CRMA Pass Rates vs. CIA: Which exam is harder?

The CRMA pass rates give us a snapshot of how candidates view the CRMA exam vs. the CIA exam. On average, the CRMA pass rate is higher than the CIA. So is the CRMA exam harder than the CIA exam? Well, the rates alone can’t answer that question, especially since the CRMA requirements are changing in 2021. Therefore, this article breaks down the pass rates and gives you some insight into both exams. At the end of the post, you’ll find links to more information about the CRMA.

What is the CRMA Certification?

The CRMA is just one of the specialty certifications offered by the IIA. The Institute of Internal Auditors began issuing the CRMA, or Certification in Risk Management Assurance, in 2013. Since then, the CRMA certificatehas become the global standard for professionals who plan to advise audit committees and executive management on risk management concepts. In fact, it’s the only certification for internal auditors specifically focused on risk management assurance.

In the past, candidates could pursue the CRMA certificate after only passing Part 1 of the CIA Exam. However, the IIA CRMA prerequisites have changed as of April 2021. So now, you must be an active CIA holder to go after the CRMA, too.

CRMA Exam Pass Rates vs. CIA

First, let’s look at the pass rates for the CRMA exam. The average rate from the last 6 years is about 58%. That figure doesn’t yet include the 2020 numbers because those rates haven’t been released yet. Still, it seems that the pass rates have been fairly consistent for a while.

Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Pass Rate: CRMA exam 59% 56% 58% 58% 58%


Over the past several years, the CIA exam pass rates have hovered around 41%, probably because of the difficulty of the CIA passing score. Since 2015, the rates have slightly risen, though. Nevertheless, the increase probably isn’t a direct response to the CIA exam itself. After all, the questions or exam format are not getting easier. Instead, exam review providers have really stepped up their game and offer more learning tools to help candidates study better. So, it seems more likely that candidates are doing a better job of prepping for the CIA exam.

Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Global Pass Rate: CIA exam 39% 40% 42% 43% 42%


(The results for the 2020 CIA exams are not yet available from the IIA.)

Comparing the CRMA and CIA exams

Therefore, based on the pass rates, is the CIA exam harder than the CRMA exam? Well, there several factors that affect pass rates.

  • First, the CIA exam is a global exam. And even though it is offered in several languages, candidates might not be able to take the exam in their native language. In fact, some candidates claim that the translations for the CIA exam are hit and miss, so that could affect the global scores.
  • And second, compared to the CRMA program, the barrier of entry into the CIA program is fairly low. That is, you can start the CIA program with just an associate’s degree. Consequently, some CIA candidates may lack the educational background to ace the exam on their first try. In contrast, CRMA candidates already have their CIA certificate, meaning that they’ve built up a certain amount of knowledge and experience. Basically, that existing knowledge can make passing the CRMA exam a little easier.

Is the CRMA Difficult?

How hard is it to pass the CRMA exam? Well, think of it this way: about 58% of exam-takers pass. But on the flip side, 42% of candidates thought they would pass and didn’t. Plus, the CIA and CRMA exams present different challenges. So, if you’ve already passed the CIA exam, don’t automatically assume that you’ll pass the CRMA exam.

Some of the topics on Part 1 of the CIA exam also appear on the CRMA exam. But, the CRMA exam questions all test at the proficient level. So, that means you need a deeper understanding of the CRMA content if you plan to pass.

2021 CRMA program updates

Plus, the CRMA program is changing as of April 2021. And therefore, the exam pass rates could change, too. I have an entire post dedicated to the 2021 CRMA changes, but here’s a summary of how the exam itself will be modified:

  • Number of CRMA exam questions: increasing from 100 to 125
  • Type of questions: changing from multiple-choice only to a mix of question formats
  • Exam length: increasing from 120 minutes to 150 minutes

In addition, pre-2021, the CRMA exam tested at the basic and proficient levels. But once the 2021 changes take effect, the questions will all test your knowledge at the proficient level only. Therefore, based on these changes, it’s possible that candidates could find the CRMA exam to be more challenging in the future. And even more, the CRMA pass rates could go down in comparison to the CIA exam.

Final Thoughts

In general, about 42% of CIA candidates pass their exams while 58% of CRMA candidates pass. Since some of the content overlaps, it makes sense that the CRMA rates are a little higher. But still, you need to study if you plan to master the CRMA exam, especially because of the 2021 changes. Click here to find more information about practice CRMA questions and where to find a CRMA practice test.

Further Reading

CRMA Exam Requirements and Eligibility: Is it easy to get qualified?

How to Become a CRMA in 3 Months: Follow these 10 steps

CRMA Exam Fees Breakdown: Is the $1000 investment worth it?

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About the Author Susan L.

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