How to Solve MCQ Questions on the CIA Exam

Passing the CIA exam is no easy task. Understanding concepts and developing the ability to apply them to real life situations is essential for passing the exam, and so is mastering the ability to answer multiple choice questions. You may have already developed MCQ solving skills throughout preparing for various school and university exams, but you might need to take those skills up to a new level before you sit for your CIA exam. Exam takers list three main pillars to passing the CIA exam: deep understanding of exam topics, time management before and during the exam, and MCQ solving skills. In this article we will focus on skills for solving MCQs and time management during the exam.

A great starting point is to understand the exam quite well. And collecting as much knowledge as possible about the exam. Let’s start with understanding the CIA exam first.

CIA exam format

The CIA exam is a multiple-choice exam. There are 3 parts to the exam. Each part is tested as follows:

Part 1, Essentials of Internal Auditing

150 minutes

125 questions

Part 2, Practice of Internal Auditing

120 minutes

100 questions

Part 3, Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing

120 minutes

100 questions

How are CIA exam questions created?

The questions are developed by individuals who have already passed the CIA exam according to guidelines provided by the IIA. Questions are then reviewed by the exam development committee to make sure they are relevant, accurate, and globally applicable. Questions are then tested by exam takers. On each exam, exam takers answer a number of questions that are being tested. Such questions are not scored. The purpose of this process is to make sure the questions are psychometrically sound. Once a question is approved, it is then added to the database of exam questions.

How are CIA questions graded?

The CIA is a scale scored exam, which means that the number of questions you need to answer correctly to pass the exam may vary depending on the level of difficulty of the questions you get on your exam. The score is then converted to points. You need to score 600 out of 750 points to pass the exam. This translates to 70 to 80% correct answers depending on difficulty level. You might pass the exam by answering only 70% of the questions correctly if your exam questions were overall difficult, on the other hand, you might need to answer up to 80% of the questions correctly to pass if your exam questions were relatively easy.

Understand the material

The most common method of preparing for the CIA exam is by using exam review materials. Such materials usually include a textbook and a question bank at a minimum. You need to understand the content of the exam by reading the textbook and solving questions. You might think that reading the textbook should be enough to understand concepts, but the textbooks may not cover all topics in rigorous detail. You need to solve MCQs in order to cover all topics and enhance your understanding of all exam topics. Solving MCQs will also help you develop MCQ solving skills.

Practice solving questions

Solve all questions, on all topics, and solve them several times. one attempt wouldn’t be enough unless you are an audit expert with years of experience and extensive knowledge. We recommend a minimum of 3 passes before you attempt the exam. There is no need to use more than one source for CIA exam questions. As long as you are using study material from a reliable review provider, the question bank you get is enough to prepare for the exam.

Avoid memorizing questions

Since you will need to attempt the questions several times, you will end up unintentionally memorizing some questions. That’s ok, as long as you make sure when you answer such questions, you do not automatically do so. Try to recall what information the question is trying to test, and your reasoning for selecting your answer.

Keep reviewing topics

The CIA exam, specially part 3, covers a diverse range of topics. You will forget some of the concepts unless you review them from time to time. Make it a practice to go back and practice the topics you haven’t studied in a while.

Learn by reading answer explanations

As mentioned earlier, the textbook by itself does not cover all exam topics. There are concepts that you will learn by attempting the practice questions. A great method for learning those concepts is reading answer explanations. It’s not enough that you got the answer right, you need to understand the reasoning behind your answer.

Study in short sessions

Anything more than one hour is too long. We recommend 30-minute study sessions. If you haven’t studied in a while, you might even start with 15-minute sessions to get back in shape.

Practice time management on all of your quizzes

Here’s the method that we recommend:

Short and easy questions first

Do not try to solve all exam questions from the first attempt. Doing so will lead to wasting time on difficult and long questions. Instead, answer short and easy questions first. Once you have finished those questions attempt more difficult questions until you have answered all questions. By doing so, you will guarantee that you will get marks for the majority of the questions that you know the answer to, and you will have more time to spend on tricky questions.

Predict the answer

While reading the question, try to predict the correct answer before reading the options. Read all answers even if the answer you predicted was the first or second choice. There might be another answer that is more comprehensive or more accurate than what you have guessed. Guessing the correct answer is a good practice while preparing for the exam and during the exam itself. It proves that you have understood the question and that you are able to answer it, even without being provided with a list of options to choose from.

Read all of the answer choices carefully

The CIA exam questions may include more than one correct answer. You will face many exam questions that require choosing the “best” answer. Do not settle on a choice before reading all answers even if you are 100% sure of your answer.

Focus on what the question is asking

Try to figure out what exactly the examiner is trying to test. For example, what audit standard would the question relate to? This technique is helpful specifically with tricky questions. Read the question carefully before jumping to reading the answers.

Take mental notes of keywords (always, never, all, except, none, false, least, most..)

Words like “always, always, never, all, except, none, false, least, most” are usually written in bold font in the exam, but that’s not always the case. make it a practice to take a mental note of such words as you read the question. Imagine that you have a highlighter and mark the key words in each question as you read it.

Answer every question on your first pass

There are two strategies that you can use; we recommend the first one:

  • On your first pass, answer all questions, but flag the difficult or long questions that you have answered without reading. On your second pass, filter the questions so that you only see flagged questions. Remove the flag from questions that you have answered confidently in the second pass. repeat the process until you are left with no flagged questions.
  • On your first pass, answer only short and easy questions and skip difficult and long questions. On your second pass, filter questions that you haven’t attempted during the first pass.

The advantage of the first strategy is that there is no penalty for wrong answers on the exam, if you end up not having the time to attempt difficult questions, you may get some points by luck.

Make an educated guess

  1. Rule our similar answers.
  2. Rule out incorrect answers right away.
  3. If there is more than one correct answer, select the one that is most comprehensive or most specific depending on what is required in the question.
  4. Pay attention to long answers. Complex ideas require longer sentences to explain them. Pay attention to answers that are quite longer than the other options. This, of course, does not mean that on every question the correct answer would be the longest one, but it’s a noticeable tendency.

Don’t change your answers

Don’t change your answer unless you re-read the question and realize that you have misread it, trust your instinct.

Use all the time available

In case you answer all exam questions and you still have some time left, use that time to review either all questions or the ones you found most challenging depending on the available time. In case you review all questions, do not change your answers unless you’re 100% sure your original answer was incorrect. A good practice during such a review is to reason every choice you have made. Go over the questions making sure your reasoning for every answer is valid.

Spend an average of 40 seconds per question

If we divide the number of questions in the exam by the number of minutes, you have an average of 50 seconds to spend on each question. But if you actually spend 50 seconds on each question you will only have time for one attempt per question, which is not realistic, and is not enough.

When solving practice questions, set yourself a goal of spending 40 seconds on each question. Naturally, some questions will require more time and some questions will require less. During the exam, you will probably be able to solve short and easy questions in less than 30 seconds/question. Which leaves you more time to spend on more difficult questions. If you follow the method mentioned above of skipping difficult questions on your first attempt, you will save a lot of time that you can spend on those few tough questions.

Practice in time-sensitive conditions

When you start preparing for the exam, you shouldn’t worry about timing. Your main concern should be understanding the questions and taking your time in selecting the correct answer. Towards the end of your exam preparation, you should start to focus on timing. A great tool that most exam reviews provide is the mock exam, which is a timed quiz. Try to take a mock exam from time to time and see your average time per question, and the total time you needed to finish the exam. When you do a mock exam, simulate the exam environment by switching off your phone, closing the door and not taking any breaks until you finish the exam.

Checkout our question bank for free here and try to apply the techniques you have learned!