I was recently talking with an internal auditor who has a goal of becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). As we were chatting, we discussed her planned timeline for taking the exam. Although she had selected the study materials and had good intentions to study, she had not yet been able to dedicate time to studying. She further told me she would sign up for the exam as soon as she had put in enough study time and felt like she was ready.
I believe there are many internal auditors who will never feel ready. Many people I know in the profession are overachievers, in some cases leading to a position of over-preparing — which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
That said, the key to passing the CIA exam is developing the right mindset and committing to taking the exam within a specified timeframe.
Regardless of a person's stage in life, there will always be factors that will impact one's ability to achieve his or her goals, if the individual doesn't have the right level of focus. From new jobs, to new houses, to projects requiring overtime, and everything in between, there are always things that can distract people from reaching their goals. And while I don't mean to downplay the significance of certain life events — some of which will undeniably cause a delay — I want to stress that there will always be something.
As I have mentioned in prior posts, becoming a CIA has benefited me in multiple ways. Attaining my CIA set me apart from my peers who were not yet certified. It also helped me fully appreciate the benefits of certification and how certification can be a catalyst for career growth. Perhaps most importantly, the CIA aided in demonstrating my knowledge of the internal audit profession, which ultimately led to additional career opportunities.
For anyone who may fall into the "not yet ready" group, here are several tips to move from planning for the exam to becoming a CIA (note — this may sound similar to a post I wrote a few months ago about preparing for a half-marathon):
Research and select study tools. There are various study tools available, including in-person, online, and practice questions. Because everyone learns differently and has different schedules, there is no one right study tool. The key is to find the tool that is best for each person based on his or her circumstances.
Develop and implement a study plan. Again, each person is different, so the study plan will also be different for each person. That said, the important thing is to follow the study plan. If the plan doesn't seem to be working effectively, retool and find a new plan that may work better.
Schedule the exam. This is a critical step (it should also be the easiest). In scheduling the exam, identify a date far enough out that will provide adequate time to prepare. However, ensure it is not so far off that it allows a delay in starting the study plan.
Take the exam. And, after receiving the passing notification,
celebrate! Alternatively, if your score isn't where you need it to be, use it as an opportunity to understand areas for improvement and dedicate time to focusing on those areas to retake the exam.
Although I'm showing my age here, I'll mention that I took the CIA exam before the introduction of computer-based testing. At the time, it was intimidating to know there were only two points during the year when I could take the exam, and also that I would have to take all parts of the exam at the same time. In retrospect, I am glad those restrictions were in place at the time. Essentially, they forced me to prepare within a set timeline; I didn't have the luxury of waiting until I was "ready."
The CIA is the flagship certification for the internal audit profession. If you aren't certified yet, what is holding you back? In terms of preparing for future career success, the best time is now.