I spend more time than I really want to advising people on how best to prepare for IRCA Lead Auditor exams, so I suppose it is time for a time saving blog post. I apologise in advance to anyone who has found this post hoping to find answers or strong tips on what the questions will be. I’m not giving you the actual answers. I do, however, hope that you’ll still read the post and that it will help you to pass your exam by fair means rather than foul.
In order to fully prepare for the exam, I think you first need to understand what the IRCA are trying to test. That is, the important auditor attributes of knowing the audit criteria, knowing the process and being able to think and act professionally. Generally you’ll be tested in three broad areas;
Your knowledge and accurate application of the relevant standard (ISO 9001. OHSAS 18001 etc)
Bear in mind that, whatever the exam, you’ll have access to that standard anyway, but knowing the standard is important. Just as important will be your ability to apply it in context.
Your knowledge of the audit process (particularly 3rd party)
That is, Stage 1, Stage 2, Audit Planning, Opening Meeting, Report Writing, Closing meeting, Appeals, Corrective Actions, Close out etc. Be clear about what happens at each stage, who is involved, what is required, desired outcomes and so on.
Your ability to apply sound judgement during an audit
This might be to identify priorities or checklist items in a given scenario, or how you might respond to an inconvenience, obstacle or query during the audit. These questions rely on you (the auditor) understanding his/her mission objective, being able to stick to that and not be distracted.
The mission objective? WHEREVER POSSIBLE STICK TO THE PLAN AND EXECUTE THE AUDIT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE AGREED PLAN. It is also important that you remember the auditor’s primary function TO ESTABLISH AND REPORT THE FACTS.
DO NOT pay any attention to people (especially in LinkedIn Forums!) who suggest the auditor has a broad role that could involve anything from consulting, diagnosing, problem solving, lecturing on what is right and wrong, or indeed anything else. Whilst these people may be entitled to hold weird and wonderful views YOU WILL BE MARKED DOWN if you share those views on your exam paper BECAUSE THEY ARE WRONG.
The exam papers are constructed so as to award maximum marks for descriptive answers and explanations. There are few right/wrong answer questions. There are some important reasons for this. First, it is easier to identify exam fraud and impropriety if the majority of questions require descriptive answers (that is, scripted/model answers are VERY easy to spot) and secondly, a good auditor needs to be able to think, reason and explain. Right/wrong answers do not test those important auditor attributes.
Hope that was useful. It’s over to you now. Good luck.