How Long to Study for the CIA Exam: CIA Exam Study Time

cia exam study hours

How long do you need to study for the CIA exam? After all, if you’re looking into how to become a Certified Internal Auditor, then you also need to know how many study hours are recommended for the CIA exam.

As an internal auditor, you understand the benefits of the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification. Therefore, you’re ready to take on the CIA requirements, such as the CIA exam. But the CIA exam pass rate indicates that this exam is not easy. So, to make sure you’re truly committed and capable of passing this exam, you need to know how long to study for the CIA exam part 1 and part 2. You must plan your CIA exam study time so that you can have the best chance at success. Thankfully, this information will help you determine how many hours to study for the CIA exam.

Gleim CIA Discount

How Many Hours Does It Take to Study for the CIA Exam?

To properly plan for your CIA exam study time, you must recall how long you have to earn the Certified Internal Auditor certification. The CIA eligibility period is 3 years from the date you received approval of your CIA program application. Therefore, you have 3 years to complete all of the CIA certification requirements, including passing the CIA exam.

However, you can apply for a CIA program eligibility extension, which gives you 12 more months to satisfy the requirements. This one-time extension costs $275. If you don’t meet all of the requirements within the CIA eligibility period, you must re-apply to the IIA, retake all of the exam parts, and pay all of the CIA exam fees again in full. Basically, the CIA certification cost increases if you need longer to study.

Along with the exam requirement, the other Certified Internal Auditor requirements that take time to meet are the education and experience requirements.

Education Requirement

The IIA expects CIA candidates to have at least an associate’s degree or equivalents, such as a Foundation Degree, Diploma of Higher Education, Higher National Diploma, or 3 A-level certificates. However, the IIA does let students in their senior year of college sit for the CIA exam. Furthermore, the IIA also may allow you to substitute 7 years of verified internal auditing experience or its equivalent for the CIA education requirement.

Experience Requirement

The amount of experience you must amass varies according to your education level. If you have a master’s degree, you only need 12 months (1 year) of internal auditing experience or its equivalent. With a bachelor’s degree, you must acquire 24 months (2 years) of experience. And, for an associate’s degree or equivalent, you have to accumulate 60 months (5 years) of experience.

So, to finish all of these requirements in time, you will have to address some of them simultaneously. Hopefully, you will have made some headway on 1 or 2 of these requirements before you enter the CIA program. But regardless, you may need to take the exam while you are finishing school or working at your internal auditing job.

Consequently, this means that passing the CIA exam may take a little longer than it would if you had no other obligations dividing your attention.

How Long to Get Your Internal Audit Certification?

The exact length of your CIA exam preparations will vary depending on several factors. Specifically, your CIA duration is based on:

Your education level and internal auditing experience

The more internal auditing education and experience you already have, the faster you may be able to pass the CIA exam. If you’ve been in the internal auditing industry for years, then all of your experience will come in handy as you study for the CIA exam, especially Part 1 and Part 2.

The number of hours you can study each week

Having a lot of education and experience already leaves you with fewer CIA requirements to tackle at the same time. And if you don’t have to address as many requirements at once, you’ll have more time each week to commit to passing the CIA exam.

Your learning style

If you are very self-disciplined and can study on your own, you can move through your exam studies more quickly than you could if your studies depended on a class or study group schedule. People who are linguistic, audio, kinesthetic, logical, and/or solitary learners can get the resources they need to study on their own in a CIA review course. Such a course includes self-study resources such as online courses, textbooks, video lectures, audio lectures, practice questions, and more.

surgent cia courseYour Certified Internal Auditor course

Using a CIA review course is essential for passing the CIA exam effectively and efficiently. But, some CIA review courses take longer to go through than others. If you purchase a CIA course with adaptive technology, such as Gleim CIA Review or Surgent CIA Review, then the course will help you focus on your weak areas and save you a lot of study time. On the other hand, if you purchase a less complete course like Wiley CIAexcel, you’ll have to expend more effort to determine your progress with the exam content, which can take time. In short, your CIA course can impact the amount of hours to prepare for the CIA exam.

The number of CIA exam parts + CIA exam hours

Passing the CIA exam can take longer than passing something like the GRE or GMAT because the CIA exam is not just one big test. Instead, this exam consists of 3 parts:

  1. Essentials of Internal Auditing (Part 1)
  2. Practice of Internal Auditing (Part 2)
  3. Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing (Part 3)

Furthermore, Part 1 takes 2 ½ hours to complete. In contrast, Parts 2 and 3 are a little shorter and take 2 hours to finish.

Your familiarity with the CIA exam content and questions

As you can see in the CIA syllabus, the content of each CIA exam part focuses on specific aspects of internal auditing. So, your familiarity with this content will affect how many CIA exam study hours you need.

CIA Exam Content

1: Essentials of Internal Auditing

2: Practice of Internal Auditing

3: Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing

I. Foundations of Internal Auditing (15%)

I. Managing the Internal Audit Activity (20%)

I. Business Acumen (35%)

II. Independence and Objectivity (15%)

II. Planning the Engagement (20%)

II. Informational Security (25%)

III. Proficiency and Due Professional Care (18%)

III. Performing the Engagement (40%)

III. Information Technology (20%)

IV. Quality Assurance and Improvement Program (7%)

IV. Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress (20%)

IV. Financial Management (20%)

V. Governance, Risk Management, and Control (35%)

VI. Fraud Risks (10%)

Additionally, the depth of understanding you need for the CIA exam content also impacts your study time. You not only need to understand all of the content for each exam part, but you also need to comprehend some of this content at a deep level. The CIA exam assesses candidates’ knowledge of each topic at 1 of 2 cognitive levels:

  • Basic Level – Candidates retrieve relevant knowledge from memory and/or demonstrate basic comprehension of concepts or processes.
  • Proficient Level – Candidates apply concepts, processes, or procedures; analyze, evaluate, and make judgments based on criteria; and/or put elements or material together to formulate conclusions and recommendations.

The CIA exam parts test the following number of topics at each cognitive level:

CIA Exam Cognitive Levels

Exam Part

Basic Level Proficient Level

Part 1

14 16
Part 2 14


Part 3 32


Finally, the CIA exam format is such that every part only uses multiple-choice questions (MCQs) to assess candidates’ knowledge. However, the number of questions differs.

CIA Exam Questions

Exam Part

Total Number of MCQs







Therefore, the cognitive levels and the number of MCQs on the CIA parts communicate that preparing for this exam requires a significant time commitment. But how much time exactly?

Gleim CIA Discount

How Many Hours to Study for the CIA Exam

Based on my research of the CIA review courses available, feedback from my readers, and my personal study experience, I’ve come up with the following estimates for CIA exam study hours:

CIA Exam Study Times

Exam Part

Minimum # of Study Hours Safe # of Study Hours

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 minimum amount of study time I recommend is about as much time as a knowledgeable CIA candidate would need to complete a course like Gleim CIA Review. So, in this amount of time, such a candidate should be able to read through the textbooks, watch the video lectures, complete the quizzes before and after each study unit, answer 20 practice questions per study session, and finish one practice exam.

Moreover, the safe amount of study time in my chart should encompass a candidate answering all of the practice questions in the test bank and reading the explanations for all of the answer options.

Your Study Time for the CIA Exam

But again, depending on your personal background and current relationship with internal auditing, you may use your study time differently. And for that reason, you may need to study for more or less time than the estimates I’ve suggested here.

For example, you may only need to skim the books, answer practice questions, read the answer explanations, and take some practice exams to convince your smart course (like Gleim or Surgent) that you’re ready to pass the CIA exam. In this scenario, you may be able to cut your study time by as much as one-third.

Or, your course may recommend that you continue to review topics that are giving you trouble even after you’ve finished every study unit and started your final review. This extra review may involve watching the video lectures again, taking more thorough notes, reaching out to the accounting experts for help, and, of course, answering more practice questions. If you max out your test bank, you may even want to purchase a course supplement so that you have enough questions to confirm you know the material.

The point of your CIA exam studies is to be completely prepared for every kind of CIA exam question, so you must continue to put in the study time until you’ve accomplished this. If you want to pass, you must commit the time, no matter how many hours it takes.

Making a CIA Exam Study Plan

To ensure you log the appropriate amount of CIA exam study hours before your exam date, you need to make a CIA exam study plan. And the easiest and most efficient way to do this is to use the study planner in your CIA review course. To inform their adaptive courses, Gleim CIA Review and Surgent CIA Review both include interactive study planners.

To activate these tools, you simply input your exam date and the days you can’t study. The course will then produce a customized study plan that adapts to any changes you make to your availability or any number of study sessions you miss. By following the study plan your smart course presents, you’re guaranteed to get through all of the exam content in time for your testing appointment.

Making Your Own CIA Study Plan

If your course didn’t come with a CIA study planner, then you’ll have to do some math on your own. First, using my estimates, you must calculate how many CIA exam study hours you’ll need to finish your preparations for each exam part. Then, you must assess your agenda to see how many study hours you can accommodate on a daily and weekly basis. To study each week enough, you may have to edit some non-essential activities out of your life temporarily.

Finally, once you know how much you can study each week, you have to divide that number by your total number of study hours. The quotient will tell you how many weeks your CIA studies will last.

So, for example, if you believe you’ll need to study for 40 hours to pass CIA Part 1 on your first try, then you can shoot for 10 study hours a week and finish your preparations in 4 weeks. Or, you can squeeze 15 weekly study hours in and abbreviate your study schedule to just 2½ weeks.

If you know that passing CIA Part 3 the first time will probably take about 85 study hours, then studying for 10 hours a week will make your studies last for 8½ weeks. On the other hand, your review will end in just 5½ weeks if you study for 15 hours each week.

Therefore, to stay on track and pass the CIA exam fast, you must put each of your study sessions into your calendar and prioritize every one.

How Long Do You Have to Pass the CIA Exam Parts?

Again, once the IIA approves your application into the CIA program, you have 3 years to fulfill all the requirements. So, you have 3 years to pass the CIA exam.

But, once you register for a CIA exam part, you must sit for it within 180 days. Therefore, if you don’t think you can finish your exam preparations within that time, you need to start studying before you register and receive your authorization to test.

Or, if you won’t be able to sit for your exam within 180 days, you can apply for an exam registration extension. Submitting a form and paying the exam extension fee of $100 gives you another 30 days to take the exam. But again, you can only receive this extension 1 time.

Also, if you fail part of the CIA exam, you must wait 90 days before you can take that exam part again.

Additionally, the IIA has set time limits for your testing appointments. The total testing time for each CIA exam part differs according to the number of questions.

Total CIA Exam Testing Time

Exam Part

Number of Questions Total Testing Time


125 150 minutes (2 ½ hours)
2 100

120 minutes (2 hours)

3 100

120 minutes (2 hours)

How Can You Reduce Your CIA Study Time?

If you’d like to minimize the number of CIA exam study hours you need, you should follow these tips for making your study time more productive.

1. Chose the right study materials and CIA course duration

Oftentimes, the most successful CIA candidates study with a review course. After all, if you really want to know how many hours and in how long does it take to study for the CIA exam, it depends—in part—on your CIA review course. Although several CIA courses are available, each one has its strengths and slightly different approaches.

For instance, Gleim CIA Review is one of the best-rated courses. In short, it uses an e-learning system that guides your studies through the exam material. Plus, Gleim has the best question bank available.

Similarly, HOCK International is another good course, especially for CIA candidates who need a thorough review of internal auditing. Users also love HOCK’s engaging video lectures and the affordable price point.

Of course, Surgent could also have the right CIA review for your learning style. Surgent CIA Review is known for its ReadySCORE technology. Basically, this feature tracks your performance as you answer practice questions. Then, it determines—with a high level of accuracy—what your CIA exam score would be if you took the test that day.

2. Don’t multitask

When we try to accomplish more than one thing at once, we decrease our efficiency with either task. The extra time may not be a problem for mundane work. But, in order to ensure you’re your study sessions are effective, you must focus solely on them. So, if something else is begging for your attention during this time, either outsource it or address it before you start studying if possible.

3. Don’t study for too long

Your brain can’t handle too much information at once. Furthermore, we can’t concentrate on the same thing for a very long time. So, for these reasons, limit your daily study sessions to 1½ to 2 hours a day. Or, if you want to get a marathon session in over the weekend, break that study time up with other activities.

4. Take frequent, effective breaks

You need to let your mind rest between each study session. So, depending on the amount of time you plan to study, you should break for a certain amount of time at regular intervals.

CIA Study Break Times

Length of Study Session

Duration of Break

Frequency of Break

90 minutes

5 minutes Every 25 minutes
120 minutes 15 minutes

Every 50 minutes

180+ minutes

20 minutes

Every 90 minutes

During these breaks, you should do something peaceful in a quiet place. You’re not resting if you’re in an environment or situation in which your mind needs to be on constant alert. So, avoid busy streets, screaming kids, loud entertainment, or dangerous places.

5. Brace yourself for a slow start

Sometimes, when you come to a new topic, you may not feel like it’s clicking with you very fast. And your feelings would be correct because you don’t start to remember information quickly until you’ve already developed adequate knowledge of the subject. So, give your mind a few minutes (or more) to build up a rapport with the subject matter. Then, you’ll be able to take in related material more rapidly.

6. Make your own notes

You can read the books and watch the video lectures, but if you limit your learning to these activities, you’ll most likely have to repeat them over and over again before your mind absorbs all of the information. Or, you can fast-forward this process by taking notes as well. Writing down what you’re learning in your own words is one of the best and fastest ways to solidify your understanding and extend your retention.

7. Use different study materials

Your CIA exam prep will come with an assortment of review resources, so take advantage of them. They may not all address your learning style perfecting, but many people can learn in more than one way. So, don’t underestimate the power of mixing up your studies with a variety of media. Trying just one more may be exactly what you need to take your comprehension of a topic to the next level.

8. Test your knowledge

You can’t become proficient in the CIA exam content unless you apply what you’ve learned. And you can’t apply what you’ve learned unless you test yourself. So, use the practice questions, quizzes, and exams within your course to test yourself extensively and often. Only then can you confirm that you’re making progress. 

9. Choose your study spot wisely

Sitting in a noisy and hectic environment does not lend itself to achieving a powerful study session. Instead, this move just leaves you with less ability to concentrate. And these places don’t represent the Pearson VUE testing centers at all. For these reasons, you should choose to review in a cool, quiet space. A location such as a library where you can use your computer but unplug from everything else would be ideal.

10. Stay positive

Letting your mind fill up with stress really cramps your learning style. It also denies you the chance to develop your confidence. So, don’t sit around envisioning all the ways you could fail the CIA exam. Instead, put your problem-solving skills to work by imagining how you will overcome each potential pitfall you might face. With such an inspiring image in your mind, you can keep anxiety at bay. And at that point, you’re sure to succeed.

What Can You Do to Strengthen Your CIA Study Skills?

The best way to make the most of your CIA exam study hours and pass the exam fast is to use a CIA review course. You can check out my review course comparisons to discover the best option for you. Or, you can even ask me for a personal recommendation. And once you know which course you need, you can save big on your preferred exam prep with my CIA review discounts.

You can also get the information you need to pass the CIA exam the first time for free in my CIA e-course. This course walks you through the entire CIA process. So, learn more today 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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