Preparing for the CISA Exam

Preparing for the CISA Exam

Published: December 10, 2021
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Here are our top tips on how to prepare for the CISA exam.

Information systems auditing is an expansive and dynamic subject. It has the potential to impact multiple areas of a typical organization, protecting clients, helping to optimize best practices, steering strategic governance, and more. The topic itself is also constantly evolving, and the best candidates are always looking for new opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills.

‘Certified Information Systems Auditor, or ‘CISA’, is a qualification representing an extremely high standard of achievement for auditors. With a holistic auditing exam and strict experience requirements for actually getting certified, having CISA on your CV can be a major career boost. The qualification also requires continued professional development if practitioners want to stay certified, allowing them to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the topic.

It has gotten to the point where CISA certification is often a prerequisite for high-level auditing positions. Getting certified is certainly an excellent goal to prepare for, but how should you go about passing the CISA exam itself?

How do I qualify for the CISA exam?

Technically, there are no strict requirements for taking the CISA exam itself. 

However, simply passing the exam is not enough to get certified. For that, a candidate needs to meet strict prerequisites for auditing experience.

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Preparing for the CISA exam

As you get started preparing for the CISA exam, the first thing to note is that it is extremely comprehensive in how it approaches auditing as a subject. 

The exam itself covers:

  • Information systems audit process
  • IT governance and management
  • Information systems acquisition, development, and implementation
  • Information systems operations and business resilience
  • Protection of information assets

It will be important for you to make a coherent plan laying out exactly how much time you have so you can give yourself adequate space not only to study the topics in question but also to get used to the conditions of the exam.

As for the exam itself, candidates should know:

  • The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions
  • Students have 240 minutes (four hours) to pass the exam
  • Candidates must score at least 450/800 points to pass

Tips for passing the CISA exam

Practice papers

If you have taken a lot of professional certification exams before, you will know how important it is to check what you’re in for. The CISA exam is extremely large and lasts four hours. If you are not used to these conditions in advance, you may not be able to perform as well as possible when exam day comes.

The best way to prepare for the exam will be to use practice papers. These will typically come as part of any CISA training course, and others are also available online. You can use these papers to test out the conditions of the exam itself, as well as get used to the kinds of questions that are typically asked.

Another important aspect of this is that practice exam papers can highlight where your knowledge gaps lie. Because of this, it is worth starting with practice papers well in advance of booking the real test.

Speak to practitioners

CISA is a popular qualification, and many practitioners are eager to market themselves. As a result, it can be easy to find CISA thought leaders online on websites such as Quora.

If you have any questions or want advice to help with your training, it can be a good idea to reach out to these groups, such as by posting on forums. Practitioners can help guide you as you approach the exam and may even be able to recommend additional training resources. 


Focus on core concepts

The CISA exam looks at information systems auditing in its entirety, with questions falling into several key subject categories. Needless to say, it will be important for you to devote the proper amount of time to each of them and to not rely on certain sections to get you through.

Most CISA courses come with knowledge checks and other studying materials to help prepare for specific areas of the exam. You should also take the time to examine the syllabus in the context of real-world examples, as this will help you to consider questions from multiple angles.

Don’t rush

Whatever stage you are at with your preparation, keep in mind that CISA certification takes time. It could be five years or more before you get certified, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to book your exam ASAP.

As part of this, make a note of exactly how long you will have access to your CISA training course. You should make good use of this time, making sure to make frequent use of any knowledge tests or practice papers that come with the course.


What do I do after passing the CISA exam?

After passing the CISA exam, the next stage is getting certified! For this, you will need at least five years of experience in professional information systems auditing, security, or control. Daily activities should consist of any tasks listed under a CISA job practice domain area. 

The work experience must have been accumulated within ten years of your application for CISA certification. You must also apply within five years of passing the exam. 

This does not mean that you need to spend five years in the same job, of course. The experience can be amassed in different ways. 

ISACA has also outlined several substitutions that can replace up to three years of CISA work experience:

  • Up to one year in information systems/ non-information systems auditing (worth one year of work experience)
  • 60 to 120 university semester credit hours (worth one year for every 60 hours)
  • MA or BA degree from a university that sponsors ISACA programs (worth one year of work experience)
  • Information technology/ Information security MA from an ISACA-accredited university (worth one year of work experience)
  • Two years as a university instructor in a related field, such as accounting, computer science, and information systems auditing (worth one year of work experience)

How difficult is the CISA exam?

Put simply, the CISA exam is designed to be challenging. This is what makes the qualification so valuable to employers. Because of this, you should not book the exam itself until you have a firm understanding of the subject matter.

Who runs the CISA exam?

The CISA examination is run by ISACA, the organization behind CISA.

How do I prepare for the CISA exam?

The best way to prepare for the exam is to study the CISA exam syllabus in detail, giving yourself several months to get to know each of the core subjects. The steps we have outlined above can also help you get ready.

Why study for the CISA exam with Good e-Learning?

Good e-Learning is an award-winning online training provider with a diverse portfolio of accredited courses. Our Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) course is designed to leave candidates fully prepared to sit and pass the CISA exam on their first attempt, and our in-house team is always working to improve our offering!

We work with leading subject matter experts to deliver training that goes beyond certification. We provide unique insight for candidates to take into their daily roles, as well as long-term access so they can continue referencing course materials. Our team also develops a variety of engaging training assets to help with retention, such as gamified knowledge checks, instructor-led videos, and free downloadable resources.

Our team also specializes in corporate training programs. We can provide a bespoke Docebo LMS, complete with company branding, as well as a unique plan designed to suit your unique training requirements. You will have a direct link to Good e-Learning to discuss your needs, and we can also provide ongoing management reporting to take all the stress out of managing your training program.

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Want to find out more? Visit our website or contact a member of the Good e-Learning team today!