CISA Passing Score and CISA Pass Rates

Do you have questions about the CISA passing score and how the CISA exam is graded? You’re not alone. After all, most candidates have the same questions about this exam. Therefore, continue reading to learn more about how the CISA is graded and how to prepare for it.

First of all, the CISA exam only consists of multiple-choice questions. To be more specific, there are 150 questions on the CISA exam, each with a list of possible answers. A small portion of the questions are included for research and analysis only and therefore are not graded. Still, it’s important to understand the questions to understand how the scoring works. (But more on that later.)

The more you learn about how CISA exam scoring works, the better prepared you will be for passing the exam. Besides, most people hope to pass on the first try. However, you can only take the exam up to four times within a one-year window. So you need to be ready. And if you fail your first attempt, you have to wait at least 30 days to take it again.

How the CISA Exam Scoring Works

To start, it’s critical to understand how the CISA exam passing score is calculated. After a candidate completes the exam, the raw score is collected and converted into a point scale between 200 and 800.

Here’s how it works, in a nutshell. Basically, the ISACA starts with your raw score, which is how many of the 150 questions you answered correctly. Then, it uses a common scale to convert that raw score to a number as low as 200 and as high as 800. The resulting scaled score represents a candidate’s potential as a Certified Information Systems Auditor, despite small differences in exams over the years.

Nevertheless, the CISA exam score is not based on simple percentages. For example, a score of 500 (midpoint between 200 and 800) does not necessarily mean you answered 50% of the questions correctly. For that reason, don’t worry too much about your CISA score percentile or how many questions you need to get correct. Instead, just focus on doing giving your best performance possible.

In order to pass the exam, candidates must receive a scaled score of 450. This CISA passing rate represents a minimum consistent standard of knowledge determined by ISACA. Moreover, you only receive credit for the questions you answered correctly. That is, you aren’t penalized for the questions you got wrong. So even if you don’t know an answer, go ahead and guess – it won’t hurt you.

CISA Passing Score Scaling:

  • A scaled score of 450 or higher represents the minimum consistent standard of knowledge as established by ISACA’s certification working groups.
  • If candidates receive a perfect score of 800, they answered all questions correctly.
  • In contrast, candidates who score 200 only answered a small number of questions correctly.
  • Each content area or domain has a corresponding scaled score. However, the overall score is not simply an average of the scaled score of each domain.
  • The domain percentages represent the relative amount of test questions on the exam for that domain. Furthermore, the passing score is based on the questions in total.
  • ISACA provides score feedback for each domain to provide insight into a candidate’s areas of strength. Candidates can also use this feedback to improve areas that may need more development.

But I still don’t understand how the scaled score is calculated…

Seriously, don’t worry about it. The CISA exam scoring system is fair, even if it’s difficult to understand. As a result, it is better to focus your time and energy on exam preparation.

With that in mind, let’s explore pass rates, CISA results, and other information you need to know about scoring.

CISA Pass Rate

You’re probably curious about the CISA pass rate and your chances of passing on the first go. Regardless, the ISACA does not release the exact figures on the CISA pass rates.

Still, most experts claim that the pass rate is somewhere between 45% and 60%. However, these are only estimates. Some experts also assume that the pass rates are rising for CISA. This increase in the CISA exam pass rate is due, in part, to the availability of study materials. After all, CISA review courses were not as widely available in the past.

But if you want more information about pass rates, you can search online forums. Oftentimes, CISA Certification candidates post their results and give advice to others preparing to take the exam.

Increasing the CISA Pass Rate

If the average CISA pass rate is around 50%, then you need to know how to increase your chances of passing. First, keep in mind that the pass rate is only an indication of your chances to pass. And just because half of the people who attempt the exam fail, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll fail, too.

After all, if you already work in a field that the CISA job description covers, then you have an increased chance to pass the exam. Honestly, the exam focuses less on the memorization of facts and figures. In contrast, you answer questions about responding to real-life scenarios. Therefore, people who work in these fields already will have the advantage to pass.

Plus, some people take the CISA exam as a “casual taker” without much preparation. In comparison to the CPA or CIA exams, the CISA requirements don’t have a minimum education component. For instance, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to take the CIA exam. As a result, the CISA exam can attract candidates who don’t take enough time to properly study. And the CISA certification pass rate likely reflects this reality.

Therefore, to increase your chances of gaining a CISA pass mark, you simply need to take the exam seriously. Plus, you should study with the right CISA exam materials.

surgent cisa reviewStudy to Reach a CISA Passing Score

The best way to be happy with your CISA exam results is to study with a good review course. For example, Surgent has some of the best CISA exam study materials. First of all, Surgent is a company known for its review for various other accounting and auditing certifications as well. The Surgent CISA Review Essentials Pass course includes over 975 sample questions with written explanations for the answers. Plus, you receive a digital CISA textbook and unlimited practice exams. The whole system uses an adaptive learning platform that could save you hours of study time, too. And even more importantly, Surgent gives you access to the online materials for 12 months, which should give you enough time to study.

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The CISA SuperReview from Certified Information Security is another popular study choice. Allen Keele, a world-leading expert, developed the material to help candidates pass the CISA exam. In addition to over 900 study questions, the review also includes 62 practice exams and 4 full-length, timed, exam simulations. However, you only have access to online materials for 6 months. But still, if you don’t pass the CISA exam in that period, you can request an extension of your access.

CISA Exam Results Release

After you take the CISA exam, you’ll receive your results at two different times.

First, your CISA exam preliminary results will be available as soon as you finish your test. That is, you can view your CISA preliminary pass result (pass or not pass) on the screen immediately after your exam. Next, ISACA will email your official score and make it available online within 10 business days from your exam date. Your scores will also be available in your profile at the My ISACA > My Certifications page of the ISACA website. If you pass, you will receive details on how to apply for certification.

Here’s some additional information about CISA results:

  • Due to confidentiality, you won’t be able to request the CISA exam results by phone or fax.
  • ISACA will send an encrypted email notification to the email address listed on your profile.
  • Online results are available on the MyISACA > MyCertifications page of the ISACA website.
  • In addition, ISACA will not send exam scores through the post office.
  • What’s more, the ISACA cannot provide question-level results.

If you do not receive your official score within 10 days of taking the exam, you should contact ISACA. They will be able to provide you with additional assistance.

What You Will See in the CISA Certification Score Report

I understand that you may be curious about what your CISA score report will reveal. With this information, you can learn more from your CISA exam passing score percentage. To start, ISACA breaks down your score into the five domain areas. The sub-scores can help you identify stronger and weaker areas in case you need a retake.

Even if you pass, it can be very helpful to review this information because it will, again, show you your strengths and weaknesses.

Candidates who fail the CISA exam can ask for a rescore. According to the ISACA, the likelihood that your CISA preliminary not passed result was incorrect is very slim. Still, if you worry that conditions could have interfered with the computer scoring, you can request a rescore. However, this request costs $75 and has to be submitted within 30 days of the score release.

Additionally, candidates have 5 years from their passing date to apply for certification. To become certified, each exam passer must complete all of the CISA requirements, including submitting an application for certification.

Has CISA Job Practice Scoring Changed in 2019?

The process of scoring the CISA exam remains the same. That is, ISACA continues to convert raw scores to scaled ones.

How to Request a CISA Rescore

ISACA provides this info on how to request a rescore of your CISA exam:
“While we are confident in the integrity and validity of our scoring procedures, you may request a rescore if you do not pass the exam. Rescores are performed by PSI.
You must submit a rescore request in writing here within 30 days following the release of your exam results.
  • Requests for a rescore after 30 days will not be processed
  • All requests must include a candidate’s name, ISACA identification number, and mailing address
  • A fee of US $75 must accompany each request”

cisa superreview certified information securities Ensuring You Get a Good CISA Score

Of course, if you want to get a good score on the CISA exam, it’s imperative to study properly. Therefore, we have some great study aids and practice exams to help you. We also have tips for CISA exam prep.

Here are some basic tips to ensure you get a good score:

  1. Create a study plan and take it seriously
  2. Invest in quality exam prep and guides
  3. Become familiar with the 5 domains and what is covered within
  4. Study with practice tests as much as possible

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Understanding the Questions

To ensure you get a good CISA score, you also need to understand the questions. Besides, they are not “yes” or “no” questions or simple things you just memorize and then answer back. Alternatively, you’ll have to read scenarios and pick an appropriate response from a list of several choices.

Questions with Multiple Possible Answers

You may run across questions that seem likely to have multiple possible answers. Don’t let this trip you up. Instead, keep in mind that one of the answers is the “best” choice, even if other choices might seem correct at first glance.

What the CISA Certification Exam Covers

Do you know what the CISA exam covers?  To understand the CISA exam scoring also helps to understand what will be on the exam itself. To that end, let’s take a look at what type of content can be found on the CISA exam.

The CISA exam syllabus addresses five domains as listed below.

CISA Exam Syllabus: The 5 Domains

The CISA exam has 5 different sections that test your knowledge of 5 content areas or domains. In essence, these domains cover the knowledge that CISA-holders need to succeed in their careers. The domains and their percentage of the total CISA exam are:

  • First Domain: Information System Auditing Process (21%)
  • Second Domain: Governance and Management of IT (17%)
  • Third Domain: Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation (12%)
  • Fourth Domain: Information Systems Operation and Business Resilience (23%)
  • Fifth Domain: Protection of Information Assets (27%)

When you fully understand the CISA exam and have adequately prepared, you won’t worry so much about how it is graded and scored. Consequently, you can take confidence in your ability to pass because you’ve done the proper prep work.

Major Changes to the CISA Job Practice in 2021

Sometimes, the 5 domains are also referred to as “job practice” areas, since they reflect what practitioners do in real life. When considering the five domains and how you study for them, it’s important to know about a few changes in the 2021 job practice areas. These aren’t really major changes, but they are still important to note, especially while prepping for the exam.

While the five CISA domains remain similar to past exams, there are a few noteworthy changes:

  • The 2021 job practice, or exam content outline, introduces subdomains to better organize tasks and knowledge statements within the broader domains.
  • The ISACA rewrote the knowledge statements to better represent current technology and combined them as appropriate to remove redundancies.
  • In addition to the 5 domains, the ISACA has also outlined 39 tasks that CISA holders should be able to complete. The 2019 CISA Job Practice tasks changed from the previous year. For instance, 2019 saw the addition of 5 new tasks to address emerging changes within the IT audit profession.

These changes to the CISA Job Practice, or exam content outline, include knowledge areas that directly indicate the content of the CISA exam and tasks to identify the context for how the knowledge is used in practice.

What Were the Five New Tasks in the 2019 CISA Job Practice?

Below are the five new tasks that appeared in the 2019 CISA Job Practice:

  • Perform technical security testing to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Utilize data analytics tools to streamline audit processes.
  • Provide consulting services and guidance to the organization in order to improve the quality and control of information systems.
  • Identify opportunities for process improvement in the organization’s IT policies and practices.
  • Evaluate potential opportunities and threats associated with emerging technologies, regulations, and industry practices.

The CISA Working Group determined that the following 2016 CISA Job Practice task was no longer relevant for most IT auditors, as noted from an ISACA survey. Therefore, the ISACA removed the following task from the 2019 CISA Job Practice:

  • Conduct reviews to determine whether a project is progressing in accordance with project plans.

How the CISA Exam is Graded Conclusions

Hopefully, this post has helped you to make some sense of how the CISA exam is graded. I understand that this process can be confusing for candidates, especially if this is your first credential exam of this type. However, you will find a lot of helpful information on our site about how to pass the CISA exam. In this regard, you can be more prepared for the testing and scoring process.

If we’ve missed anything you would like to know, leave us a comment with your questions and concerns. Good luck!

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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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