CIA Exam Study Hours: What’s Enough? (+12 Ways to Be Efficient)


cia exam study hoursPeople often have questions on CIA exam study hours: how many days and months they should allocate, how many breaks in between and so on.

Let’s figure this out together.

Is there a Standard Number of CIA Exam Study Hours?

No, of course. Each candidate has a different background and experience, and their study style could make a big difference as well.

I have a study planner based on Gleim CIA Review. From there, I have the following rough estimate on CIA exam hours of study:

Minimum  Safe
 Part 1  30 hours 65 hours
 Part 2  30 hours 70 hours
 Part 3  50 hours  95 hours

“Minimum” refers to the time required to go through the Gleim CIA Review System. This includes MC quizzes, instructor videos, True / False questions, textbook reading, 20 practice questions for each study session, and one practice exam at the end.

“Safe” refers to the above plus all the practice questions in Gleim test prep, plus the time needed to carefully review incorrect ones.

You may need more or less time depending on your background

If you are very familiar with internal audit concepts, you may skip the reading part (for both textbook and video). This would cut down the studying hours by one-third.

On the other hand, if it’s mostly new, you’d need extra time looking it up on Youtube or email the personal counselor for help.

Feel free to download my CIA exam study planner, play around in the assumption pages and work out your own customized version.

Adjustments in Part 3

I’ve been getting feedback from readers lately on how Gleim isn’t sufficient in selected topics in Part 3. There isn’t a better alternative, so I suggest supplementary materials to make up for it. They are mostly free for IIA members.

At the same time, you may consider skipping the most complex computational questions in Gleim. Fellow readers find them an overkill. We are talking about the ones under Financial Management (units 14-18).

You might need to adjust your Part 3 studying hours accordingly. Rough speaking, you can expect to spend at least double the time of the other parts.

Summary in Video Format

For those who prefer to watch a video, here is a good summary for your reference:

My 12 Ways to Reduce Studying Time

Another way to cut down the hours: make studying more efficient and effective. Here are my suggestions:

1. Do not multitask

Efficiency decreases when we juggle between tasks. It might be okay to multi-task for mundane work, but for something as important as studying? Probably not.

A better way is to delegate, outsource, or to focus on one task longer to reduce the ” task switching” cost.

2. Cut it down to bite size

Your brain can’t handle too much information at the same time or concentrate for too long.

3. Take frequent and “real” breaks

Between the bite-size studying sessions, let your body and mind rest. Pick a quiet place and do something that your mind can be at peace.

This means: not resting among busy street, screaming kids, dangerous places, and any situation that your mind needs to be on constant alert.

4. Build your virtuous cycle

When you start on a new concept and get frustrated, remember this point:

Once you build up adequate knowledge on a subject, you remember better. This virtuous cycle carries on to make studying easier.

5. Don’t read others’ notes. Make your own

This applies when a candidate gets a second-hand book with notes and highlights all over the place. One may think it’s smart to rely on someone’s hard work, but research has shown that it doesn’t work this way. You’ve got to make your own highlight and write your own notes for the concepts to stick.

6. Learn with different media

I personally prefer a good old notebook, but you may consider making good use of today’s technology at the same time. Try streaming video, mobile apps, e-flashcards and see which one works. Sometimes, a combination of tools works wonders.

7. Test your knowledge

Passive learning is inefficient. Instead, you should constantly test your newly-acquired knowledge by checking and testing yourself. This includes completing the review questions at the end of each chapter, and the mock exam at the end.

8. Avoid the Fast Food mentality

We know about the bad things on fast food, nutrition-wise. But worse, eating fast food tunes you in a “fast-paced” mentality. It’s kind of like coffee: it pumps you up and increase your efficiency in the short-term, but drags down your effectiveness in the long-term. Overall, you are likely worse off.

9. Pick up your violin!

Parents are long told that music training makes children smarter. Recent research has proved this by measuring white matter in brains. More importantly, the improvement applies to adults as well.

10. Choose where you take mock exam wisely

Don’t try Starbucks — it’s too much happier and livelier than the Pearson VUE site.

The ideal place would be one that closely resembles the testing center — a quiet room with rows of workstations. If not, any quiet place with people around, such as a library, would be a nice choice.

11. Find your optimal frequency when reviewing materials

How frequent should we go back to the books and review the concepts? This research has a suggestion here.

12. Maintain positive thinking when entering the exam room

Think about a successful individual with strong problem-solving skill, and visualize his/her psychological state when faced with difficulties. This helps to keep your stress level in control.

How do YOU Allocate Your Hours?

It would be interesting to see how people plan their studies. Let us know in the comment section below 🙂

In the meantime, if you find this helpful and would like to get more tips for the CIA exam, please check out our mini-course here, or sign up directly below:

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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  • Stephanie says:

    I will give it a shot myself. My studying hour allocation:
    Mon to Fri: 0 hours
    Sat to Sun: 8 hours per day
    Total: 16 hours per week

  • Allie Muhammed Kent says:

    Mon to Fri: 1 hour per day after work=5 hours per week
    Sat to Sun: 5 hours per day
    Total: 15 hours per week

  • Sisay says:

    I spend 3 hours each day from Monday through Wednesday afternoon. I tried to study in the morning but I couldn’t make it this is the reason why I failed Part I.

  • Majdi Omar says:

    my first exam for part 1 allocated on the 20th,Nov,2017 and till now I’m studying 1 hour per day and I will increase it to 3 hours a day after one month.

  • Yana says:

    For my Part 3, I studied 1 hour a day, consistently for 2 months. Apart from Gleim’s materials, I read a lot on materials in the Practice Guides. Glad that I passed all papers now.

    • Afzaal says:

      Hi Yana.. congrats for passing the CIA exam..

      I need some guidelines.. can u help me plz..

      If yes, please mail me on

      Thanks in advance


    • Stephanie says:

      That’s great to know Yana, and congrats! Glad to know you like Gleim and you find the Practice Guides useful Definitely hidden gems! All the best to you, Stephanie

  • Misrak Kassahun. says:

    Please send it .and learn in CIA seriously attend CIA exam news letter.

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