates to pass Part 1 of the CIA exam. Therefore, this rule limits the CRMA exam candidates to committed individuals who have a good foundation in internal audit. As a result, the CRMA exam pass rate is naturally higher than that of the CIA exam.

Lessons from the CIA Exam Pass Rates

The CIA exam pass rate is a bit low, and the reasons for the low pass rate are complicated. But despite this truth, every CIA candidate has an equal opportunity to succeed. And, we can improve our chances of success by planning effectively and utilizing the best study strategies.

To start, you can get the answers to the most common questions of CIA candidates. Then, you can learn more about CIA exam Part 1. But most importantly, you should find the right CIA review course for you. To do so, consider my comparison of the most popular CIA review courses. Once you find the perfect course, study with it until you’re scoring at least 85% on the practice questions.

If you’re still quite new to the CIA process, you should also sign up for my free CIA exam study materials. This free CIA course tells you how hard the CIA exam can be, how to study properly, and more. Sign up today!

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?


  • 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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