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How to Pass CIA Part 3 on Your First Try

how to pass cia part 3 on your first try

No matter where you are in the CIA exam process, you must take on CIA exam Part 3 eventually. And when you do, you want to do so successfully. You don’t want Part 3 to take you down because that would lengthen your CIA journey and increase your CIA exam fees. So, in order to prevent a Part 3 fail, you need to learn how to pass CIA Part 3 on your first try. Thankfully, you can do so with this information about the review courses, basics, difficulty, and study tips for Part 3.

Get the Right CIA Exam Part 3 Review Course

First and foremost, I’d like to give you my best advice for passing CIA exam Part 3, which is to use a CIA review course. Trying to pass CIA Part 3 without a review course is such a long, costly, and painful process that it’s nigh unto impossible, so spare yourself the heartache and invest in a CIA review course right away.

A CIA review course is essential because it covers and explains all of the exam content, enables you to develop your knowledge and skills, and supports your study efforts in multiple ways. CIA review courses accomplish so much by presenting you with a wealth of materials such as textbooks, video and audio lectures, practice questions, study planners, performance tracking software, customer service, access to the online platform, and more.

You’ll find many CIA review courses on the market, but thankfully, you don’t have to navigate through them all alone. Instead, you can use my descriptions and comparisons to find the best CIA review course for you. Or, you can simply contact me to get my personal recommendation for you. Then, you can use my CIA review course discounts to get your dream deal on your dream CIA exam prep.

But for now, you should know that Gleim CIA Review is the most widely used course on the market and is, in my opinion, the course most worthy of your consideration. Gleim CIA Review contains dozens of video lecture hours, thousands of CIA Part 3 exam questions, access until you pass, and layers of candidate support. For these reasons, I suggest learning more about Gleim CIA Part 3.

Brush Up on the Basics of CIA Part 3

The title of CIA Part 3 is Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing. Therefore, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) explains that this exam part tests candidates’ knowledge, skills, and abilities with core business concepts. You can see the content areas, subtopics, and coverage percentages of this exam part in the CIA Part 3 syllabus.

2019 CIA Part 3 Syllabus

Business Acumen (35%)

  1. Organizational Objectives, Behavior, and Performance
  2. Organizational Structure and Business Processes
  3.  Data Analytics

Information Security (25%)

  1. Information Security

Information Technology (20%)

  1. Application and System Software
  2. IT Infrastructure and IT Control Frameworks
  3. Disaster Recovery

Financial Management (20%)

  1. Financial Accounting and Finance
  2. Managerial Accounting

This syllabus only serves as an outline. So, to make sure you’re completely prepared for all the topics Part 3 covers, you should follow this advice as you study each content area:

CIA Part 3 Study Strategies

Business Acumen (35%) General business questions will make up the lion’s share of the questions on CIA exam Part 3. Knowing this, you should read up on best business practices as much as possible.
Information Security (25%) Because internal auditors are privy to much more internal data than their external auditor counterparts, the security of that sensitive data is paramount. So, make sure you understand the best practices for protecting corporate data.
Information Technology (20%) Being familiar with the current best practices in IT is essential to the field of internal auditing. Therefore, you must know how data is stored, managed, and connected to intranets and larger LANs to get through this section of Part 3. Also, prepare to answer questions about networking.
Financial Management (20%) Abilities such as identifying money and resource-wasting processes and helping improve them are some of the biggest incentives for companies to hire internal auditors. Therefore, having a solid grasp of the basic financial principals on which businesses operate is key to an internal auditor’s success. For this reason, you must make sure to review best practices before taking CIA Part 3.

As with all CIA exam parts, the CIA Part 3 exam questions are only multiple-choice (MCQs). And, like CIA Part 2, CIA Part 3 has 100 MCQs that you must answer in 2 hours (120 minutes) of total testing time. So, to answer all of the CIA Part 3 exam questions in time, you should average about 1.2 minutes per question.

One other similarity between the CIA Part 3 exam and the other CIA exam parts is the passing score. The IIA converts CIA exam scores to a scale of 250-750 and sets the passing score at 600.

Discover the CIA Exam Part 3 Difficulty

According to past CIA Part 3 exam discussions found on CIA exam forums, CIA exam Reddit, in the comments on my site, and in the feedback I’ve received from my readers, this part has usually been the most challenging for candidates.

People have sited the conceptual nature of the questions and their struggle to deduce the answers as reasons for CIA Part 3’s reputation for being hard. Furthermore, I’ve found that Part 3 trips people up for addressing topics outside the scope of auditing. So, many of the internal auditors who take this part can’t rely on their own experience to help them grasp the concepts. What’s more, the questions are long, tricky, and theoretical, so they require you to memorize a lot of information.

The evidence we have for the difficulty of the CIA exam overall is the pass rates. The IIA does not release pass rates for the individual exam parts, so we can’t compare Part 3 to the other exam parts in this way. However, the overall CIA exam pass rate is currently 43%, which is lower than the CPA Exam pass rates and the CMA exam pass rates. Therefore, we can’t expect any CIA exam part to be a walk in the park.

In fact, of all the CIA exam parts, I believe Part 3 requires the greatest amount of study time due to the nature of the subject matter. This table presents my recommendations for total study hours for each CIA exam part.

CIA Exam Study Hours

Exam Part Minimum Number Safe Number
Part 1 30-40 hours 55-65 hours
Part 2 30-40 hours 60-70 hours
Part 3 40-50 hours 85-95 hours

So, based on the fact that you’ve got to be prepared to put in almost twice as many study hours for Part 3 than for Part 1, you can tell that Part 3 is a significant challenge.

Yet, with the recent changes the IIA made to CIA Part 3, such as the reduction of its content areas, this exam part’s infamy may not hold up much longer. We can also find hope in the fact that the CIA exam tests candidates’ knowledge of each topic at 2 different cognitive levels.

  • Basic Level: Candidates retrieve relevant knowledge from memory and/or demonstrate basic comprehension of concepts or processes.
  • Proficient Level: Candidates apply concepts, processes, or procedures; analyze, evaluate, and make judgments based on criteria; and/or put elements or material together to formulate conclusions and recommendations.

And thankfully, Part 3 features 32 Basic level topics and just 3 Proficient level topics.

Learn Why People Fail CIA Exam Part 3

While CIA exam Part 3 is a unique obstacle in your path to the CIA certification, the reasons people fail are the same as that of any other accounting certification exam.

Insufficient Preparation Time

One of the most common causes of failing a CIA exam part is underestimating the amount of time needed to study.

Again, the Part 3 CIA exam includes theoretical questions, and only by reading the textbooks of a CIA review course can you be ready to answer these questions. Your work history will not sufficiently prepare you for them.

So, because you’ll need to go through a course to ensure you know all about the exam content and are familiar with the exam questions, you must give yourself enough time to get it done. Don’t rush the process or settle for less than complete preparation.

Insufficient Effort

As a reminder, the CIA exam is a professional accounting certification exam. The purpose of the exam is to prove that you have what it takes to be a Certified Internal Auditor, not just an internal auditor or an auditor. Therefore, because this exam connects to such a prestigious designation, passing it is work.

And by work, I mean quality study time. Quantity alone won’t cut it. So, you’ve got to stay totally focused for the duration of each study session to truly make that time effective. If you’re not invested in the process of learning, you’re not getting any closer to passing the exam. Consequently, you’re just wasting your time.

Furthermore, if this fact doesn’t convince you to concentrate, consider the additional amount of time and money you’ll have trashed if you fail the exam once or even multiple times. If you just refrain from giving your attention to anything else and make every minute count, you can clock super productive study sessions and have enough time to pass Part 3 on your first try.

Unsuitable Review Course for Your Learning Style

You can only blame your CIA review course for letting you down after you’ve ruled out all other options. So, to be certain that your review course was the problem, you must assess your study habits and your usage of the course first. To do so, ask yourself if you

  • studied for a sufficient number of hours,
  • really gave every study session your best effort,
  • answered plenty of practice questions,
  • read the answer explanations, and
  • attempted to strengthen your weak areas.

Only when the answer to each of these questions is yes should you start to assume that the course didn’t fit your learning style or was low-quality. And if this is the case, you would be wise to purchase a course supplement or a new course altogether.

To make sure that you don’t end up with the wrong review course in the first place, you should investigate all of your CIA exam prep options by discovering the pros and cons of the most popular CIA review courses, interacting with the free trials, and seeking my professional CIA course recommendation if necessary.

Follow These Steps to Pass CIA Part 3 on Your First Try

Now that you’ve done some reconnaissance on CIA exam Part 3 by learning what this exam part is all about, how difficult it can be, and why people fail, you’re ready to take action. And, by incorporating each of these CIA exam tips into your CIA exam Part 3 strategy, you can take out this imposing exam part in just one go.

1. Focus on your weak areas.

Homing in on unfamiliar or troublesome content areas is the most efficient way to master the CIA Part 3 material. You don’t need to allocate the same amount of attention to all of the content areas if you’re already super comfortable with some of them.

Instead, you simply need to pinpoint the places in the Part 3 syllabus where you know your knowledge is shallow and put those topics at the top of your study list. Analyzing the CIA exam syllabus and signing up for my free e-course will help you complete the evaluation process.

2. Deepen your understanding of financial and managerial accounting.

Financial and managerial accounting are significant players in CIA Part 3, so base-level familiarity with these areas of accounting won’t suffice. Specifically, you must understand these concepts at the deepest level rather than settling simply for memorization of the associated calculations, especially because the calculation questions are not as common.

Therefore, your knowledge must be extensive because the exam may ask you to apply what you know to determine the effects of financial and managerial accounting in certain scenarios.

Also, your depth of understanding must cover the full scope of financial and managerial topics including:

  • CVP analysis
  • variable costing
  • full costing
  • process costing
  • JIT
  • BEP
  • CM
  • manufacturing COS
  • residual income

So, don’t skimp on either of these content areas or you’ll struggle to answer many of the questions on your CIA Part 3 exam. To ensure you know enough about financial and managerial accounting, utilize all of the resources in your CIA review course, such as the books, video lectures, and assistance from professors.

3. Answer plenty of practice questions about information technology.

The other CIA Part 3 content area that should dominate your studies is information technology (IT). The exam expects a strong foundation in IT by asking about such topics as:

  • The difference between application and ITGCs
  • The types of IT controls, especially the different types of application controls
  • The different IT stakeholders and their job functions and responsibilities
  • Cybersecurity
  • Disaster recovery
  • Data analytics

IT is one area of Part 3 that many internal auditors may struggle through due to their lack of experience. Consequently, you may need to start addressing the basics of these topics by reading your textbooks. Then, use the video lectures and answer explanations of your review course to further develop your understanding.

Then, to nail the information in place, drill through practice questions: a lot of practice questions. You’ll need a course with a pretty big test bank to do so. But, you won’t regret the investment after you’ve passed Part 3.

4. Prioritize learning the concepts over the computations.

In general, CIA Part 3 doesn’t seem to emphasize formulas or computations. So, you must resist the temptation to keep coming back to practice questions like these.

Now, I know that you might find calculation questions easier to answer. But, due to their lack of popularity in Part 3, answering so many of them is not the best use of your time. And you don’t want to realize how true that statement is when you’re sitting for the exam.

So, employ some self-control now and stick to the conceptual questions CIA Part 3 loves to serve candidates.

5. Make sure you understand the context of the question.

Again, the MCQs on the Part 3 CIA exam can be pretty tricky. But you’ll probably find them more confusing than necessary if you rush through the step of reading the question stem. So, avoid this pitfall by taking the time to read each question very carefully.

If you don’t know exactly what the question is asking for, then the answer options that seem feasible will easily blind you to the best answer choice. And don’t forget: the best answer choice is what you’re looking for. Sometimes, the distractor answer options can seem perfectly valid. Therefore, the only way to decide between these and the truly best answer is to have a rock-solid grasp of the concepts and the question.

Get More Info About How to Pass CIA Part 3 on Your First Try

If you’d like to get even more guidance through the process of passing the CIA exam and becoming a CIA, you’ll find it in my free CIA e-course. This course walks you through every step of earning the CIA certification. So, learn more or sign up now!

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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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