Considering taking the CISA exam to advance your career? The CISA certification is becoming a popular choice for many professionals such as: 

  • Current IT auditors 
  • Current assurance and information security professionals   
  • Anyone looking to transition into information technology 

The main benefit: as the world becomes more technologically advanced, the demand for CISA professionals continues to grow. They are needed to ensure systems are well-protected and functional. By becoming a CISA, you are starting a lucrative, stable career. 

All that said, you’re bound to weigh the time investment before taking the plunge. How long will you need to study to pass the CISA exam?  

Studying doesn’t have to be all-consuming when you know the tricks. To prepare for what’s ahead, let’s cover a quick overview of the CISA exam, discuss how long it takes to pass, and see how exam prep can save you time. 

A quick breakdown of the CISA exam 

The CISA examination is a four-hour test consisting of 150 multiple-choice questions. It’s split into the following 5 sections: 

  1. Information System Auditing Process (21%) 
  1. Governance and Management of IT (17%) 
  1. Information Systems Acquisition, Development and Implementation (12%) 
  1. Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience (23%) 
  1. Protection of Information Assets (27%) 

There are three testing windows throughout the year: February 1st through most of May, June 1st through most of September, and October 1st through most of January. Blackout days (non-testing days) are at the end of May, September, and January.  

The exam is administered at PSI testing centers, and preliminary scores are available immediately after the exam is finished. Exam registration costs $575 for Information Systems Audit Control Association (ISACA) members and $760 for non-members. You can learn more about these testing windows, and how to register for the CISA Exam by visiting ISACA’s website. 

Studying for the CISA exam: how long does it take to pass? 

How long it takes you to study for the CISA exam depends on your experience working in the field. However, that doesn’t mean candidates who have been working in the field for a short time won’t pass the exam; it simply means they might have to put in more hours. 

In general, if you study for 2 to 3 hours a day, you’ll be ready to sit for the exam within 2 months. However, this rule depends on how well you learn to apply the concepts (which field experience facilitates).  

With this variation from person to person, study time is subjective. Consider that it could take you several months to complete your studies. 

You will have 12 months to pass the exam once you register. That window gives you time to create a consistent study schedule and pass, regardless of your work experience. 

If are interested in a real-time measurement of study progress, consider Surgent CISA Review. Surgent features a unique ReadySCORE™ feature which allows you to see what your score would be on the exam on any given day of study. Once your ReadySCORE corresponds with the CISA Exam passing score of 450, you can feel confident you’ll pass! 

Other benefits of Surgent CISA Review include: 

  • Time-saving features – Surgent uses adaptive learning to gear your studies toward weaknesses and heavily weighted content. Only study the material that is pertinent to passing. 
  • A fully optimized experience – CISA Review adjusts your study path as you, continually evaluating your comprehension. You’ll never have to think about what to study next. 
  • Low-hassle learning – As you answer questions incorrectly, Surgent maps the explanation to related materials in a sidebar. You’ll never waste time looking through a textbook for help.  
  • A pass guarantee – Surgent stands behind CISA Review 100%. In fact, we’re so confident that the Surgent method works, we guarantee it. 

Sign up for a Surgent CISA Review free trial today and see how you can pass the CISA exam faster! 

In addition to an exam prep course, be sure to check out the resources offered by the ISACA. The CISA review manual can give you a supplemental boost. 

Preparing for the CISA exam 

While studying may seem like the obvious preparation for the exam, there are a few other items to consider before you go to the testing center on exam day. 

1. Create a study plan 

Before you jump into studying, make sure you have a calendar-style plan leading up to test day. Use the previously mentioned study times to gauge the hours needed. Then, consider when you can study each day, how consistent your study schedule is, and how much downtime you’d like.  

Alternatively, an exam provider like Surgent includes a built-in planner. You won’t have to adjust your schedule if you fall off track. 

2. Practice your tempo 

You have 4 hours to complete 150 exam questions, meaning you have about one minute and ten seconds to answer any given question. Not every question will be the same; some will fall well inside the 1:10 minute time frame while others will take longer to answer.  

Good test-taking habits begin with your studies. As you work through your practice questions and exams, take time management into account. Practice answering in close to a minute (while remaining accurate). When you have mastered this pace, tempo will be second nature on exam day. 

3. Improve exam familiarity 

Studying and practicing multiple-choice test questions will familiarize you with exam content. You also need to become familiar with the structure and physical features of the exam.  

Again, take plenty of practice exams to feel comfortable. You can access practice exams within your exam study materials or through the ISACA’s website. 

4. Develop critical thinking skills 

One of the more difficult parts of the CISA exam is going beyond memorizing answers in the question database. While 150 questions in four hours doesn’t seem like much, it adds up when you’re processing information and applying concepts like an ISACA professional.  

Once more, critical thinking skills come from practicing exam questions. Learn to apply your knowledge to CISA review questions and the exam becomes much easier. 

5. Prepare for test day logistics 

Once you schedule your exam, consider how long it will take to get there. It’s a good idea to drive to the testing center at the same time of day to consider traffic conditions.  

The night before the exam, gather all your necessary materials up in one place so you aren’t scrambling the next morning. And on exam day, leave early so you have plenty of time to get there.  

Preparedness will reduce stress on the day of your exam. Arrive feeling fresh and ready to pass – mindset is important! 

Ready to study for the CISA Exam? 

Whether you’re in IT auditing, IT security, or a variety of other information technology positions, the CISA certification is sure to grow your career.  

Your first step is passing the exam. If you’re ready to choose an exam prep provider, check out Surgent CISA Review or sign up for a free trial.