CIA Learning System 2019: Is “Official” Always the Best?


The CIA Learning System is the review materials officially endorsed by the IIA. Is it necessary to get the official product? Can other review courses that cost less help you pass the exam?

There are many reasons why candidates prefer the CIA Learning System, but there are also reasons why people prefer the other exam prep materials. Disclosure: The I Pass Team may earn a small amount of compensation if you purchase from our links; our team uses these revenues to maintain the site and produce awesome free content just for you!

CIA Learning System Product Offeringcia learning system books

The CIA Learning System consists of textbooks and online study tool with study planner, analytics and practice questions.

You can purchase the pack as self-study materials or as facilitator-led courses. These courses are available at local IIA chapters, colleges and universities and educational partners.

A Note on the “Official” Status

The IIA has outsourced the publishing of its materials to Holmes Corp.  The system is developed independently of the IIA’s exam development function and uses the same syllabus information that is provided to all the other review providers.


There are altogether 5 CIA exam review books: 1 for Part 1, 1 for Part 2, and 3 for Part 3.

The books are available as print or electronic format. You can download a sample in the first chapter by filling out your personal information.

Interactive Online study Tool

This online tool is a system that helps develop your personalized study plan, monitor your progress and track your performance.

Customers with single parts have 1 year of access. Those who purchase the complete parts have 2 years of access.

Here is a screenshot I got from the demo:

cia learning system online tool

1. Pre-test: Evaluate your initial knowledge of key CIA exam topics to find out your strengths and weaknesses.

2. Smart-Study™: Create personalized study plan based on pre-test results.

3. Chapter-specific quizzes: Apply and reinforce concepts after each chapter.

4. Flashcards: Review key internal audit terms and definitions with printed or online flash cards.

5. Post-tests: Gauge how much you’ve learned and identify weaker areas at the end of each chapter.

6. Test-taking tips: Get tips and study strategies for more efficient review.

7. CIA Practice Exam: Final practice with this mock exam.

There is also a resource center with progress report, reference materials and other links.

CIA Learning System Pros and Cons


1. Officially Endorsed by the IIA?

The CIA Learning System is officially endorsed by the IIA which makes it sound attractive to candidates.

Please note that the development and distribution of IIA Learning system is outsourced to Holmes. Since Holmes doesn’t have any inside information, the fact that the IIA has their “own” materials isn’t necessarily a “Pro” in my opinion.

2. Great Textbooks for Learning

Study materials were developed by a team of CIA-certified industry experts, ensuring that the content is relevant to the CIA exam and the internal audit profession.

Readers are telling me how they have gained solid knowledge on internal audit by reading the textbook. As a professional association instead of a commercial review provider, the IIA does want us to learn instead of merely passing the exam.

For those who are looking to learn in addition to getting the certification, CIA Learning System is a good choice.

3. Flexible and On-Demand

The e-book can be accessed in computers. The online tool is also optimized for mobile devices.

4. Performance Tracking and online Study Planner

The CIA Learning System includes customized reports for the user to identify areas of strength/weakness.  It allows them to track their performance, and flag questions for review.  The system also includes a customized study planning tool and creates a customized study plan for the individual user.


1. Most Expensive CIA Review Course

At $895 for 3-part pack and $325 for each single-part pack, the pricing is 24-27% higher than the second most expensive competitor.

Part of the reason is that CIA Learning System is sold only as an integrated product. If you work in internal audit and are familiar with the exam content, it makes more sense to get only the test prep software. Most other review courses provide this flexibility.

2. No “Try Before You Buy” Offer

CIA review courses are costly one way or the other. Therefore, I appreciate the providers who are generous and confident enough to offer free demos to potential customers.

Gleim grants you free access to one study unit for each part of the exam. Surgent offers live demonstration by its customer service representative so you can see the layout and features.

In comparison, CIA Learning System’s “free demo” has little to offer. There is a free sample of the first few pages of the text book, together with a guided tour of the online review system. This tour is only a powerpoint which is less useful than the no-gimmick Gleim free trial.

3. No Good Feedback on Test Prep Software

Although the “pre-test” is a great feature that helps assess your level of knowledge and create a personalized study plan for you, the test prep software is only so-so according to my readers and comments from exam forums.

The general feedback is that it is not as comprehensive and challenging than Gleim, and lacks the adaptive learning technology developed by ExamMatrix. Also, the software does not allow randomizing questions. If you work on the questions a few times, you tend to memorize the answers without understanding the concepts.

Summary of What CIA Learning System Offers


  • Great textbooks for learning
  • Performance tracking with online study planner


  • Most expensive CIA review course
  • No free trial and no money-back guarantee
  • Test prep not as comprehensive

My Recommendations

The IIA offers a solid text book for those who want to gain knowledge in internal audit. The online study tool is also an interesting offer.

Having said that, if your goal is to pass the exam in the most efficient manner, other providers may give you a more suitable product for less money. Check out my comparison of the major CIA review courses.

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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  • ariyanto says:

    well I used gleam to pass cia exam part 1 n 2, my study session result average 80-90% but I still can’t pass the exam. maybe I considered try to use this material to pass the exam

  • Mia says:

    I used the IIA’s learning material to pass the CIA exam on my first attempt within a 6 month time frame 9/2014 – 1/2015). I highly recommend the materials.

  • Abdel says:


    I just passed part 1 with Gliem and looking to start part 2, what is your feedback on Gliem for part 2 and is it better to go with IIA learning system for this part ( I heard that Gleim isn’t that good compared to IIA learning system).

    Also , what do you mean by ”randomization” ? I did used Hock for part 1 and the questions where ascending as per the syllabes whenever I run any practice or mock exam session. Is this the same here ?


    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Abdel,
      I haven’t heard negative comments from Gleim CIA so far. I generally suggest candidates to stick with their providers if it works well for them in the previous exam, because you are used to their teaching style and so don’t require additional time and effort to adjust.

      It’s great that you passed Part 1 with gleim. Undeerstwnd that this doesn’t necesarily mean you like it so it is your own decision in terms of getting gleim again or switch to the others.

      By randomization it means mixing up the questions during test or exam mode of the studying. Hope it helps! Stephanie

      • Abdel says:


        Thanks for your reply. My concern is that for part 2 I can notice that the volume of the text is much less than that of IIA learning system.

        Also , based on my experience for part 1 , I had used Hock exam success software and I have to say it’s way better than Gliem because I can randomize questions, select to solve questions that I got wrong before or solve never seen ones and also it does allow me to see a feedback immediately after I answer just like Wiley. What do you think of it for part 2 ?


        • Stephanie says:

          Thanks for your sharing Abdel. You should pick Hock if it’s your favourite, but I have access to Gleim and they allow randomization, marking of incorrect answers and more in Gleim.

          Did you get gleim’s text book only or did you get the gleim online or at least the gleim test prep? It can be a v different experience.

          The IIA learning system teaches you a lot of things, sometimes beyond what is required in the exam. It can be a good or bad thing depending on what the candidate wants to get out of this exam. But this can be one of the explanations why the IIA learning system has a bigger volume.

  • hung says:


    Can anyone tell me how much should I prepare budget if I use Gleim ?
    Is it possible if I just take pre test exam without text book to save money.
    Currently, I have worked in Internal Audit for 5 years.


    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Hung, I have this page that lists out the CIA exam related fees:

      In terms of gleim, I really wouldn’t suggest not getting a proper text book… Given these exams cover conceptual / theoretical content that you may not have a lot of exposure in real business situations. Maybe you can have the practice questions? That’s better than only the pre-test (I asssume you mean mock exam). Regards, Stephanie

  • Amine says:

    I used Gleim materials to prepare the 1th and 2 d parts of CIA (4 parts). Now, I am preparing the new 3rd part with IIA materials (in french). I find it badly translated. Too much theory without focusing on the essential. Additionnaly, there is not enough training questions in the IIA Learning material, almost 2-300 questions. In the Gleim it was 7-800 questions. I have a 90% score with the IIA Learning material but I am not confident yet to pass the exam without more practicing.
    Did someone already passed the new 3rd part after preparation with the IAA Learning system? Thankx.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Amine,
      Thanks for your note. The issue you mentioned seem to be quite common. It’s not only French but also other languages as well.

      I don’t have the statistics on whether people using IIA materials pass Part 3 — I am sure there are, just not sure how many compared to others.

      Instead of worrying about it, I would suggest getting another test prep. Gleim is a good choice if you are familiar with it. It’s worth the investment in my opinion. Hope it helps!

  • Bmak says:

    Does anyone have IIA’s CIA learning system for part 1? Let me know if you are willing to sell it

  • Qasim says:

    I have passed part one and two using (gleim) and just started studying part 3 ( using glaim + IIA for key topics). I just want to know can i set the exam in 4 weeks time. is it possible?

  • Umer says:

    Hyi I used gliem and hock for part 1 got 85℅ in practice exams .. Now I m useing CIA leari g system but it much more in depth as compare to other systems … I want to know should I practice the question Bank of CIA learning system or also reading the text book ????

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Umer, do you mean the notes in the CIA learning system is more in depth? It is true, because I feel that their focus is more on teaching than on the practice question. But if you work on the questions, the Gleim set at least should be tougher. Is that right? Stephanie

  • Heith says:

    Hi all,

    Is there any good link on youtube or any other visual study resource to give good examples on Sampling study unit.

    Appreciate your assistance

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Heith, there might be, but so far I haven’t found any free videos. Gleim has exactly what you are looking for but you need to pay for that. Regards, Stephanie

  • Raghu says:

    Hi ! Can anyone share IIA’s CIA book part 3 PDF with me? I can pay the share. my email id is *** deleted ***.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Raghu, I am afraid sharing of copyrighted material is considered breach of copyright, and this is a potential violation of IIA code of ethics. So I wouldn’t support this on my platform and will remove your email to protect your privacy. Regards, Stephanie

  • Nenad says:

    Hello to everyone. I have started preparing part 1 of CIA exam by using CIA learning system (version 2013). I have already read a book once. Now I want to go through Glaim textbook for part 1(have in my posession 2011 version) and buy Glaim exam questions materials. What I am afraid of is that can be too time consuming and of course would not guarantee me a pass. I am also afraid that those books might be outdated. Can anybody share his or her thoughts with me on above matters ?

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Nenad, I wouldn’t use anything before 2013 as there has been a major change — the exam itself was changed from 4-part to 3-part. Maybe you can just get the test prep? If you know the materials, time is much better spent on “active studying” i.e. working on the questions and identifying weaker areas for further drilling. Cheers, Stephanie

      You can learn more about Gleim and their test prep here:

      • Nenad says:

        Hi Stephanie, thanks for reply. The reason I wanted to get through Gleim book is because I am not sure wheter there is anything there that is ommited in CIA learning system, for part 1 of course. I will definetely buy test preparation questions from Glem as you already recommended in your comparative review. Do you happen to know if the material contained for part 1 of the exam in CIA learning system is the same as in Glaim?



        • Stephanie says:

          Hi Nenad, they follow the same syllabus. CIA Learning system is be good enough as your review materials. In any case, it may be too overwhelming to study from too sets (doing questions from different sets is not problem). Regards, Stephanie

  • Yasir says:

    Which materials is best either CIA Learning System (self-study) or Gleim study materials (self-study)?

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Yasir, I personally prefer Gleim, but it depends on your learning style. Please check out the pros and cons here:

    • Yasser says:

      IIA learning system will make you understand the concept. Gleim will make you memorize the question and you will be scoring 90% after doing it two or three times. During the exam you will be shocked to see that what you were doing during your study was totally useless.

      just my opinion.

      • Jun says:


        I just took Part 1 exam using Gleim and unforntunately I missed the pasig mark by a little. I did every question in the test bank but the questions that came out were so different. Now I am at a loss on how to prep for the re-attempt 3 mths later.

        I came from a non accounting background and do not have working experience as an IA. Would IIA learning system be a better option for me? However, I do unds that Gleim provides more practice Qns and I thought it would be better for someone like me who come from a non IA/accounting background.

        Is IIA learning system practice questions more similar to the actual exam style? Any one who used IIA learning system before can advise?


        • Stephanie says:

          Hi Jun, it’s hard to tell, but sometimes not being an IA (or an auditor in general) does put us in disadvantage. It’s like… when we are confronted with a tough question, IAs would likely pick the correct answer based on their intuition, but we can’t…

          So I am not sure if getting IIA Learning System is a solution. If you have the budget, why not, you know. But it is more important to try approaching each question as if you are an internal auditor. See if you can slowly, but surely, develop that “sense” required for the IAs. It would be a great help for the exam and for your career!

          • Jun says:

            Thanks Steph for the reply.

            I was thinking since I have exhausted Gleim materials for Part 1, it maybe a bit pointless to read through the whole part 1 material again? Was thinking to change to IIA Learning System for Part 1 for the re attempt.

            Do you think it helps? Anyone had similar experiences of switching Gleim to IIA LS before?

  • Paul says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I failed CIA part 3 twice now but couldn’t help but realize that the questions were at least 50% the same from the first time I wrote it. Do you know if this is true? and perhaps why they make you wait 3 months before writing?


    Pritpal Gill

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Paul,
      I think they pull questions from a pretty big pool, so maybe it’s a matter of luck… but yes, it could be the reason why they make us wait 😉

      • Paul says:

        Thanks Stephanie! I just remember the corporate social responsibility and I do 31000 definitely came up twice and there were at least 5 or 6 questions combined! And Gleim doesn’t teach it. I feel as though none of the questions on are fully representative of the iia exam. Is there something I’m not studying right? I read your 3 ways to get momentum but wondering if you can give me any insight? Maybe I’m second guessing a lot and sometimes change my answers when I should stick with my gut feeling?

  • Ugo says:

    Does it exists an Italian’ version?

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