Which CIA Exam Part to Take First? Here are 5 Scenarios


You know that you can freely choose which CIA exam part to take first.

Problem is, how do you choose? is there a strategy? Let’s figure this out together.

cia exam which part to take first

What’s Your Prior Education and Work Experience?

It all depends on your education and work background.

1. Internal Auditors

For internal auditors, I suggest that you take Part 1 and Part 2 first, because they cover internal audit materials.

These two parts are slightly different but they complement each other. Part 1 is supposed to be covering the basics more, although some candidates swear that Part 1 is more difficult. It could be due to candidates not familiar with the exam format, or that the questions are trickier. In any case, as an internal auditor it is safe to take either one first.

2. Other Candidates

For candidates not directly working in the IA niche, you may want to check out Part 3 first. For example, for Art Yip (who has been really helpful in the comment section), he took Part 3 first because he completed his CPA exam recently and the concepts were most applicable to those in Part 3 .

Are You a First-Timer or Retaker?

For first-timer, follow the instruction above.

For retakers, if you fail Part 1, there are three choices:

  • Wait for 90 days to take Part 1 again
  • Take Part 2 first
  • Take Part 3 first

1. Take Part 1 again

The decision depends on why you think you failed Part 1. If you run out of time to study and you probably can make good use of the next 90 days finishing up the studying, exercise and mock exams, by all means retake Part 1.

2. Take Part 2 first

But then, if you just missed the passing mark, or think you’re done sufficient preparation, you may consider taking Part 2 first. Part 2 syllabus compliments that in Part 1. Having knowledge in Part 1 and 2 helps quite a bit in passing both parts.

3. Take Part 3 first

If you’ve failed either Part 1 or 2 multiple times and it’s approaching the 4-year limit of the CIA exam program, you may want to take Part 3 first.

There are two reasons:

First, mentally you need a break after trying very hard (but still failing) several times.

Second, Part 3 is the toughest for most candidates. Even if you pass Part 1 and 2 in your next attempt, given the difficulty you may not pass Part 3 in one go. This means that you will soon lose credits for the first two parts.

If you pass the toughest Part 3 in your next attempt, then theoretically you have a higher chance to get the easier Part 1 and 2 done within the deadline.

What do You Think?

I hope you understand my logic behind each scenario. Feel free to explain your situation in the comment section and I will try my best to help. Thanks and best of luck to your CIA exam journey!

For Your Further Reading

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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  • Jennifer Boon says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I intend to do Part 2 and 3 first because i am waiting for the 90 days to re-take Part 1.

    As I would like to pass at the first sitting, I am now evaluating what’s the best resources available (suiting) my learning style. Any recommendations or advice? Would you recommend to sign up the e-seminars course conducted by CIA?

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Sure happy to help. Which course did you take for Part 1? For Part 2, we generally recommend Gleim but it depends on your learning style. For Part 3, it’s more complicated because while I still slightly prefer Gleim overall, the coverage isn’t sufficient in my opinion and we have specific recommendation on each topic (and where to get them).

      I suggest that you take Part 2 first because it complements Part 1, and you’ll need 100% focus on Part 3 the beast.

      • Jennifer Boon says:

        Hi Stephanie,

        I was using CIA Prep Software. I was having this false confidence that I would passed my paper, after trying CIA Prep Mock Exam, showing above 80% passing marks. I guess one can easily get the marks after several attempts of the same sets of questions.

        The questions on the actual day were not hard. I guess I did not choose the right answers. Taking responsibility of not making not making enough efforts. Thinking it should be a easy paper, considering my 7 years of IA experiences.

        I tend to get bored when the topics are very dry, like materials or courses that prompt me to think. Looking at switching to Gleim and ExamMatrix Prep Software. Do you think Gleim and ExamMatrix suits my learning style?

        One of the options also is to sign up for CIA e-seminar courses on CIA Certifications. But, the cost fees are very expensive.

        I want to pass my papers at first sitting. Its very important to me.

        Any advice?

        Thank you once again.

        • Stephanie says:

          Hi Jennifer, understand. You are definitely not the first one to encounter this.
          I would say that Gleim’s questions and explanations in the answers are better, but Exammatrix is more “interesting” because it is more dynamic in terms of how they feed you questions. I personally would still pick Gleim, but it wouldn’t solve the “boring” issue that you’ve had ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Unfortunately none of these providers are perfect but I hope this is at least somewhat helpful? Stephanie

  • Kanika says:

    I am a Indian Chartered Accountant and have attained BCom (H) degree from Delhi University from Delhi, India. (3 year program)

    Also I have 7+ years of experience in Chartered Accountant firms in India and my profile included Internal & External audits, compliance etc.

    I shifted to Canada in March 2016 and want to pursue CIA.

    Some of the questions I have are-

    – Am I eligible to apply for CIA

    – What all documents are required to be submitted

    – Do I have to get a post qualification experience as well, before I apply for CIA membership.

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