This is originally a super long comment and I decided to turn it into a guest post. Hsiung is a recent CIA exam candidate and fellow reader who passed all parts of the exam. He is so kind to share his tips with us.
Hi there, I have been following this informative website since Mar 2015, when I was preparing for part 1 of CIA, and I have just completed part 3 two weeks ago. I must say many advises and experiences shared by Stephanie and other readers helped me a lot in passing 3 parts of CIA exams.
While CIA is surely not an easy exam, it is certainly doable if one found a suitable strategy. Would like to share my experiences here and hope it provides some heads up for other CIA candidates.
I was using IIA learning system as main study material, and supplemented with Fastforward (full package) and Gleim (test prep only). (Do note that I’m not endorsing any of the above study materials in any way).
While having 2 study materials & 1 test prep may seem overwhelming, it reduced ‘surprises’ I faced during the real exam, i.e. questions that were totally out of scope under single material. Having said that, I still encountered 3-5 questions that were beyond studied scopes, but the good thing was that I was left to work out the right answer for the 95% of question that were covered during preparation.
Normally, I started each topic by first working on MCQ (multiple choice questions) on the main study material before reading the content of the topic (surely scored very low during the 1st attempt). By doing so, it help me grasp the key point for each topic when reading through the study materials, and focused on specific areas that were repeatedly asked in the MCQ.
Having completed the study material once, I usually reworked the same set of MCQ, and subsequently work on MCQ in other study materials to improve the concept and understanding for each topic; at the same time, identify certain subjects that may not have been covered under the main study material, for which the 2nd materials is required.
The approach worked for me because IIA learning system structured its MCQs for most topics within a manageable size, about 10 – 30 questions. Gleim has the most MCQs for each topics, it certainly helps to understand relevant concept better after reading the study guide.
I usually save Fastforward’s MCQ for the last because I find its questions the most challenging, as many of its questions are structured in manners that are similar to that in the real exam. (note: but I don’t mean the same questions appearing in the real exam).
Approaching the real exam date, I scheduled ‘Practice Exam’ in IIA learning system and Fastforward repetitively (about 4-5 times for each part), and these questions are often more challenging compared to those tested under individual topic. On that note, Fastforward appeared to have less repeated questions under different sessions of ‘Practice Exam’. I also noticed that Gleim’s ‘Practice Exam’ was actually pulling the same MCQ previously tested under each topic.
I took these ‘Practice Exams’ rather seriously. Besides the timing factors (i.e. must stick to 120 mins for 100 questions), it also prepared me psychologically to deal with the uncertainties (because correct answer is not provided up front) but to move on to complete the entire session. After each ‘Practice Exam’ session, I reviewed the wrong answer and made sure I got the concept correct.
In the real exam, I noticed the first 10 questions or so were more challenging (same feeling for 3 parts, what a coincident). Be confident, just keep going, flag the questions (when unsure of answer) and proceed to the next.
Once I completed the 100th questions, I had about 20 – 30 mins left to revisit the flagged questions. For which, I often found it easier to spot the correct answer during the revisit, perhaps because a) minds became sharper and the nervousness during the early session of exam had completely gone, and b) less time pressure (i.e. worry not able to complete 100 questions in time). During the revisit, I often had to revise answer for many flagged questions.
Hope the above helps.
Note from Stephanie
Hsiung, thanks for such a detailed sharing! I really appreciate how you showed us your way from beginning to the end — from tips on how to make the best use of the practice questions to exam-taking strategy on the day.
I notice that candidates who are more organized and have a specific approach in the preparation stage often succeed, and your case further validate my belief.
Congrats again and all the best!
For my readers, here are my tips pages:
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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