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Don’t Just Memorize! How to Ace CIA Exam Multiple-Choice Questions

Don't Just Memorize How to Ace the CIA Exam Multiple Choice Questions

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) exam is a challenging test that requires in-depth knowledge of auditing, business, and compliance practices. Many candidates make the mistake of trying to memorize CIA exam questions and answers, but this is not an effective way to study.

No two audits are exactly the same, so in order to pass the CIA exam, you need to understand the concepts and be able to apply them. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to ace the MCQs—without just memorizing answers. 

Who creates CIA exam multiple-choice questions?

The CIA exam questions are developed by The IIA’s Exam Development Committee (EDC). The EDC is made up of internal audit practitioners from around the world who have experience in the field.

They develop questions based on job analysis surveys of practicing internal auditors. This ensures the questions reflect what internal auditors need to know in order to do their jobs effectively.

How are CIA questions graded?

To pass the CIA exam, you must score at least 600 on a scale of 250 – 700, but that doesn’t correspond to an exact number of questions you need to answer correctly. 

The IIA uses a process called “standard setting” to determine what it takes to pass different versions of the CIA exam. Through this process, individual CIA questions are assigned values according to how well CIA candidates perform on them relative other questions, with harder questions being worth more and easier questions being worth less.

That means if you have a particularly challenging exam, you don’t have to get as many questions right in order to pass. The reverse is also true. The IIA tries to make different exam versions consistent with one another, and uses standard setting to address the variance introduced by using different questions to ensure that all candidates meet the same standard no matter which version of the CIA exam they receive. 

What does this mean for you? It means you shouldn’t rely on memorization to try to get a passing score. The IIA uses multiple versions of the exam and keeps testing new questions to make sure people can’t pass who don’t deserve to. The odds of memorizing the exact questions on your exam are extremely low, and if you can easily memorize the answer, the question likely isn’t worth much. That said, since there is no penalty for wrong answers, you should always select an answer for every question.

CIA exam format

The CIA exam is made up of three parts:

  • Part One: Essentials of Internal Auditing
  • Part Two: Practice of Internal Auditing
  • Part Three: Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing

All of the CIA exam questions are multiple-choice, and each exam part consists of either 100 or 125 MCQs.

CIA Exam Questions
Exam part Number of questions Time limit
Part 1 125 MCQs 2.5 hours
Part 2 100 MCQs 2 hours
Part 3 100 MCQs 2 hours

How to prepare for the CIA exam MCQs

There are many things you can do to prepare for the MCQ portion of the CIA exam. Here are six tips:

1. Understand the concepts

You need to have a strong understanding of the material in order to answer CIA questions correctly. Make sure you’re able to explain the concepts to someone else and apply them to real-world scenarios.

For example, suppose you’re studying for Part Two of the exam, which covers the Practice of Internal Auditing. In that case, you should be familiar with topics like risk assessment, internal controls, and audit planning.

The questions are largely conceptual. While individual answers to specific questions can be easy to memorize, there are probably a dozen different ways to ask them that make what you memorized useless. If you combine the dozens of possible permutations for each question with the thousands of possible questions you might be asked, you can see why memorizing answers won’t work. 

Always read answer explanations, if your course offers them, to make sure your reasoning was sound or to figure out why you got something wrong. Make sure you’re getting questions right for the right reasons and you’ll do well on your exam. 

2. Use practice questions

One of the best ways to prepare for the MCQs is to practice with questions that are similar to what you’ll see on the actual exam. Doing this lets you get used to the format so you can understand how to answer questions quickly and correctly.

Our CIA Review Course comes with a pool of thousands of multiple-choice questions, including retired CIA exam questions released by The IIA. The rest of our questions and all of our answer explanations are written by practicing Certified Internal Auditors and experts in the field.

3. Don't memorize answers

As we mentioned before, trying to memorize answers is not an effective way to study. You need to understand the concepts in order to answer the questions correctly.

If you’re using Gleim’s CIA Review Course, our Test Bank includes explanations for every answer so you can learn why the correct answer is correct and why the wrong answers are wrong. This will help you understand the material better and be able to apply it when you see similar questions on the actual exam.

4. Take timed quizzes & exams

To do well on the MCQs, you’ll need to be able to answer questions quickly and accurately. One way to practice this is by taking timed quizzes and exams.

Practice spending an average of 1 minute per question so that you’ll get used to working under pressure and will feel confident that you’ll be able to finish the exam within the allotted time. On exam day, if you spend 1 minute per question, you’ll have 20-25 minutes left to review your exam and revisit any questions you flagged.

5. Keep reviewing "old" material

As you’re studying for the exam, you’ll inevitably come across concepts that you’re already familiar with. Don’t just skim over these sections! Make sure you understand them just as well as the material that’s new to you.

6. Have a strategy for answering MCQs

Check out the video below for our advice on how to approach CIA exam questions. 

CIA study plan

Now that you know how to study for the CIA exam MCQs, it’s time to put together a study plan.

Depending on how much time you have before your exam date, here’s a suggested schedule:

  • If you have six months or more: Study two hours per day, four days per week.
  • If you have three to six months: Study three hours per day, four days per week.
  • If you have one to three months: Study four hours per day, six days per week.
  • If you have less than one month: Study eight hours per day, six days per week.

Remember to take breaks and give yourself time to relax. Studying for the CIA exam can be stressful, so make sure to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Learn more about CIA exam prep from Gleim.