CISA Books and Study Guide Comparison

cisa books

What CISA books are available to help you study for the big exam? I know that preparing for the CISA exam is a big deal. While it’s not particularly difficult if you’ve been working in the industry already, the exam does cover a lot of material. It’s very helpful to use books and other study materials to help you.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the most popular CISA books and also give a pros and cons analysis to help you choose the right books and study materials to help you pass the CISA exam on the first try.

The ISACA publishes an official book as the official CISA study guide. At the same time, there are also two popular alternatives in the market. Here is my pros and cons analysis of these CISA books.

1. ISACA’s Official CISA Review Manual (CRM)

Also known as the CRM, this official textbook is considered the “definitive guide” to the CISA exam. You can get the book from the ISACA website or at Amazon.


Very detailed with all the information you need to know for the exam.


Dry, too technical, and probably too much information if you simply want to pass the exam.

Please refer to this page for more in-depth pros and cons analysis.

2. CISA Study Guide

Published by Sybex (part of Wiley) and written by David Cannan, CISA Study Guide is one of the most popular CISA books.

The review material has not been updated since 2011, but there have been no major changes in the syllabus.


(i) Clear and Logical Overview with Good Explanation

The consensus is that CISA Study Guide is easier to read and understand. At the same time, it provides a solid theoretical foundation of the main concepts covered in the exam in detail.

Many readers mentioned that they keep this book for professional references, even after passing the exam.

(ii) Better for Those with Non-Auditing Background

A reader noted that he was not able to grasp the concept of auditing using the official review manual. The CRM assumes that you know the material and therefore do not elaborate on explaining the concepts. This book guides you on how to look at the big picture and understand the auditing mindset, which is critical for you to pass the exam.

(iii) Substantially More Affordable

Retailed at $69.99 and typically selling around $40 at Amazon, CISA Study Guide is more than half the price of the official book.


(i) Written a Few Years Back

The content on Domain 4 (Information Systems Operations, Maintenance and Support) and Domain 5 (Protection of Information Assets) are somewhat out of date.

If you have existing knowledge in these areas through your work, it’s fine. Otherwise, you may need to get hold of the official book and read the two chapters.

(ii) Need Also the ISACA Question Database

The question generator on the CD is not as flexible as the one from ISACA. Most readers who use this book seem to supplement the study with the official CISA Question Database.

3. CISA All-in-One Exam Guide

Published by McGraw-Hill and written by Peter Gregory, this is another choice available to CISA exam candidates. The book was also published a few years ago in 2011.


(i) More Interesting

According to a reader, CISA All-in-One Exam Guide “breaths life into ISACAs auditing concepts”. Others also comment that the book is easier and even “fun” to read.

(ii) Great for Candidates with Existing Knowledge

It is great for those who have existing knowledge in the exam content, and need to associate that with ISACA-specific terminologies.

(iii) Another Affordable Alternative

The book retails at $60 and usually sold at $40 at Amazon, which is much better than the official book in terms of pricing.


(i) Inconsistent Formatting

Possibly due to multiple authors, the headings are hard to follow and format is inconsistent. For example, some sections have a summary, while others do not.

It is not a major issue but it comes across somewhat unorganized and affects the learning experience.

(ii) Coverage Possibly Inadequate

The book tends to go into too much detail on certain topics and does not cover all the topics that were discussed.

Also, there are only 10 questions per chapter which is not adequate as a comprehensive study guide.

Most people comment that while they like the book, it is used as a supplement rather than the main review material.

(iii) A Bit Outdated

The third edition came out on Oct 22, 2016, so it’s newer than the previous version from 2011, but it may still be outdated when compared to the CRM which is updated annually.

CISA Review Manual  CISA Study Guide CISA All-in-One Exam Guide

Other CISA Books

If you’re looking at these on Amazon or elsewhere online, you might see that there are other CISA books. While they are not all “official” study guides, there can be other good books out there. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Best CISA Study Materials

The best CISA study materials will include all of the information that is on the exam. It sounds like common sense, but it’s still important to say. When looking for CISA books, always look at what material is covered, who published it, and

A lot of people will search online for a “free CISA study guide” and think that it will be sufficient enough to pass the exam. If you’ve been working in the field for years and you really know your way around, it’s possible you could get by with that.

However, for most people, that is simply not thorough enough. Furthermore, you’re taking a big risk with the time and money investment to register for the exam and take the exam, and potentially fail.

Why would you risk it?

Free study guides are not your best resource, for a variety of reasons. The simplest being that the writers of these free guides have not sat for the exam themselves. They won’t know what’s actually on the exam. Why would you want to get information on such an important exam from someone who has not been through it themselves?

Therefore, the best CISA study materials are those written by experts and that include the material from the exam syllabus.

CISA Exam Syllabus: The 5 Domains

When looking for great CISA books and study materials, you need to have an idea of what’s on the exam. This is the best way to ensure the books you’re getting cover the right materials you will be tested on. The CISA exam syllabus covers the five domains, as follows:

  1. The process of auditing information systems (21%)
  2. Governance and management of IT (16%)
  3. Information systems acquisition, development, and implementation (18%)
  4. Information systems operations, maintenance and support (20%)
  5. Protection of information assets (25%)

A quality CISA book or study guide should go over each of these sections in full detail. Bonus points if it also gives you real-world examples and practice questions. Every book on my list above is going to cover these basics. The CRM is essentially your CISA bible. However, many consider it too dry and technical. This is why we’re offering some other options.

You might decide to mix it up with a couple of different study guides and a review course. It’s all about choosing the best options for your needs. There are going to be fees involved with registering for this exam, so it’s important to be fully prepared before you shell out that money.

CISA Exam Fees

It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the CISA exam fees. The fees are not optional and need to be calculated along with your study materials, as fees necessary to get your CISA certification.

2019 CISA Exam Fee
Early-bird registration
Standard registration

The CISA exam fee itself has not increased since 2017, at least, so this is good news. If you want to save as much as possible, go for the early bird registration. It will save you $50 off whichever registration you choose (member or non-member) and that $50 really adds up.

Are all these fees worth it? when you consider what you get for it, I would say yes. That’s because you stand to break even in the first year.

CISA Breakeven

Don’t worry too much about those initial costs of the CISA exam and study guides because it will pay off in the end once you get your certification. The average salary range for a professional holding the CISA certification ranges approximately from $52,459 to $122,326. So, while it may cost you up to $1600 in exam fees, plus the costs of study materials before then, you will recoup those costs in your first year of working as a certified CISA.

Any time you look at certification courses like this, know that they are an investment in your career. Therefore, it’s an investment in your future as well. You cannot get a top-level job in this field without having passed the exam. CISA has even stricter requirements for the entire certification process, apart from the exam itself.

Furthermore, you need to have at least 5 years of experience in information system auditing, control or security. The work experience must be gained within 10 years preceding the application date, or within 5 years from the date of passing the exam.

I invite you to learn more about CISA certification costs because it goes hand-in-hand with your CISA books and other study materials. Speaking of other study materials, let’s explore some supplements to these books listed above.

Looking for Supplements?

Books make good reading materials, but they are not interactive and cannot identify your weaker areas. You may want to check out CISA SuperReview, launched by Allen Keele, a co-author of the CISA Study Guide. I have the pros and cons analysis here:

CISA superreview demoHow Hard is the CISA Exam?

When looking at CISA books and study guides, you may be asking yourself how hard this exam will be. Most readers tend to agree: the syllabus and exam content isn’t particularly tough. After all, it is a one-part exam with only 150 questions. This certification requires 5 years of experience and therefore is not intended for those who just started out working. So, if you’ve been working in the field for five years, you should have a pretty good handle on the material that will be covered within it.

As I explained above, the exam will cover material from the five domains. If you study this, you will be fine. If you’re concerned, you can learn more about the CISA exam difficulty.

CISA Books Conclusions

As you can see, there are many great resources out there for helping you with the CISA exam. You do not have to go it alone. While it is a relatively short test in comparison to others in the same industry, it does cover a lot of material. Furthermore, it is very technical in nature. Many people find these other learning tools to be much more beneficial when it comes to studying for the test, and also for having reference materials later.

If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer to be overprepared than underprepared? When you consider the fact you can only take the exam once per open window, and that you have to pay to take it again if you fail, it makes sense to put all the extra effort into passing. Furthermore, if you could pass the exam on the first shot because of CISA books and other study materials, wouldn’t you invest in them?

If you’re already working in a CISA field, you may not have as much trouble with it. However, if you’re looking to test first and get your work experience after, it could be more challenging. That’s when these CISA books and other supplemental materials are going to be so useful.

Is there anything you would add? Let us know in the comments!

For Your Further Reading

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About the Author Stephanie

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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