Internal auditors examine an employer's finances and general business practices, looking for irregularities and compliance problems. The certified internal auditor, or CIA, credential validates your expertise in internal auditing and expands your opportunities for work in positions that require that level of professionalism. The industry standard for certification comes from the Institute of Internal Auditors.

Check Your Eligibility

Fulfill the necessary background requirements for the exam. You must possess a master's degree from an accredited institution and one year of internal auditing experience or obtain a bachelor's degree along with two years' experience. Alternatively, you can take the exam with a combination of two years of college courses and five years of internal auditing experience or seven years of experience as an internal auditor. Read through the IAA Code of Ethics and confidentiality requirements to be sure you are willing to agree to them.

Know What to Expect

The CIA exam is made up of three parts. Part 1 covers the basics of how internal audits should be conducted, the materials used and the concepts auditors should understand. Students are allotted 2 1/2 hours for this portion. Part 2 takes two hours and covers the more general role of auditing, such as setting up interviews, explaining results and implementing suggestions. Part 3, also taking two hours to complete, includes questions about ethics, how businesses function, technology and finances. Be prepared to answer questions about the process, concerns and fixes involved in internal audits.

Enroll in Courses

Some schools offer coursework to help you prepare for the content of the CIA exam. For example, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, offers a CIA program based on the exam questions. Students can personalize their study to focus on areas they want more information about and can take classes in person or online. These programs often include study tools such as pre-tests and post-tests to gauge learning, electronic flashcards and reference guides.

Practice on Your Own

The IIA publishes a study manual for the CIA exam and also offers sample questions and practice tests on its website. Becoming familiar with the language of the questions helps you feel more comfortable with the actual exam and understand the questions more fully. Time yourself when taking practice exams so you learn how to pace yourself. Begin studying far ahead of your scheduled exam. Take breaks every 90 minutes so the auditing concepts move into long-term memory.