How to Prepare for the CIA Exam as a Working Parent

Hi! I am Glaiza M. Macaspac, a CPA in the Philippines.

I’m also a wife and mother of one.

This article features my perspective on how to prepare for the CIA exam as a working parent.

What My Professional Background Looks Like

I started my career at the top accounting firm in the Philippines. At that time, I was part of the assurance group. After almost 6 years at the firm, I decided to leave and start a new journey.

I was initially torn between taking an accounting/finance role and an internal auditing role. However, I chose the latter because of the idea that internal and external auditing are very similar.

During my first few months, I saw the similarities (ie., providing assurance services), and I also saw the differences. In fact, the differences in the purpose, approach, responsibilities, and opportunities of internal and external auditing actually drew me to internal auditing. So, I wanted to know more about the profession.

Why I Want to Become a CIA

A New Position

It took me a while before I decided or realized that I want to be a CIA.

how to prepare for the cia exam

When I was in external audit, I had colleagues who took the CIA exam, passed, and got certified. However, I did not take the exam because I couldn’t see a reason for taking the exam back then. Not to mention, the cost of the exam is not cheap.

Then, I transferred to a private company and became part of the internal audit department. From my new position, my department expected me to improve the internal audit process. I gladly took on the challenge.

However, I approached the process with the external audit perspective. But as I went through the process, I realized that internal audit is unique. Upon realizing this, I shifted my approach to use internal audit. I have since attended various training sessions, studied the mandatory guidance, and consulted fellow internal auditors at other companies.

A New Perspective

While working to improve the internal audit process, my fondness of the internal audit practice grew. Now, I see the value of internal audit. Along with this occurrence grew my desire to learn more about how being a CIA could provide value to the organization (from making recommendations about process improvements to providing input on future plans).

More importantly, I wish to be part of the development of internal auditors (starting with my colleagues). I’d like to inspire them and be part of their journey to becoming equipped for the internal audit practice and general aspects of business.

A New Goal

I decided to take the CIA exam to further understand the standards and be more familiar with the roles and responsibilities of internal audit. I would also like to contribute to the improvement of our internal audit activity and the organization as well.

Each of us can be driven for various reasons. Whatever those reasons are, I hope they steer each one of us toward achieving our goals.

How to Prepare for the CIA Exam as a Working Parent

Passing Part 1 and Part 2

My CIA exam journey has not been not as smooth as I imagine it would be.

I started reviewing while I was also taking on a new role in life as a mom. In February 2017, I enrolled in one of the review centers in the Philippines and attended Saturday and Sunday classes. I attended and completed classes for Part 1 and Part 2 but not for Part 3. I decided to do more self-review for Part 1 and Part 2 first before attending the Part 3 classes, since I was aiming to pass each exam on my first attempt.

After 8 months, I finally decided to take Part 1 and Part 2 in September 2017. Fortunately, I passed both parts.

Passing Part 3

For Part 3, I intended to start self-review in January 2018. However, due to conflicting schedules for work and other roles, I was only able to start studying in August 2018. Additionally, I have found Part 3 to be more challenging because of the diverse topics. I plan to take Part 3 within 2018 before the CIA exam syllabus changes in 2019.

That’s the gist of my journey so far.  I hope I will be given the chance to share more and be able to inspire other exam takers.

To those who are still contemplating whether to be a CIA or not, you should check out Stephanie’s article about the value of the CIA, as it lists great reasons to get certified. I hope you enjoy reading it and discover the reason why do you want to be a CIA.

How I Passed Part 1 and Part 2

I would like to elaborate more on my Part 1 and Part 2 experience with a few tips.  These tips may not be new, but I hope they help you at least a little.

1. Look for a great support group, such as your family, friends, or officemates.

It is hard to decide to spend the weekend reviewing when you’ve just had your firstborn. Since I have to sacrifice having more time with my little one, I am working a 48 hour/week job on weekends and then doing 16 hours of review lectures every weekend (What???).  I am lucky to have a supportive husband and a supportive family around me that has helped me through.

2. As much as possible, read the materials prior to attending the review classes.

If you do this, the class lectures will be just a review for you and not an introduction to the topic.  Consequently, it will be easier to understand and appreciate the lectures after you have done the reading. Plus, you will have the chance to ask questions and clarify ideas you couldn’t understand from the reading.

However, if you are doing a self-review, I suggest reading the materials at least 3 times. First, to get familiar with the content; second, to increase your understanding; and third, to retain the information.

The review classes for Part 1 and 2 last for about 6 weeks. So, the goal is to take the exam about 4 weeks after these classes end so I get it done before I start my Part 3 review. But, since I wasn’t able to read the materials before I attended the classes, I had a lot of catching up to do!

3. Do not compare yourself to others or compete with them.

Because I was not able to take the exam when I intended,  I also had to decide not to attend the Part 3 classes so I wouldn’t be distracted. Did I feel pressured? Yes, because I knew other exam candidates who had already passed Part 1 and 2. However, since I knew I was not ready, I extended my studies until I was.

Even if other candidates you know have already taken their exams, you shouldn’t take the exams if you are not ready. We are in charge of our own timelines. Rather than follow the timelines of others, you should simply set a deadline for yourself and remember the 4-year period you have to pass the CIA exam.

Fortunately, I passed both Part 1 and 2 on the same day.  I guess the waiting and sacrifice paid off.  Now on to part 3…

To pass Part 1 and Part 2, I used the following materials:

  1. Mandatory Guidance – Definition, Standards, Code of Ethics
  2. Implementation Guides
  3. Gleim CIA Review – says you will pass if you score 90% on the mock exam prior to taking the exam

How I’m Progressing on Part 3

My Part 3 progress looks like this…..

I am very slooowwwww.  I mentioned previously that I already started reviewing in August 2018.  Almost 2 months have passed, and I am not even halfway done.  So, I did some self-assessment reflections and asked and answered the following questions:

Question 1: Why?

I went back to the reason why I wanted to be a CIA in the first place.  Do I still want it?
Answer (A): Definitely, Yes.
Plan (P): Continue. Always remember your Why.

Question 2: What?

What keeps me from studying according to my plan/schedule?
A: Distractions (or excuses?) like:

  1. Take-home work to accomplish
  2. Things to do at the office that I am still thinking about upon arriving home (then end up to doing, taking me back to 1).
  3. I feel tired after a day’s work and say, “I’ll take a rest tonight and will resume my review tomorrow. This break will just be for tonight”. And then I end up taking a break 2 to 3 nights a week.
  4. Checking my mobile phone once in while (which takes no less than 30 mins., and I do it 3x while reading the textbook)
  5. Talking, texting, chatting

P: It boils down to practicing and committing to self-discipline.  Thus, I commit the following:

  1. Complete my work in the office (and also avoid distractions in the office). There are still times that I cannot avoid this, but I will keep it as minimal as possible.
  2. Allot review time and treat it as sacred. I study at least 2 to 3 hours per day.

Question 3: When?

When or at what time of the day am I most productive?

A: I did my review for the last month at night after work. And I don’t think it was effective, since progress has been very slow.

P: I have changed my review schedule to early morning.  I will ensure that I go to bed early and then wake up at aroun4 a.m. or earlier the next day.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope I can keep up with the action plans and be able to accelerate.  Looking forward to becoming a butterfly after all of this.  =)

Update: Why I Decided to Take Part 3 in 2019

Previously, I mentioned that I intended to sit for the Part 3 exam in 2018.  This is because I didn’t want to have to worry about the 2019 CIA exam changes. In fact, I already paid the exam fee last September so I would have a deadline for myself. This was my goal up until very recently when someone dear to me asked me about my exam preparations.

When this person asked me how my studies were going, I was not able to answer right away because I wasn’t sure myself. I didn’t have the confidence to say that I was ready. Actually, prior to this, I was starting to have my own doubts since I wasn’t really happy with my progress.

But now, I have thought about it thoroughly. And I talked to one of my colleagues who is also reviewing for Part 3 (we are planning to take it at the same time, if possible). It just so happened that she felt the same.

Therefore, I decided to move my exam date to 2019. I didn’t do this just because my colleague is also postponing her exam. Instead, I did it because I don’t have enough confidence yet. I haven’t been able to give my studies my best. So, I don’t think what I have covered so far is enough.

My New Part 3 Exam Date

However, since I also believe that you’re never really ready, I will still be working toward a deadline. I don’t think I can prolong the journey any further. So, I guess that’s it: I’ll be taking the Part 3 exam in February 2019 (since this is the latest I can take the exam without forfeiting what I already paid).

Any tips or suggestions on how to transition my review from the 2018 syllabus to the 2019 syllabus will be highly appreciated.

Hoping for the best!

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About the Author Meghan D

Accountant and blogger - I love to help you pass your exams!

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