By nurimroatun - November 29, 2020


After a series of 5 exams, here I am with the CIA title behind my name. WAIT! Five exams? There are only 3 parts of CIA exams, right? Yes. But here I am with the dramatic success and failure stories you can learn from before taking CIA exams :)


In 2018, I had the opportunity to take the CIA review course but didn't initially have the opportunity to take the exam (the full story can be read in Days of Badr and Uhud). But Allah kindly opened the door of opportunity for me in the following year. I prepared my best by studying the materials that will be tested. The journey to complete the 3 parts of the CIA exams began in March 2019 and ended in November 2020 through 5 exams (1x of part 1 exam, 3x of part 2 exams, and 1x of part 3 exam). Here are some tips that I can share with everyone who will take the CIA exams: 

1. All hail Gleim! (And thank God test banks exist!)

It is common knowledge that Gleim is the main reference of most CIA candidates. Gleim CIA Review and Test Bank are the 2 books I learned first before exploring other materials. Be sure to take Gleim's material and question bank seriously as they provide an adequate foundation of understanding for the CIA exams. Besides, I also studied the IIA's CIA Review book and the test bank that I found on the internet. The more questions we learn will indirectly strengthen our understanding of the internal audit. I can still remember the days I studied thousands of questions available in the CIA part 3 exam test bank. My brain struggled but the difficult journey turned out to be worth it. You know in the end exam is also about your willingness and commitment to put in a lot of effort. Great things take time --please embrace the process :)

2. Understand the philosophy

I know the temptation to just memorize everything but in many cases, CIA tests not only the basic understanding but the proficiency of the candidates.

Once again I know this one sounds lame but you definitely need to genuinely understand the materials. My point is, when studying the material, don't just read it. The materials have to be understood and digested until they become parts of our blood and bones (okay, this is hyperbole). So when we read the questions, try to understand the point. If I face a case like this, what should I do? (and understand why. Don't just memorize it). If I am in such a position, what the best decision I could possibly make? (and what is the philosophy behind it). Should I tell the board? Should I discuss it with senior management first? Should I run to the forest then to the beach? (this is a famous quote from an Indonesian movie) *the last one is a joke. You don't need to run. Just continue your study session :)


1. Please keep in your mind that governance-risk-control are the things the auditor cares about the most.

2. the failures I faced in part 2 exams started with my weak understanding of real-life audit practices. Through the time doing assurance activities, when I got enough experience, I finally embodied the right perspective.

3. Relate it to real-world experience

Since one of the prerequisites for taking the CIA exam is an experience as an internal auditor, of course, we have personal stories that can be related to the materials. For example, while studying the role of the CAE, I envisioned the Inspector I work for. When I run into a dilemma, I think about what decision my team leader or audit supervisor take when carrying out an audit engagement. Associating the material studied with the real world makes it stick in the memory.


(It helped me a lot that I work in the internal audit unit of a ministry that has implemented the best practices so that I am familiar with them. What's more, I work in a team whose leaders are also CIA holders — who apply their knowledge of being the CIA in day-to-day tasks. That's why it's easy for me to associate the practice required/recommended by IIA with my work story. But even if your workplace is not that ideal in implementing internal audit practices, you can still imagine: oh so it should be this way).

4. Accuracy is the key

Finishing 100 or 125 questions in 2-2.5 hours certainly require a high level of energy and concentration. That's why it is easy for us to lose focus when reading the questions, especially the long ones. Not to mention, many questions trick us if we don't carefully read them. The trick I use is to try to finish them as quickly as possible so that I have time to review the answers. By reading the questions 2 times, there is a possibility that the mistake I made before would be found. Why don't you just read slowly, im? Because sometimes there is the knowledge that we get while answering the questions that is useful to solve the previous questions. That's why I'm a part of the do-it-fast-then-review-all team :)

5. Have the right mindset

Exams are also a matter of mental attitude. After 3 times of successes and 2 times of failures, I realized that the difference between the sweet and the bitter story is my mindset towards the exams I took. (FYI, I took the part 2 exam three times. Both of my defeats gave me 580-ish scores which means I was only less than 20 points away from passing). It sounds contradictory but it's important to be optimistic but ready to hit bottom. You need to stand in the middle of those polar. For those who don't pass it on the first try, it's also important to maintain self-motivation and get back on your feet after failing.

In the part 1 exam, I didn't weigh down myself with expectations knowing that many people fail this exam. I surprisingly passed. After that good result, I became confident that I would pass again and burden myself for the part 2 exam. I then failed. In the part 3 exam, reflecting on the breakdown I had before, I returned to being nothing to lose. I made it. I retook the part 2 exam with heavy shoulders because of the triumph I got in part 3. I got the opposite results. And finally, in the second retake, after being hit by painful failure, I tried my best but didn't put a hefty load on my heart. In the end, that exam led me to officially become a CIA.

What those 3 victorious exams have in common is that I did them calmly because I was not burdened with the mindset “I can't fail”. As a result, when I met a question that is not familiar or I don't know the answer to, I didn't panic. As if my mind said: "Dear, you're human. Of course, you are allowed to fail. The important thing is to try your best and then be prepared for whatever the results are".

6. Pray

I will never be tired to say this but in the end, Allah decides the results. Pray a lot so your journey will bring you to a nice place.

7. Miscellaneous Tips

- Carefully follow the steps suggested by the IIA

- Scheduling the exam is one of the best ways to start studying. When I haven't booked an exam date, it feels like there is still a long time to prepare for it. However, when it is already scheduled, I suddenly felt that I had to study immediately :)

- The knowledge we gained from experience is something to be treated wisely: sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't. The knowledge that we have gained may not be in line with the standards set by the IIA, so we must identify the alignment of our knowledge with the IIA's body of knowledge.

- Pay close attention to the syllabus and cognitive level expected for each topic. Most of the topics are tested at the basic level but there are some topics that demand us understand them at the proficient level. Spend more time understanding the topics with a proficient cognitive level :)

- Due to time limitations, focus on the easy questions first. We can skip the difficult/long questions, for it weighs the same as the easy/short ones, then goes back to them later.

- Maintain your health, both physically and mentally, before and during the exam.

- Do a lot of mock exams :)

- During the exam, manage your calmness, concentration, and stamina :)

Those are some tips from me. Hope they help the CIA candidates out there. Keep your spirits up. Please enjoy the process and good luck. Anyway, feel free to contact me if you need to discuss your CIA exam preparation. I will try to help as much as I can. Cheers!


Bahasa version: Tips Ujian Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

 Read also:



COBIT 5 Foundation

CAPM Exam Experience


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  1. Dear team,
    I want certificate of certified internal audit any how

  2. I wrote Part 1 yesterday and failed, I am so sad. I came home and slept the whole day and night

    1. Hello there,

      I exactly know your feeling. When I failed the part 2 exam, I cried my eyes out and the sorrow lingered for days. But as I said above: for those who don't pass it on the first try, it's important to maintain self-motivation and get back on your feet after failing. Don't lose hope. You can come back stronger. I'm cheering on you :)

  3. Thank you for sharing the tips! It's really helpful for those who want to kick-start the CIA pathway

    1. Hello, Alice. Thank you for visiting and saying nice words. Hope you do well on your preparation :)