Effective Study Habits for Success on the CIA Exam

Effective Study Habits

How to study for the CIA Exam

Studying for the CIA exam is not an easy task (What is the CIA exam and who is it for?). If you are pursuing this certification, you are most likely a motivated internal audit professional with increasing professional responsibilities. You may be managing a growing team and playing a role on multiple projects, in addition to executing against your typical weekly responsibilities. So as you embark upon the process of preparing for the CIA exam, what are some strategies and tactics to keep in mind to make the study process as efficient as possible and, most importantly, maximize your chances of passing?

In this article, we’ll explore some foundational concepts, strategies, and tactics to apply to the process of preparing for the CIA exam (or really any standardized test, professional exam, or academic endeavor).

Recognizing the Relative Importance of Talent & IQ vs. Practice & Preparation

When it comes to performing well in school or on standardized tests and professional exams, most people place far too much weight on IQ, raw intelligence, or “natural talent.” They assume that others may be easily understanding the material while they struggle.
The fact is, yes, some people may “get it” slightly faster than others when it comes to mathematics, others are more comfortable reading and writing, and some people may be better than others at learning new languages. That said, these differences in natural ability are seldom anywhere close to what you might imagine them to be. No one learns how to do math, read, write well, or understand a new language without a lot of practice and preparation and focus on the task at hand. You often just can’t see how much practice another person is putting in and thus assume it’s easier for them.

Quality of Study vs. Quantity of Study

When preparing for a professional licensing exam, it can be difficult to put your finger on the level of “quality” of the study session you just engaged in. Too many people spend a lot of hours studying, but they aren’t studying the right way. For example, simply reading material for long stretches of time is a very poor way to study (especially for tasks that require problem-solving and critical thinking), even though you might feel like you’ve accomplished a lot.

Many studies show that the key to learning and building skills is a concept called deliberate practice.

What is Deliberate Practice?

Deliberate practice is high-quality practice and done in large quantities, often explains what many people inaccurately perceive as “natural talent” in any given domain. While lots of studying is better than some studying and some studying is better than no practice, the quality of your practice matters a lot. Five hours of good studying for the CIA might be better than simply reading notes and PowerPoint slides for 15 hours. But what makes studying “good?” How do you study using the principles of deliberate practice?
It’s about achieving a high level of focus, full engagement, and immediate feedback. It involves, but requires much more than hard work.
When you study for the CIA exam, try to do so in the following ways, which are consistent with the principles of deliberate practice:

  • Shift your focus from completion of readings to true understanding. You aren’t trying to finish, you’re trying to understand fully
  • Be incredibly focused (i.e., no cell phones, TV, computers, etc.)
  • Build a foundation by striving for complete understanding of basic concepts before moving on to more complex ones.
  • Break concepts down to their component pieces, looking for patterns in what makes one question easy, the next a little harder, and the most difficult ones the trickiest
  • Receive immediate feedback. Do a lot of “mini-quizzes” along the way. You may not be able to have a personal tutor available. But you can do 10 questions and review what you missed immediately instead of doing 50 problems and forgetting what you were even thinking when you answered a question a certain way.
  • Push yourself to the mental limits of what you are currently capable of. This is a key dimension of the skill-building process. You should be mentally tired after an effective study session. Your muscles are tired after lifting weights and your heart is beating fast after running a mile. Attempt to give your brain the same workout.
  • Don’t study for more than 1-2 hours. This implies that if you are going to spend, just as an example, six hours studying for the CIA, you should break that down into 3-5 study sessions, not one marathon study session on Sunday morning.

One of the most important elements of deliberate practice is full engagement and ownership over understanding the concepts. Read to truly understand. Test yourself often. You must avoid the temptation to open the book and read how to get to the solution unless you are definitely lost and don’t know what to do.

Who is most likely to engage in Deliberate Practice when studying for the CIA?

Many experts in psychology and education believe strongly that the best way to explain why, for example, person X is able to obtain a Ph.D. in Mathematics when person Y failed, comes down to true interest and passion for the material. These experts surmise that those who enjoy a subject and are passionate about it are far more likely to engage in a large number of hours of deliberate practice to build their skills. They are truly curious and dedicated. The Math Ph.D. must focus with passion on learning more and uncovering the why and how of mathematical reasoning. If they aren’t interested in math, they just are less likely to put in the work.

But you are not getting a Ph.D. in Mathematics, you are studying for the CIA exam. In many regards, this makes things easier. Many people have to take math classes in high school and college as part of their major, even though they’d rather not. But you probably are not required to pursue the CIA designation – it is something that you have chosen to do. If you are not truly interested in building your skills as an audit professional, you probably aren’t interested in the CIA material you are studying. The CIA designation is not rocket science, but you must be truly interested and engage with the material and, in some sense, look forward to your CIA exam prep sessions.

How to build a CIA study plan

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how to study specifically when you are literally studying. But let’s step back. You don’t want to just jump into studying for any exam. You should always follow the below steps:

  • Reflect on the timing of your exam and your personal schedule between now and then
  • Plan in advance which days and times of the week you will study
  • Review at least a few different types of CIA prep materials to determine what’s best for you. Don’t just go with the first thing that pops up on Google or whatever your friend used. Think about how you learn (text vs. videos, etc.), the amount of content, etc. (Compare the CIA exam study materials providers here).
  • Build a detailed study plan taking the above into consideration, and following deliberate practice principles (e.g., don’t try to study for more than two hours in a day).
  • Don’t cram your studying into the weeks before the exam. Prepare in advance.
  • Take regular practice tests under timed conditions, especially later in your study process

Conclusion

You will be far more likely to pass the CIA on your next attempt if you follow the principles of deliberate practice and recognize that it takes practice and preparation to do well on the exam. You should also be sure to build a detailed study plan that includes regular practice tests to track your progress.

About the Author

Mark Skoskiewicz founded MyGuru in 2010 based on a belief that customized, 1-1 tutoring, following the principles of deliberate practice, was the best way to improve general academic and test prep performance. Today, MyGuru offers a wide range of subject tutoring and test prep. In addition to offering CIA tutoring, MyGuru specializes in GMAT tutoring and private tutoring for many other standardized tests and professional licensing exams. He has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and an undergraduate business degree from Indiana University.

A Second Certification for CMAs

A Second Certification for CMAs

You passed the CMA Exam – what’s next?

Congratulations to everyone who passed the CMA Exam in the most recent exam window! This is a great accomplishment and one that you should celebrate.

A common question I get from recent CMAs is, “What certification should I pursue next?” While this is a question that depends largely on you and what you want to do with your career, there is one certification that I think goes very well with CMA and opens up some additional career opportunities.

The world’s leading certification for internal auditors

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is the world’s leading certification for internal auditors working in all industries. One of the reasons that CIA pairs well with CMA is that accounting and finance professionals interact with the internal audit activity as it conducts its engagements. Because accounting and financial professionals provide essential work in the management of the company, the internal audit activity will be spending time providing assurance and consulting engagements in these areas. If you are a CMA and are able to demonstrate that you have the knowledge of an internal auditor, you will be in a better position to add value both as an accounting or finance professional and to the internal audit activity. Or, if you decide to look at a career in internal audit, the knowledge that you have as a CMA will provide you with significant benefits as an internal auditor.

What is covered in the CIA Exams?

In addition to the professional connection between CMA and CIA, CIA is an excellent second certification for CMAs because the CMA Exam covers some of the same topics as the CIA Exam. The CIA Exam is made up of three multiple-choice Exams. Part 1 covers the internal audit activity and its operations, and Part 2 covers the performance of an engagement. Part 3 covers some of the same topics that are on the CMA Exam: business operations, IT, managerial and financial accounting, and finance. If you are already a CMA and you decide to take the CIA Exams, I recommend that you start with Part 3 because you have already studied many of those topics.

How long does it take to prepare for the CIA Exams?

While the CIA Exams are not easy (the pass rate per exam is about the same as it is for CMA, roughly 45%), the preparation process is shorter. We recommend about 60 hours for Part 1, 80 hours for Part 2, and 120 hours for Part 3. So even though it is three exams, it won’t take much longer than preparing for the two CMA exams.

For all of these reasons, if you are a CMA looking for a second certification, I recommend you consider the CIA Exams. The best way to start is to download the CIA Exam Guide and sign up for the CIA Free Trial.

As always, if you have any questions, we will be happy to help.

CIA Part 1 Textbook Update April 2022

The CIA Part 1 Textbook has been updated, and the new files are available for current students to download in My Studies. The significant changes are listed below including page numbers in the new April 2022 book.

Section VI

  • Additional discussion about Fraud Risk Assessment During Engagement Planning, pages 152-153.
  • Added information and examples about common transaction control activities and segregation of duties, pages 158-162.

If you have any questions about these changes, please contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

You can also learn more about the HOCK CIA Textbooks and other exam prep materials if you are not already a HOCK student.

CIA Part 3 Textbook Update March 2022

The CIA Part 3 Textbook has been updated, and the new files are available for current students to download in My Studies. The significant changes are listed below including page numbers in the new March 2022 book.

Section I

  • Added discussion of Competition in Global Industries and International Marketing, pages 10-16.

If you have any questions about these changes, please contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

You can also learn more about the HOCK CIA Textbooks and other exam prep materials if you are not already a HOCK student.

CIA Part 1 Textbook Update February 2022

The CIA Part 1 Textbook has been updated, and the new files are available for current students to download in My Studies. The significant changes are listed below including page numbers in the new February 2022 book.

Section V

  • The Three Lines Model is now in its own Study Unit, with subsequent Study Units being renumbered.
  • The COSO Model Diagram has been added, page 110.
  • Additional discussion about segregation of duties and its limitations, page 129.

Section VI

  • No content changes, but all Study Units were renumbered.

If you have any questions about these changes, please contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

You can also learn more about the HOCK CIA Textbooks and other exam prep materials if you are not already a HOCK student.

Resolution To Pass the Exam – Six Practical Tips

Many people made a resolution to pass a professional exam in 2022. There are plenty of articles on staying motivated and keeping up with your resolutions that recommend:

  • Have a "Why" and keep the big picture in mind.
  • Develop small habits and do a little bit every day.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Find an accountability partner.

Forbes also suggests Five Ways To Keep Your New Year's Resolutions Based On New Research.

All of these are excellent general recommendations, but we find that the following six steps are the most helpful for keeping your resolution of passing a professional exam:

1 - Sign up for the free trial materials

Our free trial is the best way to see if the HOCK materials are a good fit for you so that you can determine if you like the learning platform, if the textbook is clear to you, and if the videos match your learning style. You don’t have to pay anything to get started, so sign up for CMA Free Trial or CIA Free Trial right away! Don't procrastinate!

2 - Learn how to use PassMap

PassMap is your step-by-step study guide that includes the Personal Study Plan, ExamReady progress bar, study tips, and connects you to the student forum where you can get unlimited CMA and CIA support from HOCK experts. Learn more with our Free PassMap Demo Session.

3 - Choose the materials package that works best for you

The biggest difference between HOCK Standard and HOCK Complete packages is that Complete includes videos and the "You Pass Or We Pay" Guarantee. Compare the HOCK CMA Exam Packages and CIA Exam Packages.

4 - Save money

Once you choose which materials work the best for you, use coupon code RESOLUTION to save 40%! That is the best price on the market! Don't miss the deal!  Buy CMA materials with 40% off or Buy CIA materials with 40% off.

5 - Set up your personal study plan

Scheduling and planning are the keys to passing a professional exam. We have designed a Personal Study Plan for CMA and CIA exam candidates that shows what to study week by week. The plan automatically adjusts based on the study units you have completed, how many units you have left to study, and how many days you have until your exam.

6 - Ask questions

As the PassMap is leading you through every topic, be sure to understand each unit fully before moving on. Follow the sequence: read textbook and watch the video(s), then practice the MCQs and essays, and use our expert teacher support. If you have any questions, see if it was already answered on the student forum, and if not, you can ask and get an answer from our experts. Check out HOCK CMA and CIA Student Forums

 

Use our RESOLUTION 40% sale to your advantage! HOCK CMA and CIA materials are fully updated to the current syllables and come with unlimited access, unlimited updates, and unlimited teacher support. 

 

We wish you a successful and productive year – the year you become certified!

The Right Certification for Your Future

Baseball bat, glove, and ball

A wooden bat

The last year that I played Little League Baseball as a child, probably about 15 years old, I had a favorite bat. This bat was a wooden bat, and it made me unusual because most of my teammates used an aluminum bat. As I remember it, I played well that season, but not as well as I had hoped or expected to. Then, in the last game of the season, my wooden bat broke, and I had to use an aluminum bat for the first time. In that last game, I hit the ball harder than I had all season. I hit the ball harder because I was using a better bat – the aluminum bat. It turns out that all of the other kids were right – an aluminum bat was better than a wooden bat. It turns out that my performance falling short of my expectations was because I was not using the best tool for the job.

Having the right tool

This is not my only example of the fact that having the right tool for the job makes the work easier, but also leads to a better result. Using the right type of saw or drill makes the sawing or drilling process easier. Using an electric screwdriver is faster than a hand-powered screwdriver. The right tools make gardening easier. The list goes on…

The best professional certification

The list also includes your professional certification. When you choose your professional certification, you need to choose the right one for the job. And in this case, “the job” is your career. You need to choose the professional certification that will serve you the best in your career. It is important to keep in mind that the best certification for your friends and colleagues may not be the best certification for you.

How do you determine the best certification for you? There are a few questions you should answer to determine the best certification for you.

  • What do you want to be doing in 5 years or 10 years? You need to look into your future to determine what will be best for you. You should not choose your professional certification based on what you are doing now (you already have that job), but rather on what you want to do in the future. What certification will give you the skills and knowledge that you will need to perform that job you want in the future?
  • What certifications do people who have the job you want have? Look online at people who currently have the job that you want, and see what certifications they have. If they all have a certain certification, then chances are good that you will be expected to have that same certification in that job.
  • Are you able to gain that certification? Some professional certifications have strict eligibility requirements regarding education and/or experience. You need to be certain that you meet those requirements. If a certification requires an education that you do not have, then you should not spend time trying to pursue it. For example, becoming a CPA has very specific education requirements and if you have already graduated and are not close to meeting those requirements, then CPA is not a certification that you should plan to pursue.

Related to this point, you also need to ask how realistic it will be for you to complete the certification? Some programs have 12 or more exams that take as many as four years to complete. Do you have the time, and the financial resources, to be able to make that investment?

  • Are you going to be able to do the required studying? You also need to be certain that you are going to be able to put in the time that is required to study what is covered in your exams. If too much of the syllabus is new to you, or in topics that you do not like, it will be very difficult to put in the time needed to prepare properly for the exam. On every exam, there will be some topics that you do not like, but they should not be a majority of the topics on the exam.

Jump-start your career

If you choose the correct certification, it will provide great benefit to you throughout your career. You will start to see those benefits as soon as you start studying because your skills and knowledge will improve. You will see the benefits of your certification as you get promoted, find a new job in a new company, and move into the job that you saw when you chose your certification. The benefits will continue to come to you as you become more involved and active in the professional organization and the networking opportunities it provides. The right certification will jump-start your career and help you reach your professional goals.

So, before you start studying, spend some time thinking about the questions above to make certain that you start pursuing the best certification for YOU. Your certification is a tool that you will have available throughout your career, so make certain that it is the best tool for what you want to do in your career.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

Your next read:

Approach Your Exams Like a Buffalo

Approach Your Exams Like a Buffalo

Approach Your Exams Like a Buffalo

The Rocky Mountains go through the state of Colorado and big mountain storms come down from the mountains and head east into the Great Plains of the United States. While many animals live in the Great Plains, it is the cows and the buffalo that we are interested in.

Cows’ Approach

As a storm arrives, the cows walk with the storm trying to stay ahead of it. Of course, the storm moves faster than the cows so the storm overtakes the cows. And because the cows are moving in the same direction as the storm, the cows spend even more time in the storm than if they had just stood still and let the storm pass over them.

Buffalos’ Approach

The buffalo, on the other hand, take a different approach. As the storm approaches, they walk into the storm. While this is a strong and cold headwind, because the buffalo are walking against the direction the storm is moving, the amount of time that they spend in the storm is greatly reduced. The buffalo spend significantly less time in the storm than the cows because the buffalo know (somehow) that heading into the storm with determination is the fastest way to get out of the storm.

Your Exam Is the Storm

If you have not figured it out yet, in this analogy the amount of time that you need to prepare for your exam is the storm. And you have the choice to be either a cow or a buffalo. If you take the cows’ approach and do not make a dedicated effort to do your studying, the time that it will take you to get through your preparation will be a lot longer. It may seem for a while that you have been able to stay ahead of the storm, but eventually you will realize that even if you delay, the storm is still coming and you will need to pass through it. All you have done is extended the amount of time that you have had to live with your preparations.

You could instead choose to be the buffalo. When you do this, you make a plan, make a schedule, and start your studies from the beginning with the intent of sticking to your plan even when it is difficult and you are tired. But, by doing this, you will reduce the number of weeks that you spend studying and you will get to the other side of the storm much faster.

Whether you have not yet started studying, are partway through your studies, or are almost done, you can decide how you will go through the remainder of your studies – like a cow and drag it out for longer, or like a buffalo and attack the storm head on so that you can get through it as quickly as possible.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

HOCK PassMap 2.0 for CIA with new interface and bite-sized study units

PassMap 2.0
HOCK is pleased to announce the release of PassMap 2.0 for CIA Parts 1, 2, and 3.

PassMap 2.0 includes:

  • Shorter study units that cover only one topic each and include a study time estimate.
  • A resume feature that takes you right to where you left off.
  • A Resources section with all of the information about studying for the CIA exams in one place.
  • A more modern interface that is easier to navigate.
  • Easier navigation on mobile devices.

MCQ and Video progress is saved independently of the PassMap, and is not affected by this transition.

If you have any questions about PassMap 2.0 or need any help using the materials or PassMap please contact us and we will be glad to help.

CIA Part 1 Textbook Update July 2021

The CIA Part 1 Textbook has been updated, and the new files are available for current students to download in My Studies. The significant changes are listed below including page numbers in the new July 2021 book.

Section I

  • Added Board Approval and Communication of Charter to B. The Internal Audit Charter, page 14.
  • Additional discussion in D. IIA Code of Ethics, pages 16-25.

Section II

  • Additional discussion in all topics, pages 26-39.

Section IV

  • Additional discussion in all topics, pages 49-62.

Section V

  • Added Three Lines Model, pages 63-68.
  • Additional discussion in Risk Appetite, Risk Tolerance, and Risk Capacity, pages 89-92.
  • Additional discussion in Risk Assessment, pages 95-97.

Section VI

  • Additional discussion in all topics, pages 146-157.

If you have any questions about these changes, please contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

You can also learn more about the HOCK CIA Textbooks and other exam prep materials if you are not already a HOCK student.