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CIA Exam Pass Rate

Find out what the CIA exam pass rate is and what that means for you. Read tips to pass the CIA exam with confidence!

The IIA released the 2021 pass rate for each of the three CIA exam parts. These pass rates include all exams taken globally and will be updated annually.

CIA Pass Rates 2021
Part 143%
Part 246%
Part 356%


The IIA previously released its worldwide pass rate for the entire CIA exam annually. The pass rate for 2020 was around 41%. That may sound low, but keep in mind that it reflects all test takers for all parts of the CIA exam for the entire year globally.

CIA Pass Rates












When will I know if I passed the CIA exam?

Once you complete the CIA exam, you will immediately know whether or not you passed.

The CIA exam consists only of multiple-choice questions, so unlike some professional examinations, it does not need to be manually graded to determine whether you earned a passing score. You will receive a printed copy of your unofficial score before you leave the Pearson VUE test center. Your score will not be official until The IIA publishes it in their Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS) Opens in new window, which usually occurs a few days after you complete your exam. Candidates will receive a confirmation email when their scores have been posted.

You need to earn a score of at least 600 to pass the CIA exam.

The CIA exam is scored based on a scale of 250-750 points. Although receiving a failing score is discouraging, it can actually provide useful information. If you score in the high 500s, then you probably just need some fine tuning on various exam topics. If you score lower than 500, you probably need to revise your study plan and recommit more time to learning fundamental concepts.

Scaled from 200-750, 600 passes. Beat the CIA exam rate curve and earn a CIA exam passing score!

How is the CIA exam graded?

The CIA exam is graded on a scaled system. This means that candidates are not given a passing percentage, they just need to score a certain amount of points in order to pass. The passing score is 600 on a scale from 250-750, and points are earned by answering questions correctly. No points are deducted for incorrect answers, so answer each question with your best educated guess and never leave a question unanswered.

How many points your questions are worth is dependent on the difficulty of your exam and is not disclosed to the candidate. The IIA determines the difficulty of questions and your overall exam by inserting non-graded pretest questions into every exam.

Pretest questions

To help ensure the exam is fair and graded equally, The IIA tests questions before they become testable. They do this by including them on actual CIA exams, and recording the responses, but not scoring them.

These questions will appear on your exam and will not be labeled as pretest or testable questions, but they also will not count for or against your score. If you see a question that seems to be particularly difficult or wasn’t covered by your Review System, it may be a pretest question. Make your best educated guess and move on.

IIA released questions

When The IIA retires test questions, they release them to review course providers and the general public. Actual CIA exam questions and other exam content remain non-disclosed and are not available to anyone, not even The IIA at large.

Released questions are a good indication of the depth and breadth of the exam, which is why we look at every single question release.

What do I do if I fail the CIA exam?

If you fail any part of the CIA exam, you must wait at least 30 days before retaking that part. You will also need to repay the exam registration fee.

Since you may not need the full 30 days to review a second time, you should consider preparing for and taking a different part during this time frame. You may be able to complete another part and still have time to review for your failed part before your 30 days expire. There is no limit to the number of times you can retake a failed exam.

NOTE: You can re-register for the exam and schedule your new test once your exam results are published to CCMS Opens in new window. However, the earliest appointment date that will be available to you will be 30 days from the date that you last took the exam.

How to make a new CIA exam study plan

For the most part, creating a study plan for a section you failed is similar to creating one for a section you haven’t started with a few differences.

If you failed a part of the CIA exam, your score report will provide you with a numeric score and an assessment of your performance.
The performance assessment will summarize your results for each major content area. Your performance will be rated at one of three levels:

  • You performed competently in this area, but review is still recommended before retaking this exam part.
  • You need moderate improvement in this area.
  • You need significant improvement in this area.

Use the CIA exam score report to determine where you need to improve the most during your CIA review. Topics rated as needing “significant improvement” should receive the most attention, but you shouldn’t ignore topics in the other two categories.

Why are CIA exam pass rates low?

Most CIA candidates fail the exam. While this can be attributed to a few factors, the primary reason is that most candidates sitting for the exam do not prepare for it appropriately.

Other reasons for the low pass rates could include difficulty with translations, a lack of the specialized knowledge that internal auditors need, and the relatively minimal education requirements.

Difficulty with translated exams

Although internal auditing is a global industry, its terminology is rooted in English. Sometimes this vocabulary does not translate very well to other languages and causes confusion for candidates.

Candidates sitting for the exams in languages other than English have reported that the translated questions and answers are more literal. This means that certain definitions or vocabulary specific to internal auditing can be lost in translation. Check out our blog about taking the exams in a different language.

Lack of experience

Most CIA candidates are familiar with internal auditing and how their specific company or organization performs internal audits. This poses challenges to candidates who are used to policy that is different from the recommended guidance.

Additionally, candidates may encounter questions and topics they are not used to handling in their professional careers. This is especially true for Part 3, which focuses on accounting and business topics outside the scope of internal audit.

Low education requirements

The IIA has kept the education requirement for the CIA exam relatively low. This is great for candidates who cannot afford post-secondary education and encourages internal auditors to come from diverse backgrounds, but it also means that many people can lack the specialized business knowledge necessary to pass the exam.

The IIA allows candidates to substitute experience for education, which means not everyone sitting for the exam has an internal audit degree. As previously mentioned, Part 3 in particular focuses on topics internal auditors should be familiar with but may have missed without a formal education. You can read more tips on passing CIA Part 3 on our blog.

In what order should I take the CIA exam?

The CIA exam is spread out over three parts and focuses on internal audit topics such as internal controls, auditing processes, risk management, fraud, engagement procedures, IT and security systems, and regulatory issues.

While you have the power to choose the order in which you take the exam parts, feedback from candidates suggests you should take them in sequential order to increase your chances of passing each part on your first attempt. The topics in each part build off of one another, meaning mastering one part will help you prepare for the others.

Part 1 covers the basics of internal auditing and regulatory requirements from the Standards and Code of Ethics. 

Part 2 tests management of the internal audit function and individual engagements, as well as fraud risks and controls. You will need to apply analysis to the internal audit basics covered in Part 1 and understand some additional topics, like fraud. 

Part 3 covers topics that most internal auditors need to be aware of in practice. Thus, you need a working knowledge of the topics tested in Parts 1 and 2 when taking Part 3. 

The Gleim Logo Solution 

If you do choose to take them out of order, pay close attention to what topics are tested and how they are tested within each part to determine which section you want to sit for first. Many accounting students preparing for the CIA exam find Part 3 topics easier to take while they are in school or just after they graduate.