Technology continues to evolve at a lightning pace and makes its way into new industries and sectors. As an entry or mid-level IT auditor, information security or assurance professional, one of the best ways to advance in this ever-changing landscape is to pass the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) Exam. With a CISA certification, you’ll showcase a proven skillset across IT and business systems, enhancing your resume and interactions with decision-makers at your company and with clients, as well as external auditors and regulators. Here are some study tips for passing the CISA Exam.

Studying for any test, especially one as valuable as the CISA Exam, takes time, but as a significant career investment, the hours you spend preparing will be well worth it. Today we’ll go over what getting ready for the exam takes, what you should expect from the test itself and what kind of time commitment you’ll make before taking the CISA Exam. 

What you need to know about the CISA Exam  

Before you can even sit for the CISA Exam, you’ll need five years of experience in IT/IS auditing, control, assurance or security. Experience waivers are available for no greater than three years.   

Be prepared for a four-hour exam consisting of 150 multiple choice questions split across five knowledge domains: 

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

When you take the test is flexible. Once you register, you’ll have a full 12 months to sit for it. There are three testing windows every year: from Feb. 1 through May, June 1 through September, and Oct. 1 through January. The Information Systems Audit Control Association (ISACA) does not hold tests at the end of May, September and January, each of which is classified as a blackout period. 

There are two ways to take the CISA Exam. You can either attend at a PSI Test Center or take part in a remotely proctored exam should COVID-19 concerns preclude physical attendance. Exam pricing depends on your ISACA membership status. Members pay $575; non-member exams cost $760. Regardless of your membership status, you’ll be able to see your preliminary score immediately after you finish the exam, but it will take some time before a final score comes your way. 

You can learn more about testing windows, costs, registration instructions and other CISA Exam details by visiting ISACA’s website.  

Best ways to study for the CISA Exam 

Even though you have a full year to take the CISA Exam once registered, how you budget your studying depends primarily on much professional experience you have. Someone with five or more years in the field will have a larger pool of expertise and knowledge to draw on but don’t let having only a few years of experience stop you from taking on the test. Both cohorts are more than capable of passing the exam on their first attempt. The more junior candidate likely needed to study more than the more seasoned candidate.  

Two to three hours of study every day will, on average, see you ready for the exam in two months, but don’t take that general figure as fact. Your learning style and speed are different than everyone else preparing for the test, as are your experience and skillset. Someone with five years’ experience might be able to study for only an hour a day to achieve the same result, whereas someone else might need more time to master the content. 

For a curated, personalized study plan with everything you need and more, consider adding Surgent CISA Exam Review. One of the most valuable features of the program is the unique ReadySCORE™ feature which shows what your score would be on the test on a given day of study. Once you reach a consistent ReadySCORE™ of 450, you can be confident you’re in good shape to pass the CISA Exam.  

Tips for preparing for the CISA Exam   

Getting into the trenches and studying is the main way to prepare for the CISA Exam, but there are ways to optimize your time, maximize your lesson retention and take some of the stress out of the experience.

Create a study plan 

You know your strengths and weaknesses best, from time management to what subjects give you more trouble and which come naturally. Whatever your situation, you’ll want to start by creating a steady but adaptable study schedule.  Start planning from the day you register and consider how much time you can reasonably afford each day to study.  When you choose Surgent CISA Review to help prepare for the CISA Exam, you don’t just get the ReadySCORE™ feature. You also have access to the only truly adaptive CISA Exam prep course on the market.  Our software uses the proprietary A.S.A.P.® Technology, an award-winning adaptive learning software, to create a fully customized study plan for each candidate that addresses weaker areas of comprehension and maximizes study efficiency. Getting started with Surgent CISA Review is simple: complete a series of quizzes with content pulled from across all five exam domains. You’ll receive your first ReadySCORE™ after the assessment, indicating your starting point had you decided to take the test that day. 

Plan for the unexpected 

Life comes at you fast and can put even the most carefully constructed plan into a tailspin. While you’re setting up your CISA Exam preparation through Surgent CISA Review and your personal strategies, consider if you can budget about 25% more time to account for the unexpected. If you expect to take the exam closer to the fall, how will back-to-school or getting ready for the holidays affect your plan? Budget for the unforeseen as best you can. A longer study plan might be better suited, so you have those extra hours in case of emergency or other priority change. 

Time management

When preparing for the CISA Exam, one thing will always be true: you will have four hours to complete all 150 exam questions. That leaves 1 minute and 10 seconds to answer any given question. Some questions you’ll be able to answer in just a few seconds; others could take more time to nail down. Test yourself by writing down any questions you have as you study and return to them several days later. Time yourself to see if you can answer in the allotted time. Mark down what you can and can’t complete and spend a little extra time on those subjects. 

For a more formal system, turn to Surgent CISA Review, which has a MyMCQ™ feature that delivers multiple-choice questions customized to help you stretch your knowledge base. These questions follow the same structure as the actual CISA Exam and cover topics you’re currently studying in the system. You should also make good use of our Daily Surge feature, which saves you time by suggesting where to focus your studies based on your current progress and sticking points. If you use both features, expect to shave hundreds of hours off your study time. 

Exam familiarity

Part of your Surgent CISA Review courses and any outside preparation you do should consist of as many practice exams as you can feasibly fit into your schedule. Doing so will ensure you’re familiar with the structure of the exam itself. Use the materials on ISACA’s website as well to be prepared for the exam format and aren’t thrown off by anything come exam day. Surgent CISA Review offers unlimited practice exams to ensure you’re ready to tackle the CISA Exam. 

Be ready to apply your knowledge 

The CISA Exam is not a memorization and regurgitation test. The questions will ask you to take all the knowledge you’ve gained and apply it in new and often challenging ways. You’ll be asked to think like an ISACA professional and make quick decisions based on a large core of knowledge and experience. 

Plan out the logistics of exam day 

 The last thing you want to do on exam day is to be late. Take a test drive to the testing site so you know the way and how long it should take you to arrive for the exam. The night before the exam, gather everything you need. Then, when test day comes, be sure to leave a little early just in case you run into traffic or any other unforeseen delays. 

Surgent CISA Review is your fastest path to success 

A CISA certification makes a powerful statement on your resume and will enhance your career prospects, showcase your expanded skillset and increase your overall revenue. When you choose Surgent CISA Review, you’ll be more than prepared to pass the exam with less study time, plus you’ll know when you’re ready thanks to our ReadySCORE™ exam-readiness tool. Start your free trial today and learn how Surgent CISA Review can help you achieve your goals.