You’ve worked hard to complete coursework and get closer to a career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Now comes one of the most challenging steps to achieving your goal — passing the CPA exam. This four-part examination tests the knowledge you must master to become a licensed CPA. You can’t pass it without committing to some serious study time, and adding a CPA prep book to your studying materials can help.
The most comprehensive CPA prep books provide advice to help you study and cover key accounting terms, laws, and concepts. Many also include practice test questions. However, not all CPA prep books are alike. BestReviews has compiled a shopping guide with the most informative CPA prep books available. Our top pick, Wiley’s CPAexel Exam Review, features four volumes and is packed with thousands of questions and answers to help you make the most of your study time.
CPA prep books are available in two options: single and multiple volume guides. Multiple volumes aren’t necessarily better, but typically have one volume devoted to each section of the CPA exam — Regulation, Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, and Financial Accounting and Reporting. Well-written single-volume books include detailed chapters that focus on each exam section.
Some CPA prep books are also available in e-book form.
A CPA prep book that looks informative may be lacking important facts and details if it’s not well-written. Many of the top CPA prep books are compiled by one or more professional CPAs who provide knowledge gained in part from years of experience practicing in the field. As you shop for a prep book, check out the credentials of the authors in order to understand their background experience in the financial services industry.
Before you purchase a CPA exam book, check the publication date. Some guides contain concepts that stand the test of time, but they may also include outdated information if they were published years ago. Many top-selling CPA exam prep books are updated frequently (or even annually) to ensure that the material they contain is relevant to all four sections of the current year’s exam. Some retain basic information that never changes but also includes the most current updates and revisions.
For a CPA prep book to be effective, it needs to have specific content. Most quality options contain the following sections:
Studying and test-taking are essential to achieving any scholarly goal, but not all students know the best way to approach either task. That’s why prep books often come with sections that outline tips for effective study habits and test-taking strategies.
CPA prep books are broken down into sections that focus on different areas of knowledge within the field. Readers can easily locate the information, plus hone in on specific topics they need to spend more time on for better understanding.
Often considered to be the most important aspect of a CPA prep book, the practice questions are based on information that is likely to be on the actual exam. Many books also follow up with answers to help readers determine what they answered correctly and incorrectly.
The tests in CPA prep books come in two forms — diagnostic tests to help students determine what they’ve already mastered, and sample tests that provide both test-taking practice and more in-depth study time.
CPA prep books are available in a wide price range, from less than $20 all the way to $400 and more. You pay less for e-books and single-volume options. Comprehensive CPA prep books that are available in volumes geared toward individual exam sections can run as much as several hundred dollars each.
A. The CPA exam is challenging, so it’s important to begin studying early. Brushing up on your knowledge several months in advance of each test section is recommended.
A. Yes. Even if you are well-versed in the material, test questions can be worded in ways that challenge your knowledge. Practice tests give you a good idea of what the questions on the CPA exam are like. Think of answering these questions as a rehearsal for the big day.
What you need to know: A top-selling CPA prep book that’s packed with information, advice and realistic sample tests, it does a great job preparing you for the actual CPA exam.
What you'll love: It has four volumes, with one dedicated to each of the four areas you’re tested on during the CPA exam. Practice questions have answers and it includes numerous accounting task simulations.
What you should consider: You pay more for this CPA prep book than you do for most competing publications, but you get an extremely detailed guide.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: Although this prep book comes at a low price point, it contains comprehensive information that makes it an affordable investment in your exam prep.
What you'll love: Inexpensive yet comprehensive, it contains more than 2,000 questions that resemble those on the real exam.
What you should consider: It would be helpful if the answers to the sample questions contained more detail.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: A CPA-written guide, it is both basic and informative. It is easy to understand and affordable.
What you'll love: It contains more than 4,000 sample questions, giving readers a real feel for what to expect on the CPA exam.
What you should consider: Information doesn’t delve deeply into topics like it does in some more comprehensive prep books.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.