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CIA Syllabus: Learn All about the CIA Exam Syllabus

cia exam syllabus

One of the biggest obstacles standing between internal auditors and the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification is the CIA exam. While the CIA exam is one of the more challenging CIA requirements, it is not insurmountable. You can pass it if you dedicate yourself to your preparations and learn all the necessary information. Some of the information you must know about the CIA exam is the CIA exam syllabus, and you can get that info here.

CIA Syllabus

The Professional Certification Department (PCD) of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) consists of the Professional Certifications Board (PCB) and the Exam Development Committee (EDC). This group of experts and professionals create the Certified Internal Auditor syllabus, which reveals the format and the content of the exam. The PCD also grades the exam and maintains its non-disclosed status so as to preserve the integrity of the exam process.

All CIA candidates and CIA review course providers have access to the CIA exam syllabus that the EDC has made available to the public. Furthermore, the EDC has no affiliation with any review course provider.

The PCD within the IIA produced the most recent version of the CIA exam (released January 1, 2019) by conducting an extensive analysis of today’s internal audit profession. During their research, the IIA discovered the knowledge, skills, and abilities internal audit professionals need to perform their duties in the modern world. The IIA then used this information to update the CIA exam syllabus so that the exam test CIA candidates’ possession of such information and capacities.

CIA Exam Focus

The IIA explains that the exam syllabus outlines summaries of the topic areas in the CIA exam. CIA candidates and review providers can refer to the IIA syllabus in order to see and understand the CIA exam content.

The CIA exam focuses on the following internal audit topics:

  • Internal controls and risk management
  • Auditing processes
  • Control frameworks
  • Documentation standards
  • Governance and business controls
  • Fraud
  • Engagement planning and procedures
  • Regulatory issues
  • IT and security systems

CIA Exam Format

The syllabus reveals both the CIA exam format and content. So, within the syllabus, we see that the CIA exam has 3 parts. These 3 parts are:

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

So, technically, the CIA exam syllabus consists of 3 separate syllabi, one for each exam part.

Each part of the CIA exam presents a particular number of questions for you to answer within a certain amount of time. All 3 exam parts include only multiple-choice questions (MCQs), and total testing time accommodates the number of MCQs on that exam part.

Exam Part

Number of MCQs

Total Testing Time


125 2.5 hours (150 minutes)



2 hours (120 minutes)

3 100

2 hours (120 minutes)

 As you can see, the total length of the CIA exam is 6.5 hours.

CIA Curriculum

Within its 3 parts, the CIA exam concentrates on a wide range of internal auditing concepts. Furthermore, each exam part dedicates a specific percentage of coverage to certain content areas. The CIA exam part content areas and coverage percentages are:

CIA Subjects

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%)

Though the exam parts do build on each other, you can take them in any order.

CIA Exam Skills

The CIA exam syllabus also delineates the skills that CIA candidates must have in order to pass the exam. According to the CIA exam syllabus, the IIA expects CIA candidates to:

  • Possess current knowledge of The IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF) and demonstrate appropriate use.
  • Be able to perform an audit engagement with minimal supervision in conformance with the IIA’s International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.
  • Be able to apply tools and techniques to evaluate risks and controls.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of organizational governance.
  • Apply knowledge in business acumen, IT, and management needed for internal auditing.

Furthermore, we can see in the CIA exam syllabus the depth of knowledge the exam expects candidates to reach. The exam will assess you for one of these 2 cognitive levels (formerly awareness levels) for each topic within the exam part content areas:

  • 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 21

Part 3



CIA Exam Parts

Getting a better understanding of the scope of the CIA exam involves delving deeper into the topics each of the 3 CIA parts address in their content areas.

CIA Part 1 Syllabus

CIA exam Part 1 is the longest exam part, having 125 MCQs that you must answer in 150 minutes. Part 1 also comprises the most content areas.

  1. Foundations of Internal Auditing (15%)
  2. Independence and Objectivity (15%)
  3. Proficiency and Due Professional Care (18%)
  4. Quality Assurance and Improvement Program (7%)
  5. Governance, Risk Management, and Control (35%)
  6. Fraud Risks (10%)

Part 1 aligns well with the IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF). Furthermore, it assesses your knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing. The IIA specifies that Part 1 focuses on the Attribute Standards (series 1000, 1100, 1200, and 1300) as well as Performance Standard 2100.

Part 1 of the CIA exam features 14 topics that you must know at the Basic level and 16 topics you need to know at the Proficient level.

CIA Part 2 Syllabus

CIA exam Part 2 is shorter than Part 1. Part 2 only has 100 MCQs and gives you 120 minutes to answer them all. Part 2 only has 4 content areas.

  1. Managing the Internal Audit Activity (20%)
  2. Planning the Engagement (20%)
  3. Performing the Engagement (40%)
  4. Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress (20%)

As you can see by surveying the content areas, Part 2 addresses the practice of internal auditing. Additionally, this exam part tests you for knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the Performance Standards (series 2000, 2200, 2300, 2400, 2500, and 2600) and current internal audit practices.

Part 2 of the CIA exam demands a Basic level of knowledge for 14 topics and a Proficient level of knowledge for 21 topics.

CIA Part 3 Syllabus

CIA exam Part 3 has the same number of questions (100 MCQs), total testing time (120 minutes), and number of content areas (4) as Part 2.

  1. Business Acumen (35%)
  2. Informational Security (25%)
  3. Information Technology (20%)
  4. Financial Management (20%)

The point of Part 3 is to examine candidates’ knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the core business topics the syllabus outlines.

To pass CIA exam Part 3, candidates must achieve a Basic level of knowledge for 32 topics and a Proficient level of knowledge for 3 topics.

Help with the CIA Syllabus

As you can see, the CIA exam syllabus covers a lot of information about internal auditing. Furthermore, the syllabus expects candidates to understand most of that information at a deep level. In order to pass the CIA exam, you must know all of the content in the syllabus and know it at the appropriate level of depth, and that is easier said than done.

While the IIA does include reference lists for each exam part, it still leaves CIA candidates with tons of publications and pages to sort through. What’s more, the IIA gives candidates a deadline for finishing the exam and all the other CIA requirements: 3 years from the date you receive the IIA’s approval of your CIA program application.

So, you don’t have tons of time to meet the CIA requirements. And, you’ll have even less time if your exam preparations require you to wade through the IIA CIA syllabus and references on your own. Doing so is a long and involved process.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go to take on this process alone. Instead, you can rely on a CIA review course to help you learn all of the CIA exam content before your testing appointment.

CIA Review Courses

CIA exam review courses enable you to be completely prepared for the CIA exam and pass on your first attempt by covering and explaining the exam topics, enabling you to develop your knowledge and skills, and providing the support you need to stay on top of your study goals. Specifically, CIA courses accomplish these purposes via a variety of resources such as online platforms, textbooks, test banks, video and audio lectures, flashcards, access to exam and accounting experts, and more.

You can’t give yourself the best chance at CIA exam success without a review course, so you should learn more about the most popular courses available today. Then, you should use my CIA review discounts to save money on your CIA exam prep.

Free Help for CIA Exam Success

Another source of CIA help you can use to conquer the CIA exam is my free CIA e-course. This course leads you through the CIA certification process and tells you how to pass each part on your first attempt. Learn more now 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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