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What you need to know about the CIA Challenge exam

What you need to know about the CIA Challenge exam

The CIA Challenge Exam for Qualified Accounting Bodies is an opportunity for active CPAs, members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and other qualifying accounting bodies to earn their CIA certification through an expedited process.

Normally, CIA candidates must pass all three exam parts to prove their understanding of the content. However, members of qualifying accounting bodies can take the CIA Challenge Exam, which contains only the CIA exam content that isn’t on their accounting body’s certification exam.

Each year we receive questions from candidates asking about the CIA Challenge Exam, as it is a unique opportunity to earn the CIA designation faster. We’ve answered some of the most common questions to help you decide if this opportunity is right for you!

The Challenge Exam at a Glance

Find out if this opportunity is right for you!

Who is eligible to take the CIA Challenge Exam?

Candidates must be a current member of one (or more) of the below organizations and be in good standing to qualify.

  • CPA license from any US State Board of Accountancy
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland
  • Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA Canada)
  • CPA Australia
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
  • Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (CPA Ireland)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU)
  • Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA)
  • Koninklijke Nederlandse Beroepsorganisatie van Accountants (NBA)
  • Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA)
  • Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)
  • Registro Oficial de Auditores de Cuentas (ROAC)
  • Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA)
  • South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA)
  • State of Israel Ministry of Justice-Board of Accountants

Even if you have already registered for the normal CIA program, you should be able to register for this special exam. However, if you have already passed a part or two, you will still need to pass the full Challenge Exam, so it’s often better to continue with the CIA program.

Potential CIA Challenge Exam candidates can apply for the program Opens in new window during the application window. Before applying, you’ll need to contact your local accounting body to obtain a letter of good standing. This document must be provided to complete the application process. Once you have been accepted you must sit for the exam within 180 days of your application being approved.

When is the CIA Challenge Exam offered?

The CIA Challenge Exam is offered a few times each year, but candidates will usually only have one chance to pass the exam before having to pay another set of program fees. Candidates must apply Opens in new window in advance, which can be done through The IIA’s CCMS. Once accepted, candidates are then able to register for and schedule their first exam attempt.

The window for candidates to apply, register, and schedule is April – September. 

The first attempt testing windows for candidates who apply are:

  • February
  • June
  • August
  • November

Candidates are able to register for and schedule their retakes throughout the year, but they must retake their exam in the testing windows above. 

The exam is offered online and in-person through Pearson VUE Opens in new window around the world, and candidates are expected to spend three hours completing the exam.

How to apply for the CIA Challenge Exam 

Follow these steps to apply:

  1. Log in to the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS)
  2. Select “Apply for Certified Internal Auditor”
  3. Select “CIA Challenge Program for Qualified Chartered Accountants and Certified Public Accountants”
  4. Complete your application and payment
  5. Upload proof of your government-issued ID and a letter of good standing from a qualified accounting body.

Once your application to the program is approved, you’ll be able to register for and schedule your exam. To do this, select “Manage my program” and then choose “CIA” and click “Register.”

How much does the CIA Challenge Exam cost?

The IIA offers a CIA Challenge Exam Package which includes both the application and registration fees and access to the International Professional Practices Framework and the Standards

Compared to the normal cost of the three-part CIA exam, the CIA Challenge Exam can save you a significant amount of money. You’ll also need to account for any potential travel expenses, additional review courses, or other miscellaneous costs. If you only need to take one exam instead of the normal three parts of the CIA exam, you could save more!

CIA Challenge Exam Fees*
Fee Type Member Non-Member
CIA Challenge Exam Bundle $1,255 $1,625
CIA Challenge Exam Retake $845 $995

*All fees in USD.

What do I need to study for the Challenge Exam?

The CIA Challenge Exam is designed for members who already hold a professional accounting certificate or license and want to earn their CIA certification. The exam combines CIA Parts 1, 2 and 3 and removes all of the information tested on the exam for the certificate or license members already hold.

The IIA provides a syllabusOpens in new window for candidates looking to see what topics they need to study. It shows what topics come from which CIA exam part, the proficiency needed in each tested topic, and the approximate number of questions from each section.

But knowing what will be on the exam isn’t enough to pass it. Candidates should enlist the help of a review provider to get everything they need to prepare. The exam is difficult and there are limited opportunities to sit for it, so candidates should work to master all testable topics to the best of their ability.

We examine the exam syllabus so you don’t have to. Our CIA Challenge Exam Review Course, based on our industry-leading Premium CIA Review System, has everything you need to pass with confidence. It’s the first and only adaptive course built for the Challenge Exam.

How many questions are on the exam?

The CIA Challenge Exam has 150 questions based on the exam syllabus Opens in new window and the examination time is up to 180 minutes. Questions are divided into two categories based on proficiency:

  • Basic, marked with a B on the syllabus, only require that candidates be aware of these topics.
  • Proficient, marked with a P on the syllabus, demand that candidates have a deep understanding of, and the ability to apply, these concepts.

The syllabus lists all three exam parts, their domains, and the topics within those domains that are testable. For example, CIA Part 1 – Essentials of Internal Auditing, Domain 5 – Governance, Risk Management, and Control, includes 6 testable topics (instead of the normal 11 for CIA Part 1).

The syllabus also lists the percentage of questions pulled from each part, listed below.

  • CIA Part 1 | Essentials of Internal Auditing — 35%
  • CIA Part 2 | Practice of Internal Auditing — 43%
  • CIA Part 3 | Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing — 22%

Like the CIA exam, it has scaled scoring Opens in new window, and candidates must earn 600 points out of a possible 750 to pass.

For more detailed information, check out the CIA Challenge Exam syllabus Opens in new window or the Gleim cross-reference.

What is the best way to prepare for the exam?

Candidates should get review materials to help with their exam preparation. Having help from an experienced review provider can make the difference!

Additionally, candidates should plan their studies on a calendar or scheduler to help them stay on track. The Challenge Exam covers a wide array of topics, and you need to be sure you are meeting your goals in order to pass.

It also helps to understand the interface and format of the exam. The CIA Challenge Exam is administered by Pearson VUE, so the interface is the same as the traditional CIA exam.

The CIA Challenge Exam is only offered in English. To best prepare, study and practice questions in English to make sure there are no translation issues on exam day.