CISA Books Comparison: The Best CISA Study Materials

cisa books

If you’ve been working in the information systems (IS) industry for a while now, you may not find the CISA exam to be too difficult. On the other hand, if you are new to the field, then the exam will be more of a challenge for you. But no matter your vocational position, performing well on the CISA exam necessitates using study materials like CISA books.

Even the most experienced IS auditors will be unfamiliar with the format of the exam questions. And, in order to ensure that you pass the first time, brushing up on the basics of the topics certainly can’t hurt. Therefore, you should plan to purchase a CISA review course, or at least a CISA book, so that you have the best chance at achieving exam success. But which CISA books are available to you, and what are the best CISA study materials? The following information will answer those questions and help you find the best CISA study guide for you.

CISA Books: Your Best Options

ISACA, the company that awards the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification and creates the CISA exam, publishes an official CISA study guide. However, 2 popular alternatives are also available, and each of these 3 options has its pros and cons. These options include:

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

The CISA Review Manual is the most official of the CISA books available.  ISACA publishes this definitive guide to the CISA exam and updates it whenever they update the exam. Therefore, you can buy the printed or digital version of the CRM from ISACA, but you can also find it on Amazon.

Currently, the CRM costs $109 for ISACA members and $139 for non-members. But whatever the price, I think the CRM is a worthy investment because it affords such detailed information about the exam. The CRM covers every topic the CISA exam could test you on, so it’s an essential tool for your studies. However, ISACA writes the CRM more like a reference manual than a teaching guide, so the content is very dry and almost too technical at times. Consequently, if you need explanations of the basics or more examples of the concepts, you’ll want to supplement the CRM with other CISA books or with a CISA review course.

2. CISA Study Guide

Another one of the most popular CISA books is the CISA Study Guide. Sybex, part of Wiley, publishes the CISA Study Guide, and David Cannon is the author along with Brian T. O’Hara and Allen Keele of CISA SuperReview. You’ll also find this guide in digital and printed formats.

The latest edition of the CISA Study Guide addresses the 2016 CISA exam, so you may want to wait to buy this CISA book until the release of the edition that covers the 2019 CISA exam.

However, assuming the 2019 edition follows the same formatting as previous editions, you’ll find that the CISA Study Guide possesses these positive and negative aspects.

Pros

1. Clear and Logical Overview with Good Explanations

The consensus is that the CISA Study Guide is easier to read and understand than the CRM. At the same time, the CISA Study Guide provides a solid and detailed theoretical foundation of the main exam concepts.

Furthermore, many readers mentioned that they keep this book for professional reference even after passing the exam.

2. Substantially More Affordable

The CISA Study Guide retails at about $70, and you can typically find it new on Amazon for just $40. Therefore, with these prices, the CISA Study Guide can cost you less than half the price of the CRM.

3. More than Just a Book

ISACA not only publishes the CRM, but they also offer a database of CISA exam questions and answers as well. However, you have to pay another $129-159 for this additional resource. Yet, when you purchase the CISA Study Guide, you also receive access to electronic flashcards, practice exams, a training video, and the Sybex test bank. The CISA Study Guide includes these extra materials at no extra charge, so you are once again saving money.

4. Better for Those with a Non-Auditing Background

Unfortunately, the CRM assumes that you know the CISA exam material and therefore does not elaborate on the concepts. Consequently, some of my readers have said that using the CRM alone left them struggling to understand the principles of information systems auditing. In contrast, the CISA Study Guide shows you how to see at the big picture and understand the auditing mindset. And, having these abilities is critical for passing the exam.

Cons

1. Not Updated as Quickly as the CRM

As mentioned, a version of the CISA Study Guide that aligns with the 2019 CISA exam has yet to appear. The delay is understandable because the 2019 CISA exam only arrived in June, but ISACA was ready with the 27th edition of the CRM. Therefore, exam candidates seeking a newer CISA Study Guide have to wait longer for this alternative CISA book. And, as a result, they also have to wait longer for the CISA certification.

2. Not as Many Questions as the ISACA CISA Question Database

While the CISA Study Guide does give you access to practice multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and practice exams, the latest figures report that you’ll only get 400 MCQs and 2 practice exams. So, with over 1,000 MCQs, the ISACA question database has the CISA Study Guide beat in this regard, so you may want to purchase the database even if you use the CISA Study Guide. The ISACA database also comes with 1 practice exam.

3. CISA All-in-One Exam Guide

The CISA All-in-One Exam Guide is another notable CISA book for exam candidates. Peter Gregory penned this guide, and McGraw-Hill publishes it. This guide also gives you the option of purchasing the ebook or the hardcopy.

Amazon reports that the fourth edition of the CISA All-in-One, which aligns with the 2019 CISA exam, is on its way, and you can pre-order it now. So, you should be able to get the newest CISA All-in-One soon. But before you do, you should prepare for it to encompass the following merits and flaws.

Pros

1. More Interesting

According to a reader, the CISA All-in-One Exam Guide “breathes life into ISACA’s auditing concepts”. Other exam candidates have also commented that the book is easier to understand and even fun to read. So, with reviews like these, the CISA All-in-One seems to be a big step up from the CRM in terms of how engaging and enlightening it is.

2. Great for Candidates with Existing Knowledge

What’s more, the CISA All-in-One is also great for exam candidates with previous exposure to information systems. This guide doesn’t overdo the explanations, so knowledgeable candidates can use it to ensure that they understand ISACA-specific terminologies.

3. Test Bank Included

Like the CISA Study Guide, the CISA All-in-One also supplies candidates with more than one study resource for the price. Specifically, the All-in-One comes with 400 practice exam questions in the Total Tester exam engine. Therefore, with this test bank, you can take full-length practice exams or customizable quizzes by exam topic.

4. Another Affordable Alternative

The book retails for about $55, and you can usually find it on Amazon for about $50. So, once again, this CISA book is a better deal than the CRM.

Cons

1. Inconsistent Formatting

For some reason, the All-in-One is a bit structurally challenged. Specifically, the headings are hard to follow, and the format is inconsistent. For example, some sections have a summary, while others do not.

While this issue is not major, the lack of organization does affect the learning experience.

2. Potentially Inadequate Coverage

What’s more, this CISA book tends to go into too much detail on certain exam topics and then fails to cover other topics at all.  Also, while the CISA All-in-One proudly mentions that each chapter ends with questions stimulating those on the real exam, the book usually only gives you about 10 of these chapter-ending questions. And once again, the Total Tester exam engine holds fewer practice questions than the ISACA question database.

So, for these reasons, the All-in-One is not really the most comprehensive guide. Therefore, as many other candidates have done, you may need to use this CISA book as a supplement to other study materials.

3. Slower to Update than the CRM

Again, compared to the CRM which is updated annually and in time for the latest edition of the CISA exam, the CISA All-in-One doesn’t include the newest exam content right away. Instead, exam candidates have to wait for the All-in-One authors and publishers to catch up with the exam changes before they can expect this CISA book to help prepare them for those changes.

CISA Book Savings: Your Source for CISA Study Materials

If you’d like to purchase the CISA Review Manual, the CISA Study Guide, or the CISA All-in-One Exam Guide, you can use these links to do so. Because these links lead you to Amazon, you’re sure to get a great deal on these CISA study materials!

1. CISA Review Manual 2. CISA Study Guide3. CISA All-in-One Exam Guide

Other CISA Books: Additional CISA Material

If you find yourself perusing Amazon for CISA books, you should check out these selections. They are not official study guides, but they can still help you acquire the knowledge you need to pass the CISA exam.

Best CISA Study Materials: CISA Review Courses

These CISA books are very useful resources for your CISA exam studies. Especially if you’re a linguistic or logical learner, you may not need much more than a book to prepare you for the CISA exam.

However, if you’re an audio or visual learner, or if you employ multiple learning styles to achieve deep comprehension of important information, then you will need more than a CISA book. Specifically, you’ll need access to audio and video lectures as well, and you’ll find these resources in a CISA review course.

Because everyone learns differently, the best CISA study materials not only cover all of the exam content, but they also give CISA candidates a variety of ways to learn the exam content. So, the review components you’ll find in a CISA course include video lectures, audio lectures, printed or digital books, practice questions, practice exams, answer explanations, pass guarantees, and support from experts. For this reason, a CISA review course is an essential investment for ensuring CISA exam success.

Even linguistic or logical learners who will use a book the most during their CISA studies should consider getting a CISA review course because of the practice questions, practice exams, and support from experts to which they would have access. These additional features enable you to become comfortable with the exam environment and, consequently, develop more confidence for exam day.

Best Study Material for CISA Exam

The CISA exam preparation materials I recommend are CISA SuperReview, Surgent CISA Review, and Simplilearn CISA Review. In my opinion, CISA SuperReview is the only complete course, as it comes with video lectures, practice questions, exam simulations, customer support, and more for a great price. The other courses have their strengths and weaknesses, but you still can benefit from buying them.

For example, Surgent CISA Review doesn’t offer video lectures, so it is more of a test bank. However, if you’re a linguistic or logical learner, you may want to use this course as a supplement to the CRM. With this combination of CISA study materials, you’d have everything you need to pass the exam.

Simplilearn CISA Review has the opposite issue of Surgent. While Simplilearn has an excellent collection of video lectures, it doesn’t contain much of a test bank. Instead, Simplilearn only gives you access to practice questions and practice exams at the end of each study module. For this reason, audio and visual learners can benefit from Simplilearn, but you may still want additional exposure to practice exam questions.

CIA Exam Material

Information systems experts created and maintain all of these courses, and these courses align with the 2019 CISA exam. Therefore, using them gives you a much better chance of passing the CISA exam. So, don’t be tempted to skimp on your CISA study materials by purchasing just one CISA book or by attempting to find a free CISA study guide. These study options are not thorough enough to adequately prepare you, and you’ll end up spending even more money if you fail the CISA exam and have to sit for it again (and maybe even again).

If you’re serious about becoming a CISA, the risk you take by limiting your CISA exam study materials is not worth it. Just arm yourself with the best CISA study materials on the market and use them properly so you can pass the exam the first time.

CISA Exam Content: Reasons to Use a CISA Review Course

So, why do you need CISA study materials in the first place? You need some sort of CISA study guide because of the CISA exam difficulty, which may be significant for candidates without much information systems experience. While the CISA exam only has 150 multiple-choice questions, the CISA exam syllabus reveals that the exam uses 5 domains to distinguish between a total of 58 topics:

  1. Information Systems Auditing Process

     A. Planning

    1. IS Audit Standards, Guidelines, and Codes of Ethics
    2. Business Processes
    3. Types of Controls
    4. Risk-Based Audit Planning
    5. Types of Audits and Assessments

     B. Execution

    1. Audit Project Management
    2. Sampling Methodology
    3. Audit Evidence Collection Techniques
    4. Data Analytics
    5. Reporting and Communication Techniques

    2. Governance and Management of IT

    A. IT Governance

    1. IT Governance and IT Strategy
    2. IT-Related Frameworks
    3. IT Standards, Policies, and Procedures
    4. Organizational Structure
    5. Enterprise Architecture
    6. Enterprise Risk Management
    7. Maturity Models
    8. Laws, Regulations, and Industry Standards affecting the Organization

     B. IT Management

    1. Information Technology Resource Management
    2. IT Service Provider Acquisition and Management
    3. IT Performance Monitoring and Reporting
    4. Quality Assurance and Quality Management of IT

    3. Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation

     A. Information Systems Acquisition and Development

    1. Project Governance and Management
    2. Business Case and Feasibility Analysis
    3. System Development Methodologies
    4. Control Identification and Design

     B. Information Systems Implementation

    1. Testing Methodologies
    2. Configuration and Release Management
    3. System Migration, Infrastructure Deployment, and Data Conversion
    4. Post-implementation Review

    4. Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience

     A. Information Systems Operations

    1. Common Technology Components
    2. IT Asset Management
    3. Job Scheduling and Production Process Automation
    4. System Interfaces
    5. End-User Computing
    6. Data Governance
    7. Systems Performance Management
    8. Problem and Incident Management
    9. Change, Configuration, Release, and Patch Management
    10. IT Service Level Management
    11. Database Management

     B. Business Resilience

    1. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
    2. System Resiliency
    3. Data Backup, Storage, and Restoration
    4. Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
    5. Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP)

    5. Protection of Information Assets

     A. Information Asset Security and Control

    1. Information Asset Security Frameworks, Standards, and Guidelines
    2. Privacy Principles
    3. Physical Access and Environmental Controls
    4. Identity and Access Management
    5. Network and End-Point Security
    6. Data Classification
    7. Data Encryption and Encryption-Related Techniques
    8. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
    9. Web-Based Communication Techniques
    10. Virtualized Environments
    11. Mobile, Wireless, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) Devices

     B. Security Event Management

    1. Security Awareness Training and Programs
    2. Information System Attack Methods and Techniques
    3. Security Testing Tools and Techniques
    4. Security Monitoring Tools and Techniques
    5. Incident Response Management
    6. Evidence Collection and Forensics

What’s more, the CISA exam also encompasses 39 supporting tasks. So, as you can see, the CISA exam will test your understanding of information systems to a great extent. For this reason, you want CISA study materials that will empower you to develop your understanding enough to pass the exam. And because CISA books are mostly one-dimensional, a CISA review course is a better choice for learning all of the content on the CISA exam.

CISA Books Budget: A Way to Afford CISA Study Materials

Knowing that investing in a CISA review course is the best way to guarantee a great performance on the CISA exam, you would be right to wonder how much a CISA review course will cost and how much you should expect to spend on the CISA certification in total.

Well, using my CISA review course discounts, you can save money on your CISA exam prep. For starters, CISA SuperReview will cost you just $499 when you use my CISA SuperReview discount to save 25%. With my Surgent CISA Review discount, you’ll save 15% and spend only $349. Finally, your total for Simplilearn CISA Review will come to $1,749 after you use my discount to save 30%.

If you buy one of the aforementioned CISA books as well, you’ll spend another $40-$139.

Then, to take the CISA exam, you must pay a registration fee of $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members.

Therefore, your CISA exam fees could add up to anywhere from $964 to $2,648 depending on your particular combination of registration fees and CISA study materials.

CISA Certification Breakeven

Now, with a price tag range of almost $1,000-$3,000, the CISA certification isn’t cheap. But it is certainly worth the money because the CISA will pay for itself within the first year of holding it. With the CISA, you can make up to 69% more in certain positions than you would without it. For example, as a senior IT auditor, you can make $109,750 when you have the CISA as opposed to the $75,750 you would make without it. And the average salary range for a CISA-certified professional is $52,459 to $122,326. So, very shortly after you earn the CISA, you’ll recover everything you put into and more.

Best CISA Exam Study Materials: The Help You Need

As you can see, you do not have to take on the CISA exam alone. Plenty of CISA study materials exist to support you as you prepare for it. And investing in them early in your exam studies can ensure that you pass the first time. This efficiency means you’ll save money on the certification and make money from having the certification sooner. And, of course, depending on the exam prep you buy, you may also have helpful reference materials handy for the rest of your CISA career.

So, learn more about CISA exam material so you can find the right one for you. And if you’d like, contact me to get a personal recommendation.

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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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  • Ken says:

    Stephanie, thank you so much for providing us a detailed information and guide to purchasing CISA study guides.

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