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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Sampling Research: A Synthesis and Implications for...
    research summary posted December 1, 2014 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.02 Sample Selection – use of statistical sampling, 08.03 Conclusions Based on Samples, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.08 Evaluation of Errors – Statistical and Non-statistical 
    Audit Sampling Research: A Synthesis and Implications for Future Research
    Practical Implications:

    Although little research evidence exists on the effectiveness of audit sampling, auditors should consider the effectiveness of audit sampling compared to other sources of evidence, and the use of statistical compared to nonstatistical sampling for both tests of controls and tests of details to develop the most effective and efficient sampling plans. Auditors that use nonstatistical sampling techniques should evaluate procedures to determine whether sample sizes and evaluation of results are comparable to sample sizes and conclusions reached using statistical methods. Auditors also often fail to project sample misstatements and explicitly consider sampling risk; auditor performance in the evaluation of samples is enhanced with the use of standardized sampling templates.

    For more information on this study, please contact Randy Elder,


    Elder, R. J., A. D. Akresh, S. M. Glover, J. L. Higgs, and J. Liljegren.  2013. Audit sampling research: A synthesis and implications for future research. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 32 (Supplement 1): 99-129

    Audit sampling, audit evidence, post-SOX environment
    Purpose of the Study:

    While research has influenced auditing standards for audit sampling, academic research provides limited insights into the current use of audit sampling. We synthesize relevant research based on a sampling decision framework and suggest areas for additional research. Important judgments include determining:

    • Does sampling apply
    • What type of sampling to apply (e.g., attribute or monetary sampling)
    • Whether to use statistical or nonstatistical techniques, including appropriate inputs to determine sample size and evaluate results
    • Consideration of environmental factors such as regulation, litigation, competition, culture, and technology 
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    We first design a framework of the audit sampling process based on existing auditing standards and guidance. We then review relevant literature for each step in the audit process. A fairly extensive literature exists on some sampling issues, such as determination of sample size and projection of misstatements found in the sample. An extensive, but generally dated literature also exists on various statistical sampling techniques. However, limited evidence exists for many issues related to audit sampling.


    Auditing standards and guidance on audit sampling have not changed significantly since SAS No. 39 (1981) and the first Audit Sampling Accounting and Auditing Guide (AICPA 1983). However, a review of the literature suggests there have been major changes in sampling practices over the last three decades. Key findings from previous research include:

    • Limited research evidence exists on the extent of the use of statistical and nonstatistical sampling for tests of controls and tests of details, and how use of these methods has changed over time or across client characteristics or other environmental factors.
    • Little research evidence also exists as to the effectiveness of audit sampling relative to other audit procedures or the effectiveness of nonstatistical audit sampling relative to statistical audit sampling in providing sufficient audit evidence.
    • When auditors select samples statistically (e.g., randomly) and evaluate the results nonstatistically, research suggests they may be prone to decision biases.
    • Auditors often underestimate risks in order to minimize the extent of testing in tests of details, which could potentially compromise audit effectiveness.
    • Several studies find that auditors may not consistently project sample misstatements as required by auditing standards, which could lead to incorrect acceptance of accounting populations. However, more recent research suggests that when decision aids such as templates are used, auditors do usually project misstatements observed in the sample to the population.  
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Conclusions Based on Samples, Evaluation of Errors - Statistical and Non-statistical, Sample Selection – use of statistical sampling

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