Top 5 CIA Tips: How to Prepare for the CIA Exam

As you go through the process of earning the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification, you’ll have quite a few items on your to-do list. For instance, you’ll need to learn all about the CIA requirements, schedule your CIA exam appointment, and purchase your CIA review course. But after you’ve accomplished these tasks, what comes next?

Well, the next step in the CIA certification process is the most important step of them all: studying for the CIA exam. This step is paramount because the time you devote to CIA exam preparation can make or break your ability to pass on the first attempt.

Maybe you’ve prepared for an accounting certification before, so you have an idea of what to expect come test day. Or maybe this is an entirely new world for you. Regardless, study time is critical to your CIA success. Therefore, you can really benefit from reading these top 5 CIA tips.

I’ve collected these tips from readers, review course providers, and industry experts. So, you can use them to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of every CIA exam study session and, ultimately, to ensure that you can pass the exam on your first attempt.

How to Prepare for the CIA Exam: Top 5 CIA Tips

In this CIA study guide, you’ll find my top CIA tips as well as explanations for how to apply them. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  1. Study efficiently
  2. Study effectively
  3. Create more study time
  4. Study for multiple-choice questions
  5. Take a multiple-choice question test

CIA Tips 1: Prioritize Efficient CIA Exam Preparation

Clearly, you need to make it a priority to study for the CIA exam. But why should you make it a priority to study efficiently for the test?

Essentially, when you study efficiently, you make the best use of your time. And, as a reminder, once you enter the CIA program, you have 4 years to pass all 3 CIA exam parts. While 4 years can seem like plenty of time, you’d be surprised how quickly it goes. Also, once you receive your authorization to test, you only have 180 days to schedule your exam appointment. So, studying efficiently ensures you can meet these deadlines and earn the CIA certification faster.

Efficient CIA exam prep requires you to do these 5 things:

1. Understand the exam

Before you dive deep into the content of the CIA exam, you need to learn the basics. Specifically, you need to understand the CIA exam format. The exam includes 3 parts:

  1. Essentials of Internal Auditing
  2. Practice of Internal Auditing
  3. Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing

Each CIA exam part contains 100-125 multiple-choice questions (MCQs). And you have 120-125 minutes to complete each exam part. Therefore, given this time limit, you have a little more than a minute to answer each question.

Furthermore, the CIA exam passing score is 600 on a scale of 250-700. All of the questions are multiple-choice and hold equal weight. Therefore, you need about 80% to pass. Though that percentage is high, the test is straightforward. So, you can pass if you put in the effort!

But again, you need to understand the structure of the CIA exam ASAP so you can see what you’re up against. Once you know what the exam is like, you can fully focus on the topic areas. Consequently, this strategy provides a clear and quick path to success.

2. Use the right study tools

Your choice of CIA exam study materials will likely depend on your level of internal auditing experience. But regardless of whether you’ve been practicing internal auditing for 5 months or 5 years, you need to purchase a CIA review course. Studying with a CIA review course enables you to be as prepared as possible for the exam for several reasons.

First, a CIA review course covers all of the exam content. Such coverage is convenient for CIA candidates with little auditing experience. Additionally, the course helps you learn the content through resources like video lectures, textbooks, audio presentations, and flashcards.

So, you don’t have to worry if your current job doesn’t provide you with real-world auditing experience. Your review course will address it all.

For candidates who have been around the internal audit block, a CIA review course also exposes you to the exam questions and format by supplying practice questions and exams. Even if you’re already familiar with the exam content, you still need to familiarize yourself with how the exam tests you on that content. And answering lots of practice questions and taking plenty of practice exams gives you the exam experience you need before you sit.

However, you have to make sure that you’re working with practice questions and exams that emulate the format and functionality of the CIA exam. That way, you won’t be surprised by any of the actual CIA exam questions.

Choosing a CIA Review Course

So, how do you find the right CIA review course for you? First, check out my comparison of the most popular CIA review courses on the market. Then, sign up for the free trials of the courses that interest you. Explore the trials for a few days to see which course best meets your learning needs. Finally, use my CIA review discounts to help you save big on your preferred CIA exam prep.

If you’re studying for the CIA Challenge Exam, you’ll need exam prep specifically created to pass it. Learn more about the 1-part CIA Challenge Exam (for eligible CIA candidates, usually ACCA members and CPAs), and about the 2 courses created just for this special exam: Gleim CIA Challenge Exam Review and HOCK CIA Challenge Exam Prep.

As an added note, be sure to get the current edition of the course. That way, you can be certain that you’ll be prepared for the latest iteration of the exam.

3. Make a realistic CIA study plan

A realistic yet effective study plan is crucial to your CIA exam success. Yet, creating a plan often goes against our nature. We struggle to be prudent and organized, either because we don’t have the time or because we don’t want to invest the effort.

So, while we know that having a study plan is important, we still struggle to develop and follow one. And sadly, a lack of a study plan is exactly why some candidates fail the CIA exam.

Consequently, if you want to pass the CIA exam in a timely manner, you must make a study plan. This plan will keep you on track and provide you with a structured method for learning all the exam content on time.

But how do you make a good study plan? Well, you may be able to rely on your review course for assistance, as many courses come with interactive study planners. But if your course doesn’t, then you should start making a study plan by considering how many CIA exam study hours you’ll need to invest in each exam part.

Then, assess your weekly schedule to see how many study hours you can clock in one week. Truthfully, you may need to cut back or completely eliminate non-essential activities to allow yourself enough CIA exam study time. Of course, you can bring those activities back into your life once you pass the exam.

After you know how many hours you can devote to studying each week, divide that number by your total number of prescribed study hours. From there, you can see how many weeks you’ll need for your CIA exam prep. So, put all of your dedicated study time into your calendar and stick to that schedule. You have to be strict with yourself!

4.  Space out your study time

You may find that your CIA study plan will take you a few months to finish. But don’t panic: having your studies take this long is totally fine. Research indicates that spacing out your study time (e.g., reviewing 10 hours per week over the course of 2 months) is better than cramming all of your studying into a short period of time (e.g., 8 hours a day for 2 straight weeks).

Also, you can study more efficiently by studying at your most productive time of day. While some people hit their peak productivity first thing in the morning, others do their best work at night. Either way, we can’t claim that one time of day works best for everyone.

So, just pinpoint the hour or 2 when your mind is most active, and you’re able to focus. Then, schedule your daily study session during that time.

5. Recreate the real testing environment

The last thing you want to encounter on the day of your CIA exam testing appointment is an unwelcome surprise. So, to avoid the unexpected, take some time to familiarize yourself with the CIA exam testing environment in advance.

You can acclimate yourself to the exam experience by using an exam-emulating online course. Such a course looks a lot like the real CIA exam, right down to the screen colors and button sizes.

Once you’re using an exam-emulating course, take the emulation one step further by studying in a quiet, isolated workspace. This place could be in your office after hours, your home office, or a library. And, bonus points if the location is also a little cool, as many Pearson VUE testing centers are.

CIA Tips 2: Practice Effective CIA Exam Preparation

Typically, when we aim to work efficiently, we mean working as quickly as we can. However, when we strive to work effectively, we mean working as well as we can.

As you prepare for the CIA exam, you should focus on working efficiently and effectively. This way, you learn more and perform better in the same amount of time.

To have effective CIA study skills, you must:

1. Stop procrastinating

We’re all prone to procrastination. We procrastinate when we choose to spend our time doing activities that are not our most important or time-sensitive activities. For example, we decide to watch television or surf social media rather than study for our CIA exam. Procrastination is understandable, but it is not an effective use of our time. Therefore, we have to make a conscious effort not to procrastinate.

You may find that you’re tempted to procrastinate when you try to study in a cluttered space or when you have a long to-do list hanging over your head. In these instances, addressing distractions will help you make progress with your studies. Therefore, you should quickly clean up your study space and then intentionally keep it clean. You also should delegate as many of the responsibilities on your to-do list as possible.

When you clear your plate of additional tasks such as these, your mind is less cluttered. And when you have a clear mind, you can study more effectively.

2. Minimize distractions

Furthermore, we can study more effectively when we can practice self-control and eliminate distractions. Even if your study space is clean and quiet, you may still be in the presence of another major time-suck: your phone.

Sure, you may need to keep your phone nearby to stay accessible. But when you’re studying, the phone is really just another source of words and images threatening to keep your eyes off your books or flashcards. And for that reason, you should avoid your phone as much as possible while you’re studying.

To ensure you’re still reachable when you’re trying to study, tell a friend, family member, or colleague when you’ll be studying and ask them to only interrupt you in case of an emergency. Then, avoid all other communication by putting your phone on silent and pushing it just out of reach.

When you go off the grid in this way for even an hour, you can concentrate much better and make the most of every study minute.

3. Let your long-term goals dictate your choices

As you recall, making a CIA exam study plan is a must, as a study plan allows for sufficient and successful study time. And adhering to the plan will require you to give up (temporarily) some of your other activities.

Understandably, abstaining from hanging out with friends or binge-watching a hot new TV show is hard. But unlike studying for the CIA exam, prioritizing other more social or entertaining activities won’t get you any closer to a promotion, a raise, your dream job, or a better life for you and your family.

Now, you don’t have to give up everything you enjoy during your CIA exam preparations, but you do need to prioritize wisely and keep the big picture in mind. Then, acknowledge that this picture doesn’t include the momentary fun that is keeping you from studying.

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CIA Tips 3: Support Sufficient CIA Exam Prep

If you’re still struggling to fit the essential study time into your week, then you should probably take additional steps to secure sufficient study time. These steps demand a little more discipline, but they’ll help you pass the CIA exam so you can earn the CIA certification.

1. Sleep enough but not too much

Now, you definitely need to sleep. In fact, getting a healthy amount of sleep every night should be one of your main goals in life. But at the same time, you don’t need to overdo it, especially when you have something as significant as the CIA exam looming in your life.

So, at least for the duration of your exam preparations, stick to an adequate sleep schedule as religiously as you stick to your CIA exam study schedule. At night, do everything necessary to get to bed on time. Similarly, in the morning, make every effort to get out of bed on time, so you aren’t wasting time. This way, you don’t lose out on sleep or studying.

Yes, this routine can be hard for those who love their beauty sleep or a lazy morning but remember: this sacrifice is temporary and totally worthwhile.

2. Make the most of idle time

Sometimes, you have so much scheduled that you’re constantly going from one task to the next. With your jam-packed agenda, you may not think you have an extra minute to spare. But what about the time you spend moving from one event to the next? Or the time when you’re not moving but just waiting for an event to start?

When we’re traveling or waiting, we can also be studying. Numerous CIA review courses make studying on the go possible with mobile accessibility and apps. And, of course, old-school study resources like textbooks and flashcards are also portable. Therefore, when you make a conscious decision to study in unconventional ways, you can guarantee that you get enough study time.

For example, you can listen to audio lectures while you’re driving to work. You can flip through flashcards when you’re riding the subway or bus. You can even take a quick practice quiz on your phone when you’re sitting in the waiting room.

So, to pack more study time into your life, simply take stock of your day and take advantage of every little opportunity you have to study.

3. Ask for help

You don’t have to go through the CIA exam process alone. Instead, get your friends and family involved so you can receive essential support and encouragement.

If you’re married and/or have kids, then you must talk to your spouse and children about what you’re trying to accomplish and what your days need to look like to accomplish it. Because they love you, they should understand and extend a helping hand.

And if life gets really hectic, you may need to share your plans with extended family and coworkers. When you tell the people you care about what you’re going through, they’ll be thankful that you’ve let them into this part of your life and should, therefore, be respectful of your needs and requests.

4. Involve your family in study time

Families should bear big responsibilities together. That being said, try to schedule family study time as often as you can. If your kids are in school, study at the table with them as they do their homework. If your spouse has a hobby or project to work on, tackle your different activities at the same time but still together if possible.

When I was preparing for the exam, I brought my daughter to the library almost every Saturday morning so that she could read books beside me while I studied. I also flipped through my flashcards when watching my little son shower. When you get creative, you don’t have to sacrifice being with your family to prepare for the CIA exam.

CIA Tips 4: Follow These Essential CIA Multiple-Choice Studying Tips

As mentioned, each part of the CIA exam consists solely of multiple-choice questions (MCQs). And this question type has its pros and cons. For example, MCQs bring a certain simplicity to the exam. However, taming these questions can be tedious.

What’s more, MCQs can test your knowledge of a wide variety of topics, but they can’t assess the depth of your knowledge. They fail in this way because they’re unable to ask you to analyze a very involved scenario. For this reason, you can expect the CIA exam’s coverage of auditing to be a mile wide and an inch deep.

Therefore, you need to be ready to answer lots of questions that may seem beneath your level of knowledge yet can totally overwhelm you with their quantity and vague wording.

To master the MCQs, you need to take 2 specific steps. First, implement a strategy to help you retain information. Second, improve your accuracy with practice questions.

I’ll explain how to do both.

1. Implement a Retention Strategy

To pass the CIA exam, you must commit a great deal of auditing information to memory. More specifically, you need to accumulate this information over the course of several weeks and then regurgitate it all within just 2 hours.

For this reason, I recommend following a few steps that can help you retain the content throughout your studies and recall it on test day. Altogether, the process includes 3 steps:

Engage your brain while you study

No matter how obvious it sounds, it needs to be said: your brain must be actively involved in your studies. So, to retain information, you have to do more than simply read the same paragraph in the textbook over and over again. And this truth applies whether you’re a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.

Instead, you must engage your brain by:

  • Highlighting the important parts of the book (not just reading paragraphs highlighted by someone else)
  • Taking notes in the margins or a notebook
  • Summarizing the concepts out loud or in a notebook after watching a video lecture, listening to an audio lecture, or reading the textbook
  • Making flashcards as you go through the materials (instead of buying a premade set)

Consequently, the process of reading/watching/listening and then writing out the key points enhances retention much better than just reading the book.

And while these methods will make finishing a chapter or study unit take longer, they will also greatly improve your ability to recall the information weeks later. Therefore, they are all completely worth the extra time and effort.

Focus on key terms and definitions

Every multiple-choice test requires you to memorize a certain amount of information. Examiners love using MCQs to test candidates on fundamental concepts, definitions, and terms, and the CIA exam is no exception. Therefore, you must commit these bits of information to memory and be able to differentiate between them.

Apply exam concepts to real life

No matter what your job involves, if you work in internal auditing, then you can use the concepts of the CIA exam on a daily basis. If you apply these concepts to your regular responsibilities and tasks, then you’ll have an excellent method for strengthening your retention and comprehension.

On the job, you can utilize auditing principles such as cost accounting, variance analysis, and internal control. So, keep an open mind and look for opportunities at work to practice the skills you need to pass the CIA exam.

2. Improve Your Accuracy with Practice Questions

Sure, the process of answering MCQs isn’t exactly straightforward. But that doesn’t mean the answer isn’t clear. The CIA exam always presents you with 4 answer options, and the correct answer is hidden among them in plain sight.

Now, the right answer is hidden because you have to pick it out of several options that may seem correct. The exam has designed the other answer options to distract you with their plausibility. In fact, these answer options are technically called “distractors” due to how believable they can be.

So, you have to pick the best answer option among them. And this challenging task is part of the reason why the CIA exam pass rates are so low.

Therefore, to make sure you know the correct answer and don’t let the distractors fool you, you need to take these 7 steps toward improving your CIA MCQ accuracy:

Don’t focus on hot topics

You know the exam covers a lot of information, but you can’t/don’t want to study for it 24/7. So, you may be tempted to consult with fellow CIA candidates or the internet to discover what topics are most likely to appear on the exam. Yet, trying to cut corners with the exam content is risky because you have no idea what your version of the CIA exam will include.

While the main topics on the CIA exam syllabus are definitely shoe-ins, the minor ones aren’t necessarily shoe-outs. Therefore, you must know every topic as deeply as the CIA exam syllabus specifies rather than trying to predict which ones will be the most popular.

If you manage your time well and stick to your CIA exam study plan, you can learn all of the exam content without having to take shortcuts.

Understand how MCQs work

The process of preparing for MCQs is not the same as preparing for other types of test questions. The CIA exam always asks you to choose the best possible answer out of 4 possibilities. So, you need a specific strategy for fulfilling the task.

To develop this strategy, consider what makes MCQs easy and what makes them difficult.

CIA Exam MCQs 101

MCQs can be easy because:

  • You know one of the answer choices is correct.
  • The CIA exam has a lot of MCQs, so you can afford to miss a few.
  • MCQs only assess us for our knowledge of the topic, not our creative, analytical, or writing abilities.

On the other hand, MCQs can be difficult because:

  • More than one of the answer options may look correct, and you have to pick the best possible answer.
  • The other answer choices try to distract you by being factually correct but irrelevant.
  • You must answer so many MCQs that your mind may start to get tired and go blank toward the end of the test.

Now that you can see the challenges that MCQs present, you can address them with an MCQ strategy.

To correctly answer MCQs, you must strengthen your weaker areas with the content. This way, you’ll know the right answer without even seeing the choices. You must also build your stamina so you can answer all the questions to the best of your ability. And finally, you must practice your time management by taking realistic practice exams so you can finish the exam within the allotted time.

Create a system for tracking incorrect answers

As you’re going through the test bank in your review course, you need to come up with a systematic approach for identifying and tracking incorrect answers.

For example, whenever you answer a question incorrectly or answer it correctly for the wrong reason, write down the reason for your answer choice in a notebook.

Did you not know the concepts? Then write down the concepts you did not know.

Did you not read the fact pattern carefully? Did you misread the question stem? Or misread the answer choices? Make a note of any of these mistakes in your notebook.

Analyze and address your weaknesses

The purpose of tracking your incorrect answers and reasoning is to improve on these bad habits and eliminate them in time for exam day. So, you must constantly review your notes to discover patterns. These patterns could include giving the wrong answers for a certain topic, a certain MCQ format, or a certain fact pattern.

With your notes, you can see exactly what your test-taking weaknesses are and begin to address them ASAP. To resolve them, you might need to commit more time to learn a certain concept, or you might need to practice reading more slowly and carefully. No matter what you discover, you’ll be able to fix it with your system.

Some CIA review courses have adaptive technology that will also help you address your weak areas. However, when you combine your system with the system in your course, you can improve more quickly and with greater accuracy.

Increase your speed

Once you’re familiar with the fact patterns and question styles of the exam, you can try to answer practice questions faster while still maintaining your reliability.

And, if you start to miss a lot of questions again, slow down on questions related to your weak areas. Then, when you think you’ve overcome this weakness, try to speed up again.

At times, this process may feel like taking 2 steps forward, and 1 step back. But you should practice time management throughout your review so you’ll have it down by exam day. Therefore, you need to work on your speed regularly.

Practice educated guessing

When you’re answering practice MCQs and maybe even real CIA exam MCQs, you’ll see unfamiliar questions. At these times, you should employ educated guessing.

Educated guessing involves mentally eliminating any obviously wrong answer choices and using whatever you’ve learned before (or even just your instincts) to guess which remaining answer choice might be correct.

You can improve your educated guessing by answering practice questions. The more questions about more topics that you answer, the better your educated guessing will become. So, don’t ever skip a question you don’t know. Instead, employ your educated guessing abilities to select is the best answer.

Your educated guessing technique may involve the process of elimination, recalling information from another question, or inserting the answer options into a real-life scenario. Either way, you’ll have one extra skill to call on when you encounter the actual CIA exam.

Also, don’t be afraid to give yourself more opportunities to practice educated guessing by turning on the test mode (instead of study mode) in your question bank. Test mode is a bit stressful, but we practice in it so that we can manage our stress!

Embrace mock exams

Practice exams or mock exams are essential to your CIA exam preparations because they give you the chance to refine your time management.

As you may recall, you’ll have a little more than 1 minute to answer every CIA exam question. And answering every exam question is the best way to maximize points.

So, as you take mock exams, mark questions that you don’t know or don’t feel confident answering. Then, use any extra time you have at the end of the test to return to the questions you marked.

The more complicated questions will take longer to answer. So, you can get farther through your marked questions by answering the complex questions quickly in an effort to buy time for answering easier questions.

CIA Tips 5: Apply These Multiple-Choice Question CIA Test Tips

After using these multiple-choice question CIA tips every day of your review period, you’ll have the chance to put these MCQ testing CIA tips into action on exam day. With these tips, you can avoid silly (yet costly) mistakes and maximize your CIA exam score.

When you follow these CIA tips during the test, you can:

1. Address All Questions and All Answers

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) positively grades the CIA exam. Therefore, even if you must blindly guess to answer a question, you’ll have a 25% chance of answering correctly and earning points.

For this reason, you should always aim to answer all of the questions on each exam part. To do so, you’ll need to manage your time, read all the answer choices, and never leave a question unanswered.

Manage your time

Time management is the most important step in answering all of the questions. Remember, you get a different amount of total testing time depending on the exam part.

Specifically, Part 1 has 125 questions, so you get 150 minutes to answer them. Part 2 and Part 3 each have 100 questions, so you have just 120 minutes to finish each of them.

But the questions on all 3 exam parts can be complex on occasion. Therefore, you can’t spend too much time on any one question. In fact, you should only use 1.2 minutes for each question in all exam parts.

Read all the answer choices before picking an answer

The obligation to read all of the answer choices doesn’t come from a lack of knowledge in the subject matter.

When you’re super familiar with the exam content, you should be able to surmise the right answer before reading the answer choices. However, you should still look at all of your options, as the first one you see may look right but may not be the best answer.

Therefore, you need to consider B, C, and D before you make a hasty selection. You may even have the option to choose “All of the above” or “None of the above.” So, you need to check for that as well.

Don’t leave any questions unanswered

The IIA does not penalize you for wrong answers. Therefore, if you find yourself staring at a question for some time, don’t be afraid to just pick an answer option.

A blind guess is better than no response at all. And you can’t assume that you’ll be able to come back to that question at the end. You can flag it just in case, but you should also answer it.

2. Avoid Distractors

Remember, the correct answer to a CIA exam question will be hidden among the posers. And you must be able to identify that answer. So, you’ve really got to steel yourself against distractors on exam day.

No matter how many hours you spend studying, exam day brings a new type of pressure. Consequently, ignoring the distractors is easier said than done. But you have a better chance of choosing the best answer when you:

  • anticipate the correct answer
  • find an answer that is correct and on topic
  • eliminate the partly true answers
  • watch out for absolute statements and double negatives
  • avoid weird responses

Anticipate the right answer before reading the choices

When all the answer options seem plausible, weeding out the worst one and identifying the correct one can be tricky.

But again, with so much efficient and effective studying behind you, you should be able to predict the answer after seeing the question. And during the exam, you should actually take the time to make this prediction. That way, you’re already headed in the right direction before the distractors try to sway you.

Furthermore, if the answer you come up with matches one of the answer choices, you can be confident that your particular response is correct.

Select an answer option that is correct and on topic

Sometimes, a few of the answer choices include accurate information about the topic. But, they do not actually relate to the question. The choices may make a good point, but they don’t actually make the point the question is asking for. Therefore, they can’t be the best answer, as the best answer is both correct and relevant.

So, you can watch out for these types of deceiving answers when you know they are a possibility.

Further, the CIA exam may also toss in a somewhat but not completely true answer option. For example, an option may be only partly true or only true under a narrow set of circumstances. But either way, it’s probably not the best answer. And in that case, you should move on from it.

Watch out for absolute statements

Absolutes are extreme, and extreme isn’t usually the best in auditing.

Absolute statements include words such as “always,” “every,” “never,” and “none.” And when you see one of these statements in your list of possible answers, you should consider it a pretty good indicator that the answer choice it is in is not the right answer. The CIA exam covers real business situations, and real life rarely presents absolutely right or wrong situations.

Be careful with double negatives

You can get tripped up on more than the answers on the CIA exam. Yes, the question stem may also confuse you by including negatives, double negatives, and 2-part statements. Thankfully, double negatives are fairly rare on this exam, but you can’t assume you won’t see them.

In my opinion, the CIA exam question stems generally aren’t trying to trick you. I hold this view because the word “not” appears in bold in the question stem. But you still need to pay close attention to such words because they reverse the meaning of the sentence.

So, you may see a question stem ending with a phrase like “all of these except.” At this point, the correct answer suddenly becomes the answer you thought would be wrong until you finished reading the stem. For this reason, I advise you to be careful with these words.

Avoid weird or funny responses

To take this step, you basically just need to use common sense. If the answer choice is really somewhat silly or just doesn’t make any kind of sense in a real-life situation, it is most likely wrong.

3. Increase Your Odds of Guessing Right

In cases where you aren’t sure which answer is right, you may need to make an educated guess. To give yourself the best chance at success with this method, you can

  • look for grammatical clues
  • pick the answer with the most information
  • turn each answer option into a true or false question

Look for grammatical clues

Occasionally, when you pay attention to the grammar in the question stem, you can gain a bit of an advantage. For example, if the question stem ends with “an” instead of “a,” then you know that the correct answer begins with a vowel. Plural and singular verbs can also indicate which form the correct answer choice should be in.

Now, this tactic may not always reveal the correct answer. But you should still look for opportunities to use it because you just never know.

Pick the answer with the most information

Specificity can sometimes serve as another hint about the correct answer. So, if one answer choice repeats a keyword found in the question stem, you’ve probably found your answer. Or, if one answer option contains a long and specific description, it is also likely the right choice. Therefore, you should keep your eye out for answer options that contain a greater degree of information.

Use the true or false technique

When a few answer options have the potential to be correct, you can create true or false questions to see how they hold up. If any part of the answer choice is false, then the entire answer is incorrect.

4. Develop and Follow Your Best Instincts

You can trust yourself to know a thing or two about auditing. After all, you have years of experience and weeks of studying in your mental repertoire. So, don’t carry self-doubt into the testing center with you. Instead, leave it at the door and bring only your greatest confidence to the exam.

While the CIA exam questions are often conceptual, they also involve real business situations. So, if you’re running out of time and techniques to answer a tough exam question, use your confidence to

  • avoid over-analyzing the answer options
  • second-guess yourself when necessary
  • eliminate an answer option that feels wrong
  • ignore superstition to come around to the right answer

Often, you can score some major CIA exam points just by following these steps.

Don’t over-analyze your options

An answer option that seems too straightforward or simple isn’t necessarily wrong. Instead, the exam may have just served you one of your dream questions.

In that case, cut yourself a break. You’re well prepared for this exam, so you can’t always dismiss the obvious choice. Tricks and traps usually don’t exist in the questions. Instead, believe that you know what you’re doing. Then, don’t waste time trying to talk yourself out of the right answer!

Know when to second-guess yourself

On the other hand, you don’t want to go with your gut on every question. Contrary to popular belief, your first guess is not often the right guess. In fact, studies show that you are more likely to change your original answer from the wrong answer to the right answer as opposed to the other way around.

MCQs are all about recognizing what you have already learned. Therefore, if you’re well-prepared and read everything properly, you should be able to determine the correct answer. But, if you truly are guessing, then you should guess again before you move on.

Eliminate the answer choice that doesn’t “feel” right

Now, you may come across an answer option that you don’t think is right, but you can’t recall why. You just know that you don’t like it.

This experience is similar to running into someone you used to work with and not being able to remember their name. All the possible options run through your brain, but none of them fit.

In this case, you should try to imagine each answer option as the correct answer. If you do this, and the questionable answer choice still just doesn’t feel right, you should throw it out. You’re most likely in this scenario because you’re familiar with the concept, but you just don’t have a firm grasp on it. Therefore, you should put enough stock in your feelings to discount that answer option.

Ignore superstition

The CIA exam is fully computerized. So, the system pulls a set of questions from a pool and presents them to you in random order.

Consequently, you shouldn’t bother spending your time in search of patterns in your answers. Any repetition is coincidental, so don’t worry if you selected the answer “C” 4 times in a row.

CIA Test Prep Video

Check out this video to learn more about my top CIA tips.

Some Final CIA Exam Help

I know all of these CIA tips can be overwhelming. But you can keep them straight by categorizing them under each of your ultimate exam day goals. To have the best chance at success, your aim on exam day is simply to:

  • Complete the exam part on time
  • Select the best answer based on your knowledge
  • Employ your testing techniques if you need to guess the answer

When you keep all of this advice about studying and testing efficiently and effectively within the perspective of these 3 clear and simple goals, passing the CIA exam becomes a lot more manageable.

Plus, studying with the right review course for your learning style will make your entire journey a lot more enjoyable. (But when shopping for courses, be sure to pick a course for the “regular” CIA exam instead of the Challenge Exam.)

And the road to CIA certification is also easier to follow when you take my CIA review courses. This course covers the CIA process and tells you how to pass the exam on your first attempt. So, learn more and sign up today.

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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