Gauging the CISA Exam Difficulty: How Hard is the CISA Exam?

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CISA exam difficulty

One of the most common questions we got is how hard the CISA exam can be. This is obviously a subjective question but we will try to give you a helpful answer based on comparison with other qualifications, and comments from past takers.

CISA Exam Difficulty Level in terms of Exam Content

Most readers tend to agree: the syllabus and exam content isn’t particularly tough. Afterall, it is a one-part exam with only 200 150 questions.

This certification requires 5 years of experience and therefore is not intended for those who just started out working. If you work in IT auditor for a couple of years, it is obviously easier than those who have no relevant experience.

Exam Difficulty based on Question Style

The exam content is manageable, but the question style is not for many candidates. Possibly because of the nature of the profession, the phrasing and wording of the questions are pretty hard to comprehend, even for existing IT auditors. You do need to get familiar with ISACA terminologies to pass this exam.

Also, it is hard to know whether you got the answers correctly. Most seem to be able to narrow down the answers to 2 out of the 4, but after that it is all educated guess.

CISA Exam Difficulty when Compared to CISSP Exam

It isn’t entirely apple to apple, and opinions are split on this one. My conclusion is that the perceived difficulty is largely a result of one’s background. If one is an auditor, for example, CISA exam is easier; otherwise, if one is a computer science major, he may find CISSP easier.

In any case, if you have taken the CISSP exam before, your CISSP knowledge overlaps nicely with Domain 5 of the CISA exam which represents 30% of the scoring and indirectly for portions of domains 3 (19%) and 4 (23%).

Domains 1 (14%) and 2 (14%) are likely your biggest knowledge gap that you’ll need to fill. Those are also the areas where the “ISACAisms” will become fairly evident.

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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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