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CIA Exam Pass Rate

Get an understanding of the global CIA exam pass rate, and what you can do to improve your chances for success.

What is the CIA exam pass rate?

After all the preparation and studying, every aspiring Certified Internal Auditor hopes to pass the CIA exam. However, a majority of candidates are not able to pass it their first time. The CIA exam is meant to be challenging, as those who pass go on to have fulfilling careers with a lot of responsibility.

Keep reading to see what the CIA exam pass rate is and what you can do to be a part of that prestigious group.

CIA Exam Pass Rates

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) released the 2021 CIA exam pass rate for each of the three CIA exam parts. These CIA exam pass rates include all exams taken globally in 2021.

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

The IIA also released its worldwide CIA exam pass rates from 2016-2020. The average of these five years equaled 41.6%. That may sound low, but keep in mind that this average reflects the global test takers for every part of the CIA exam for the entire year.

CIA Exam Pass Rates (2016-2020)
201640%
201742%
201843%
201942%
202041%
5-year average41.6%

When do CIA exam scores get released?

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’ve earned a passing score. You will receive a printed copy of your unofficial score before you leave the Pearson VUE test center.

Although you will know your test results, your score will not become official until The IIA publishes it in their Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS), which usually occurs a few days after you complete your exam. Candidates will receive a confirmation email when their scores have been officially posted.

How does the CIA exam get graded?

The CIA exam is graded on a scaled system. This means that candidates are not given a passing percentage, they just need to earn 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 an educated guess and never leave a question unanswered.

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 should consider revising your study plan and commit more time to learning the fundamental concepts.

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.

See what makes Gleim the most widely used and trusted CIA exam prep worldwide.

What to do if you fail the CIA exam

As mentioned previously, from 2016-2020 the CIA exam pass rate averaged 41.6%, meaning more candidates failed the exam than passed. Since a career as a CIA requires a sophisticated and technical skill set, this exam is intentionally difficult.

Don’t let that discourage you! If you do fail any portion of the test, not all hope is lost. The IIA allows you to take the exam up to eight times during your program eligibility window.

You can re-register for the exam and schedule your new test once your exam results are published to CCMS, which is usually a few days after you complete your exam. You must wait at least 30 days from the date you tested before retaking the failed part. Be prepared to pay the exam registration fee again for the exam part that you failed.

How to make a new CIA exam study plan

Creating a study plan for a section you failed has a lot of overlap with creating one for sections you haven’t started studying for yet.

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:

Level 1:

You need significant improvement in this area.

Level 2:

You need moderate improvement in this area.

Level 3:

You performed competently in this area, but review is still recommended before retaking this exam part.

Use the CIA exam score report to determine where you need to improve the most during your CIA review. Topics in which you received a level 1 assessment should receive the most attention, but you certainly shouldn’t ignore topics in the other two categories.

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Why is the CIA exam pass rate so low?

A majority of 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 properly.

Other factors for the low CIA exam pass rates could include difficulty with translations, a lack of the specialized knowledge, and the relatively minimal education requirements.

Difficulty with exam translations

Although internal auditing is a global industry, its terminology is rooted in English. Sometimes this vernacular does not translate well to other languages, which can cause confusion for candidates who are not fluent in, or native speakers of, English.

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

Lack of experience

Many CIA candidates are familiar with internal auditing through their experience of watching how their company or organization performs internal audits. This can be an advantage over candidates who are used to an auditing policy that is different from the recommended guidance, which influences the test’s curriculum.

Additionally, candidates may encounter questions and topics they are not familiar with from 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.

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