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.
Considerations when choosing CPA prep books
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 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 ebook 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 Some guides contain concepts that stand the test of time, but they may also include outdated information if they were published years ago.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 include the most current updates and revisions.
In order 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 in 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 ebooks and single-volume options. Comprehensive CPA prep books that are available in volumes geared towards individual exam sections can run as much as several hundred dollars each.
Q. When should I begin to study for my CPA exam?
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.
Q. I feel like I have a good grip on the information I need for the CPA exam. Do I still need to take the practice tests in my CPA prep book?
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 rehearsal for the big day.
CPA prep books we recommend
Best of the best: CPAexcel Exam Review
Our take: A top-selling CPA prep book that's packed with information, advice, and realistic sample tests that do a great job preparing you for the actual CPA exam.
What we like: Offers four volumes with one dedicated to each of the four areas you're tested on during the CPA exam. Practice questions have answers. Includes numerous accounting task simulations.
What we dislike: You pay more for this CPA prep book than you do for most competing publications, but you get an extremely detailed guide.
Best bang for your buck: McGraw-Hill Education 2,000 Review Questions for the CPA Exam
Our take: 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 we like: Inexpensive yet comprehensive. We love that it contains more than 2,000 questions that resemble those on the real exam.
What we dislike: It would be helpful if the answers to the sample questions contained more details.
Choice 3: CPA Exam for Dummies
Our take: A CPA-written guide that is both basic and informative. Easy to understand and afford.
What we like: Contains over 4,000 sample questions, giving readers a real feel for what to expect on the CPA exam. Inexpensive.
What we dislike: Information doesn't delve deeply into topics like it does in some more comprehensive prep books.
Jennifer Manfrin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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