I Pass the CIA Exam!

5 Golden Rules to Earn Your CIA Certification


annette-cia-exam-blogger-circleAnnette is our first exam blogger from Namibia. She passed Part 1 and 2, and is working on the last part. This is going to be her 6th attempt for Part 3.

I applied for CIA in 2011. It has been a tough road since then. Let me tell you from the beginning – it is not easy. Earning the CIA requires 5 major inputs: passion, dedication, self-discipline, motivation and support:


You have to enjoy the work you are doing. You need to be truly willing to understand the business and enjoy it whilst you are at it. It might not be your dream job, but whilst you are in it give it your best!


You have to be committed to your work. Internal audit, whether it is the working part or the studying, requires a lot of time and hard work. Some days are good and some are terrible, just stay focused and keep going – it will be worth it in the end.


It is tough studying in the evening whilst everyone else is out having fun, tell me about it! Often I read this simple sentence – Study hard, forgo a lot for e.g. 3 months, and enjoy the rest of the year, instead of fiddling around for one year and having no fun at all. I am a culprit of fiddling around – that is why I feel I can share this here – I know how hard this is!


That is a tough one, especially after a failure to be able to find the motivation again. It is ok to be depressed after a failure or not a good day, but the next day find again the “thing” you are fighting for – whether is it your promotion, that holiday after passing exams, or maybe even being able to apply at that special employer or country.


Friends, family, colleagues or even this blog are very important for this path. My parents always support me, they might not know exactly what I do, but they support me – whether financially or a shoulder to lean on.

Find yourself a mentor or that one friend that understands what you go through. But please cut out the negative supporters, I have someone like that that told me after each fail “Well if you do not learn hard and want to pass why don’t you quit?” – I cannot use that, the program is tough enough and requires so much self-motivation I do not need people to tell me I suck.

I believe a combination of these five essentials will put you in the right direction! Do not despair – I have not yet either, even after one (Part 1), 2 (Part 2) and 5 (part 3) failed attempts. Haha – these numbers look bad I know but I am still at it and will get it! I have done many mistakes that is why I never passed first time around. I will share them with you and the lessons learned.

Note from Stephanie

Another great sharing, from the bottom of your heart, I can tell 🙂

Yes these exams are tough. People don’t really get it unless they went through it. But parents and good friends — they support us no matter what. I have to keep reminding myself to be thankful for them.

And I am so glad that this site is part of the support group! I don’t run this site for a living… it’s kind of like a hobby-turned-mission / passion I guess, but I’ll try my best to keep this site helpful for the community. Stay strong and you can do it!

About the Author Annette S

Hello, I was born, raised and have been working in Namibia as an internal auditor. I finally passed my CIA exam after 7 attempts on Part 3!

  • Sylvia N says:

    This is the post I definitely needed to read because I too have failed multiple times as I stated in my initial post, but am determined to keep at it.

    • Stephanie says:

      Sounds good Sylvia!

    • Annette says:

      Thanks Sylvia – It is not always easy to get up after a failure and try again. I have tried Part 3 six times – not sure where I am going wrong as I have read all Part 3 comments and tried to study with these tips, oh well I will try one more time!

      • Jessica Green says:

        Hi Annette! I am in a similar boat only I’ve failed more times. Ekkkk! May I ask what study materials you’re using ? I used Gleim and purchased iia but that expired year ago.

        • Annette says:

          Hi Jessica

          That sucks…but I feel with you! I did not think anyone could fail more than me…

          For Part 1 and 2 I managed with Gleim only. Part 3 is a different story.
          I started with Gleim, but realised it is not well explained for me (too short and not enough practical examples).
          I bought IIA’s Learning System (also expired) but I have the books. They helped as they explained certain topics better and more detailed for me.
          I also started watching youtube clips especially for the financial parts.
          After reading the Tips on this blog I started exploring the IIA website and pulled out all relevant Practice Guides and Supplemental reading (GTAGs etc).
          I also wen to sit with my colleagues, one who is an expert in Risk Management and the other who already has CIA to help me win exam questions (I noticed a few CIA students here in namibia struggle a bit with the american style of questions, thinking and vocabulary).

          One would think with all this material I should pass easy, and I came always close (588 being my best), but somehow I miss something?! My colleague told me it is not the content for me anymore, but “beating the exam questions” – learning how to answer these multiple choice questions…

  • Gail M. says:

    Thank you all for your sharing. I just failed Part 3 today for the second time and I feel I’m in the Twilight Zone. I started this exam in 2012 and my exam time expires tomorrow January 5.

    Annette, you mentioned you started in 2011. Did you have to start all over at some point due to the expiration time for the exam?

    Also– just spent a week of vacation for concentrated studying after studying regularly for several months. I seriously wondered today if this is a scam just to make money from people who have worked so hard to get to Part 3 and want to pass it.

    Is it worth it to start over from the very beginning? That’s my question now—whether to walk away or stay with it. I would definitely stay with it if I was confident that it is possible to pass the last part. Pass rate for 2015 was only 39% per IIA website pass rates. That seems pretty low.

    I am leary of continually throwing money and my personal time at a goal that may not be attainable.

    Thank you for any words of wisdom from anyone and I wish you both success!

    • Annette says:

      Hi Gail,

      I feel with you! I also often have the feeling that the IIA is jut trying to make money, but then I see other passing on their first try…(was it perhaps easier with the 4-Part system?).

      My first expiration was November 2015, and just a couple days before I tried again (failed) so I quickly applied. CCMS had some security issues at that stage and my application was only processed Feb 2016 – giving me until 12 Feb 2017 to pass. This date is approaching now and I give it one last shot (after my 90 days are up end Jan and before my expiry date – gonna be tight).

      Depending on the outcome in Feb, I will also have to make that big choice – start over or stop? I know my colleagues are very supportive, promotion is in sight etc if I try it again (I would continue with Part 3 until I have it and then the others again).

      I can’t tell you what to do – it depends on your passion for IA and if you want to continue in IA – if yes – maybe give it another try, different study material, different technique etc. Don’t loose courage – “Sometimes by loosing a battle you find a new way to win the war” (Quote by Donald Trump).

      We can do it!

      • Gail M. says:

        Thank you, Annette, for your response.

        It certainly does help to know we aren’t alone. What you are facing is what I just did—paid for the year extension and barely was able to take the exam today before my time expires tomorrow.

        I’m no longer in IA and happen to like my current job a lot (tax analyst), with no plans to move elsewhere. And I would have to change jobs for the certification to make a difference in my salary.

        I started this process as a result of getting divorced and having to start over again–in my 50’s! I had worked in IA for NIKE years ago before getting married and becoming an at-home mom. Had a great experience in IA, so decided to go for the CIA.

        Now with the years spent surviving my divorce, making sure my son got through college (and now HE works at Nike!), and dealing with this exam, I may be ready to just stop pushing myself so hard and start trying to enjoy life again.

        If I were younger, I’d probably keep at it. It depends so much on one’s individual situation. I hope you keep at it because you are actually working in IA and you’re probably a lot younger than I am and will reap the benefits of the CIA designation for many years. I’m now 62, would have to change jobs again!, and am closer to social security than anything else.

        It is just so frustrating to have studied so hard, as I’m sure you have also, and end up feeling like the actual exam is so disconnected from what I’ve been studying. I used the IIA Learning System and am not very happy with the results for Part 3—Based on the amount of time and effort I dedicated to studying the material and test questions, and my good results on the practice exams, which I took SEVERAL times, I would say that the IIA Learning System has let me down at least on Part 3.

        So if you feel the same way about your material and your studying efforts, it may be that you should obtain additional or different studying material and practice questions. I will be doing that if I decide to continue.

        I sure wish you the best of luck. I think you should keep pursuing it. You are probably so close to completing it—will think good thoughts for you in February!

        • Stephanie says:

          Hi Gail,
          Thanks for your sharing. I can see where you come from… I imagine if I were your friend chatting with you at Starbucks, I would probably say:

          1. The certification is not worth it strictly from a work point of view. You don’t no plans to switch out as tax analyst.
          2. The only reason to push on is whether you’ll have some regret down the road if you give up now. You’ll have to decide whether it will be something that will haunt you, or you are strong enough to kick it out of the way psychologically.
          3. If you decide to give it one more chance, then I suggest that you take Part 3 first. Get it out of the way. AND read this post with lots of tips from candidates around the world, many who have tried multiple times and succeeded (I just read a comment from Mike who finally nail it after 4 times): https://ipasstheciaexam.com/cia-exam-part-3/

          As long as you take a systematic approach in this decision, you’ll have no regrets, and can move on to enjoy life. Stay strong and all the best to you Gail!

          • Gail M. says:

            Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. And I will continue to research Mike’s comments and others before making a final decision.

            Good luck to you!

        • Toan Tran says:

          Dear Gail,

          I feel with you. I really respect you for your passion. You are 62 and you are trying for CIA. I’m 30, I felt CIA so difficult for me because I’m Vietnamese. It had so many specialist English. But after I read your story, I will try my best to fight this certification for my job.

          Thanks so much and good luck to you!

  • Prachi Chheda says:

    This is so inspiring, all while I was wondering that I am the only one fighting on all fronts of job, family and responsibilities and this CIA. But, after reading this I am motivated to fight it out.
    My job also has come to a place where this certificate will help me to move up in my career.
    Thanks friends, please keep inspiring.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Prachi

      You are welcome. I had the same feeling of thinking I was the only one and no one understands what I am going through, especially since there are so few CIA’s or CIA students in my network. Connecting with other CIA students, e.g. on this blog, creates this sense of support.

      You can do it!

    • Stephanie says:

      Prachi, glad you checked out Annette’s blog. Stay strong yourself! Stephanie

  • Toan Tran says:

    Dear Annette,

    I see you passed part 3. Congratulation!

    I respect you for your studying process. I failed CPA exam in my country (Vietnam). So i feel with you. Now, I decide give up CPA in my country and start studying CIA, because I have been working as internal Auditor. I read some pages of part I but I think it is so difficult for me. But I did not try probably my best.

    Thank you so much for your sharing. Good luck!

    • Annette says:

      Thank you Toan Tran.

      Yes I also felt like giving up many times as I thought it is too difficult, in the end however it was not the content that pulled me down but my study strategies and my believe in myself (or no-believe at times). Try as much as you can, don’t give to early. Look at me, on my last and 7th try, 6 days before the deadline I passed and became a CIA. It is a long road, but it is worth it.

  • Harrineck says:

    These comments are really inspiring. Apart from hard work, one needs the right materials. In fact, the last time I failed, my conclusion was that Gleim materials alone are not enough for one to pass Part 3.

    Thank you all for your comments.

    CIA In the Making.

    • Annette says:

      Yes you are right Harrineck,

      it is best to supplement your studies with further IIA readings such as the Implementation Guides, GTAGs, and other IIA publishing’s (such as on ISO 31000). I also supplemented with IIA Learning System since their books were a bit more elaborate on certain topics.

      You can do it!

  • Rebecca says:

    Dear Annette,

    I need some advice. I have taken Part 3 three times. My scores have been 594, 588 and 588 respectively. I have used the IIA learning system each time. I have one more chance before my expiration date of August 15, 2017. I am getting ready to start studying again. Can you give me some advice on how to improve my efforts? Thank you.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Rebecca

      Check up on the post I have written on my Learning Style that greatly helped me in finding the best learning strategy for me. In the end it was about taking the questions slow, i.e. quality over quantity. I suggest you also read Lynnel’s regular progress update on how she tackles each unit.

      You are already so close, with a bit of focused studying (many tips and tricks on the Part 3 posts on the focus topics, e.g. CSR, ISO 31000 etc.) and some luck you will make it next time – I am sure of it!

      All the best

  • Henry says:

    Dear Annette,

    I am happy to know that you have finally passed the coveted CIA. Welcome to the club!

    Your persistence and determination for the past 6+ years really helped you realise your dream. Congratulations once again!


    Henry Kusuma Adikara, MBA, CIA

    *I cleared all the CIA exams last June 2016, after struggling for it for about 1 year.

  • Elsa says:

    Well!! My respects to you!! That is being perseverance.

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