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Become a Certified Internal Auditor: Preparing for the Exam as a Student

Preparing for the CIA exam as a student

Joseph Mauriello, CPA, CIA, CFE, CMA, CFSA, CRMA, CISA – Lead CIA Lecturer

Professor Mauriello is a Senior Lecturer as well as the Director of the Center for Internal Auditing Excellence at the University of Texas at Dallas. The University of Texas at Dallas is an IAEP school endorsed by The IIA, the organization that administers the CIA Exam. Mauriello is also active in his local IIA Chapter and currently holds the title as Past President. Joanne Fox Phillips is even basing a character on Mauriello in her new internal audit fiction novel.

The Case for Passing the CIA Exam Before Graduation

Obtaining your Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification is a challenging yet rewarding experience that will benefit an internal auditor throughout his or her career. The preliminary steps in obtaining that certification include filing the exam application, setting up a study schedule, and then executing the study plan to ultimately pass the exam. In making such a commitment to passing the CIA exam, the question often arises as to whether it makes sense to postpone taking the exam until after graduation. The logic with this approach is that postponing the exam will allow for recent graduates to obtain real world audit experience that will contribute to a better understanding of the exam material. In fact, this is one of the most frequently asked questions that I receive from my students. As someone who has taken a few tests during my career, here’s my take.

Sitting for the Certified Internal Auditor Exam as a Student

First of all, I encourage all of my students to take and pass all of the parts of the CIA exam prior to graduation. In my view, active students are going to be more accustomed to test-taking then folks who have been out of the classroom for any extended period of time. Postponing the exam creates ‘rust’ so to speak. In other words, your test-taking skills diminish over time due to lack of practice, and you are not as ready to complete this step toward becoming a Certified Internal Auditor. That is not to say that your skills cannot be developed (or re-developed); however, if you are already in “study-mode,” then why spend that much more time rekindling previously mastered skills?

Second, it never made sense to me to postpone studying for the exam that will help define your career by designating you as a Certified Internal Auditor. I frequently hear from students that they are focusing their efforts exclusively on obtaining that first job or first internship opportunity and therefore do not have the time to prepare for the exam. This seems to defy logic. What better way to impress your future employer than to be able to illustrate that you have passed the CIA exam and have officially become a Certified Internal Auditor? As a former hiring manager, I can tell you that I viewed those individuals who had passed the exam as candidates who took their careers seriously.

Preparing for the Certified Internal Auditor Exam After Graduation

Last but not least, I have been presented with the following excuse: “I have a full course load, so I do not have the time to study for the exam. I will have time once I am working and not going to school.” This excuse might frustrate me the most. In my view, passing the CIA exam and becoming a Certified Internal Auditor should be considered part of an auditor’s education. Failing to recognize the educational value is misguided. Furthermore, there is a false assumption that the same commitment of time and effort that students place towards their studies is not comparable what they will need to dedicate to their professional career. As a practitioner, a great deal of time is still required to be successful in the profession. That time and effort may take away from a student’s time to study and prepare for the exam.

Take it from someone who has obtained my certifications subsequent to graduation – it is a lot easier to invest your time and effort to passing the exam and becoming a Certified Internal Auditor earlier in your career rather than later. Your career starts in school, not with your first opportunity after graduation! Don’t wait to pass your certification exams and become a Certified Internal Auditor!