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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 is an opportunity for 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 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. You will need to contact your local accounting body to obtain a letter of good standing prior to submitting a CIA Challenge Exam application to The IIA. This document must be provided to complete the application process.

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ)
  • Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA Canada)
  • CPA Australia
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA)
  • 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)
  • Any State Board of Accountancy (CPA)

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 need to apply for the program between August – September 2021. Once you have been accepted you must sit for the exam within 180 days of your application being approved. 

Once you have been approved for the CIA Challenge Exam, you will be able to register and schedule your exam through your CCMS account.

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 in advance for the CIA Challenge Exam, which can be done through The IIA’s CCMS.

The application window for the program is usually in the fall and, once accepted, candidates are then able to schedule their first exam attempt for one of two testing windows:

  • November 2021

  • January 2022

Candidates who are retaking their exam are able to do so in one of four testing windows:

  • January 2022

  • April 2022

  • July 2022

  • November 2022

The exam is offered at Pearson VUE testing centers around the world, and candidates are expected to spend three hours completing the exam.

What is the cost of the CIA Challenge Exam?

When signing up for the Challenge Exam, candidates will be expected to pay all relevant fees upfront. The cost of the CIA Challenge Exam is $1,195 USD for IIA members and $1,545 USD for non-IIA members. If you have to reschedule your exam, there is a $75 fee from Pearson VUE.

The CIA Challenge Exam fees include the application and registration fees and access to the International Professional Practices Framework and the Standards.

Compared to the normal cost of $2,074 USD for IIA members and $2,264 for non-IIA members, the CIA Challenge Exam can save you a significant amount of money. These totals do not include any potential travel expenses, additional review courses, or other miscellaneous costs. If you only need to take one CIA Challenge Exam instead of the normal three parts of the CIA exam, you could save more!

What do I need to study for the CIA 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 syllabus 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. CIA Challenge Exam candidates should enlist the help of a review provider to get everything they need to prepare. The CIA Challenge 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 CIA Challenge 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 CIA Challenge Exam?

The CIA Challenge Exam has 150 questions based on the exam syllabus. 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 CIA Challenge Exam 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%

The CIA Challenge Exam still has scaled scoring, and candidates must earn 600 points out of a possible 750 to pass.

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

What is the best way to prepare for the exam?

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

Additionally, CIA Challenge Exam 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.