5 Best ACLS Prep Books (2020)
Working in the healthcare field is a rewarding experience, but it’s no secret that it also requires lots of school and testing. On top of that, you need to pass different exams in order to be certified in specialized areas.
One test required for students and professionals focused on critical care is the ACLS exam, short for Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support.
This exam sets out to test these people on their understanding of the clinical protocols used to treat a multitude of emergency scenarios, including Cardiac Arrest, Stroke, Cardiovascular emergencies, and Myocardial Infarction.
One sure-fire way to guarantee you pass is by having a reliable test prep book that focuses on the ACLS exam.
The Best Books to Prepare for the ACLS Exam
Table of Contents
- Best ACLS Prep Books – Our Official List
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What’s Our Choice for the Best Prep Book Overall?
- What Will the Prep Books Teach?
- What Medical Emergencies Are Covered?
- How Often Should You Study?
- What’s a Good Score for the ACLS Exam?
- How Long Does the Exam Last?
- Are Prerequisites Required to Take the ACLS Exam?
- Do I Need to Recertify?
- Who Needs to Take the ACLS Exam?
- How Did the ACLS Exam Start?
- Do the Guidelines Ever Change?
- Final Thoughts on Passing the Exam
Best ACLS Prep Books – Our Official List
We understand the importance of having the right study materials, which is why we compiled a list of the best ACLS prep books. Keep reading to find the right one for you.
1. ACLS Provider Manual
The ACLS Provider Manual is a book that anyone studying for the exam can use.
Our Final Grade: A
This comprehensive book has become the standard when it comes to preparing for the ACLS exam, and it’s easy to understand why. This book is actually written and updated by the same professionals that create the topics for the test. On top of that, the ACLS Provider Manual book is approved by the American Heart Association.
In fact, you might be surprised by how much indispensable knowledge is packed into this relatively small book.
Not only is everything written and explained clearly, but it also contains a small insert that lists shortened protocols for things like Acute Coronary Syndrome, Stroke Card, and the ACLS Cardiac Arrest protocol. This makes it the perfect resource to have with you even after you pass the test.
The only downside to this powerful little book is the lack of practice tests or quizzes, but that is minor when compared with the wealth of knowledge that’s available in this compact book. Luckily, there are tons of practice quizzes and exams online, which you can use in combination with this book.
- Approved by the American Heart Association
- Thorough and informative
- Reference cards to study ACLS protocols
- Clear and concise explanations
- Written by industry professionals who designed the exam
- Doesn’t include any practice tests or quizzes
- Could be organized better
2. ACLS Study Guide
ACLS Study Guide is an award-winning book that’s packed with useful information.
Our Final Grade: A
The ACLS Study Guide is one of the most detailed and well-organized prep books you can have at your disposal. Not only is it easy to read and navigate, but there are even detailed illustrations and photos so you can visualize what you’re learning.
This book even won an award for its thoroughness and structure, landing 2nd place in the 2017 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Critical-Care Emergency Nursing category.
Since this book is expertly laid out, you can learn everything you need to know for the exam in a smooth linear fashion. This quality also helps when it comes to locating information on specific topics within the exam.
Whichever way you decide to use this book, you can expect to have clear explanations about everything you need to know, including cardiac arrest rhythms and managing patient airways.
Being so detailed isn’t always the best choice, though. Certain information in this book is not referenced on the test and maybe a bit over your head. Still, it is a great resource to have at your disposal whether you’re taking the exam for the first time or recertifying.
- Great for visual learners
- Well organized
- In-depth information
- Includes several case studies for a real-world understanding of the protocols.
- May contain more details than you need for the exam.
3. ACLS Review Made Incredibly Easy
This book really does make studying for the ACLS exam incredibly easy!
Publisher: Incredibly Easy! Series
Our Final Grade: A-
ACLS Review Made Incredibly Easy is the perfect book for preparing for your exam. It thoroughly covers everything on the test as well as step-by-step instructions on complex procedures.
This book is packed with information and is regularly updated in order to keep up with changes in the industry, and all the content in the book was written according to the AHA’s guidelines.
You’ll walk through each section with the help of “Nurse Judy” and “Nurse Jake,” the main characters of the book, which helps make learning a little easier and a lot more fun. You can expect to learn everything from classifications of interventions like defibrillation to invasive techniques like peripheral and central IV line insertion.
This handy book even has tips on how to get the most out of your study sessions as well as end-of-chapter quizzes and a comprehensive quiz at the end of the book. Our only complaint would be some of the apparent editing errors, which left some noticeable typos behind. Other than that, this is an excellent book for students and healthcare professionals alike.
- Super easy to follow
- Contains practice quizzes and exams
- Simplifies concepts making it clear to understand
- A plethora of illustrations and diagrams
- A few noticeable typos
4. ACLS Provider Manual Study Guide Review
This book is perfect for critical care professionals who are preparing to recertify.
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 104 pages
Our Final Grade: B-
The ACLS Provider Manual Study Guide Review is the best option for those who are recertifying and need to brush up on their knowledge. This book may be compact, but it’s full of useful information and includes a large amount of practice test questions.
Unlike other options, this book has not been recognized by the AHA, but we’ve decided to include it since it’s a convenient review guide.
All 104 pages are loaded with information regarding Stroke Management, Acute Coronary Syndrome Management, and much more. It also goes over how to recognize basic dysrhythmias and covers team resuscitation concepts.
Given this book’s small size and the fact that it is not recognized by the AHA, it’s not the best choice if you’re unfamiliar with the content. Even so, it might be worth it to have this quick review book by your side after you pass the exam.
- Extensive test questions
- Perfect for recertifying
- Helpful graphics
- Not as detailed as other books
- Not recognized by the AHA
5. ACLS Exam Guide with Q&A
ACLS Exam Guide with Q&A can give you a feel for the exam with its numerous practice questions.
Publisher: Dickson Keanaghan, LLC
Pages: 130 pages
Our Final Grade: B
The ACLS Exam Guide with Q&A was explicitly written with new healthcare students and professionals in mind, and it was just updated for 2020. This book covers all that you need to know for your exam, no matter what testing agency you’re going through.
One thing you’ll notice with this book is that it’s laid out a little differently. That’s because it was designed to feel almost like a personal tutor. Even though it’s on the shorter side with 130 pages, this book provides an exhaustive look into all you need to know for your ACLS exam.
One highlight we’d like to point out is the 101 practice questions that simulate the actual exam, but there’s something else it offers that’s totally unique. The author, Michele Kunz, is available to be contacted for any questions regarding the exam and book, and she even has a YouTube channel to provide more useful information.
As convenient as this book is, some may find it’s short length not as helpful as some other options. This is the one downside we were able to identify since it doesn’t always provide the most comprehensive information, but having the author at your disposal makes up for this.
- Contains practice questions
- Well organized
- Perfect for new students and professionals
- Works well as a review guide for recertification
- You can contact the author directly
- Several typos
- Some explanations are not very in-depth
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s Our Choice for the Best Prep Book Overall?
Although each book has a lot to offer, our top choice would have to be ACLS Review Made Incredibly Easy. This book lays everything out in a clear and concise way without skimping on the details, making it useful for students and professionals who are recertifying.
The bullet-points, illustrations, and quizzes all give you the knowledge and hands-on experience you need to pass your ACLS exam with flying colors.
Ultimately, though, it really depends on the person studying. If you’re more of a visual learner, then it might pay off to have something that features a lot of illustrations or diagrams. On the flip side, if you appreciate a hands-on approach, a book that features practice exams or quizzes will be right up your alley.
At the end of the day, though, just choose the book that’s right for you and study, study, study!
What Will the Prep Books Teach?
While studying for the ACLS exam, students learn the different treatments of cardiovascular emergencies and how to work as part of a team. Getting certified in this area means that you understand the various clinical algorithms used to treat the many life-threatening conditions ACLS covers.
That’s precisely why this exam is a requirement for anyone working in acute healthcare or emergency services.
What Medical Emergencies Are Covered?
The Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support exam covers a range of conditions related to the heart. You will be tested on your knowledge of how to respond to these emergencies and each condition. The topics covered include, but aren’t limited to:
- Cardiac arrest
- Stroke recognition and treatment
- Acute coronary syndromes
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Myocardial infarction
How Often Should You Study?
Given the complexity of the ACLS certification, we would suggest studying on a daily basis for an hour or 2. Depending on where you’re at in your career or studies, you may want to continue this trend for either a couple of weeks or even a couple of months.
This might sound overwhelming, but this is an incredibly important exam. After all, you are testing your knowledge of Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support.
Of course, there are other things that can make your study sessions feel less daunting. Staying organized, studying with others, and taking plenty of breaks will not only help you stay on track but retain information better as well.
What’s a Good Score for the ACLS Exam?
In order to successfully pass this exam, you have to earn an 80% or above. If you should fail the exam, you can retake it up to 3 times. Once you do pass, you’ll receive a Provider Course Completion Card. Unfortunately, if you do not pass, you will have to retake the entire ACLS course.
How Long Does the Exam Last?
Be prepared to set aside some time for this test. You can expect the exam to last up to 8 hours.
Are Prerequisites Required to Take the ACLS Exam?
Yes, the American Heart Association requires those wishing to get ACLS certified to also be certified in BLS, AED, Ventricular Fibrillation Megacode, and respiratory arrest. Before you can take the exam, you have to submit a skills checklist to ensure you have been properly trained and certified in all these areas.
Do I Need to Recertify?
Once you’re an ACLS card holder, your certification is valid for two years. It is mandatory to take the exam and recertify once your card has expired. If you are having trouble finding time to take the exam, remember that you will have a 30 day grace period to complete your recertification.
Who Needs to Take the ACLS Exam?
Individuals who are required to pass this exam include:
- Emergency Medical Technicians
How Did the ACLS Exam Start?
The ACLS guidelines were initially published in 1974 by the American Heart Association.
Do the Guidelines Ever Change?
The AHA and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation review the science behind these methods every five years and make changes accordingly.
These regular updates and the in-depth nature of ACLS training help to provide practitioners with a solid understanding of the cardiovascular system and how to intervene during an emergency. In order to work in such scenarios, students and professionals have to understand the guidelines laid out by the AHA and keep up with their changes.
Final Thoughts on Passing the Exam
As you can see, there are several options when it comes to getting ready for your ACLS exam. While there are other options available, these five books are what we consider to be the best for test preparation. Each one is full of useful information and most are certified by the AHA, but there are different options depending on where you’re at in your career.
If you’re an inexperienced student, then something like the ACLS Provider Manual is what you need to get a thorough understanding of everything you need to know. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced practitioner who needs to recertify, having a smaller guide like ACLS Exam Guide with Q&A would better suit you.
Having the right book can help take the stress away from the actual exam, and serve as an indispensable tool whenever you need to brush up on your skills. Other things you can do to help prepare to include taking multiple practice exams, memorizing algorithms, getting the proper medications and dosages down, and reviewing as many ACLS case studies as possible.
Most importantly, though, don’t stress out! This is a serious exam which you should take seriously, but as long as you study regularly and let your passion for helping others motivate you, you’ll be sure to pass. Good luck!