Developing a checklist for an audit

Business man with check boxes over navy blue background

One of the most important tools for an auditor is the auditor’s checklist.  So what is the best type/format/style of checklist?  There isn’t any specific template that is better than another, it all depends on the auditor themselves.

Steps to developing a checklist:

1. Understand the purpose of the checklist.  There can be multiple purposes for a checklist: to be a tool for documenting evidence; a set of guidance instructions for the auditor; a permanent record of the audit; and many more I am sure that you can think of and any combination of them.

2. Understand the user of the checklist.  Who is using the checklist?  Is it a new auditor, who needs as much guidance as possible, or is it a very experienced auditor who is only using the checklist as a reminder for the criteria and relies on their experience more?

3. Understand the criteria of the audit.  The questions have to come from somewhere, which is the audit criteria, not thin air.  Based on the audit objectives and the scope of the audit, the criteria will be defined.  For a compliance audit, understanding the many possible overlapping jurisdictions is important and will be based on the scope and activities defined for the audit to cover.


When designing your checklist, some things to keep in mind:

  • Will this checklist be used in paper or electronic format?  There are different implications for both.  Electronically completed checklists need to be expandable and user-friendly.  While, paper checklists need to ensure enough space is already allocated for someone handwriting their notes.  Obviously, you can’t have drop down menus on a paper checklists, so columns are typically used.
  • The types of questions that will be populated into the checklist.  Do you want to present the criteria in the form of a requirement or in the form of a question?  There is no right or wrong was to do it, it all depends on what the auditor likes.  Remember the checklist is the tool that the auditor uses and is developed for them.  Allow enough space for the answer.
  • Remember that a checklist is a document, which means that it can be updated to suit the needs of the user.  So if it needs to be tweaked after you have tested it out on an audit, then change it, update it.  Auditors are all about continual improvement, and we have to start with ourselves.

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