How Guharaman Cracked His CISSP Exam
Here goes my exam preparation journey debrief:
I started the CISSP journey about 8 months back (with Sybex version 7). Since the subject was vast and I am not great at cramming, I wanted to space it out. Also, I relied on lot more of audio/video content compared to reading books intensely.
My approach was as follows:
Phase 1: Getting familiar with the overall content: • Start with the Ultimate guide you get from ISC2 site and get an overall understanding of the exam content.
• I got familiar with the overall content by taking on Sari Greene's bootcamp (4 hours over 2 days- books.safarionline.com - Free with Oreilly safari subscription at work)
• I bought 2 audio books on audible and listened to them a couple of times- Simple CISSP and Simple CISSP Exam Questions. I could listen to it during the dead time (such as washing dishes or commute). It plays on amazon echo, so that helped me as well.
• I listened to a bunch of YouTube tips, tricks and exam mnemonics
Phase 2: Identifying areas of strengths and Weaknesses * With the familiarity of content and terminology, I did my assessment of strong and weak domains based on my comfort level
* I reviewed the exam essentials at the end of every chapter and marked the topics I had no idea on
* I took one full test from Sybex Wiley site as an assessment and one on skillset
With all these in place, I identified the areas where I was quite weak on such as Telecom and Networking. I also identified areas where I was doing well, but needed some more focus such as Security Engineering and areas where I did quite well such as security operations, software development and risk management.
I read through Shon Harris for my weakest domains. Apart from this and some random tests I that took with Shon Harris' test engine, I didn't use Shon's book as much. It goes through in-depth on every topic. Not sure if that is the best use of time preparing for this exam.
Clear and concise writing in the blogs on studynotesandtheory.com is an awesome resource. I read up on some of the topics unclear to me.
I read through Sybex for some of the other weaker areas, and followed it up with the end of chapter quizzes for those areas. I also used Sybex exam questions book and practiced some more questions.
Phase 3: Preparation for all the other Chapters
For other chapters, I used a combination of Sari Greene's 20+ hours video course, YouTube videos on specific topics and Sybex to cover rest of the content.
I didn't overdo the number of mock exams and quizzes, but spend a lot of time analyzing and understanding where I went wrong on whatever I took. Some examples: Real exam expects you to think like a manager and not think like a techie. Lot of questions are on decision making such as BEST decisions given a situation. Developing conceptual clarity on topics is very important. For the processes and sequence, I used the Sunflower study guide.
Phase 4: Week leading to the exam I had lot of plans for the last week to ramp up on mock exams, but hardly got to anything given a hectic schedule at work, and personal time taken being under the weather. I focused on just covering security engineering again and taking enough rest to not be mentally exhausted before the exam. I also studied the chapter summaries and some of the notes I had taken when I had prepared.
Phase 5: Exam Day * I got enough sleep and also ensured that I took a short power nap right before heading to the exam. I cannot emphasize this enough. Reading questions need a lot of focus and mental energy. Sleep well.
* I went in with a very neutral mindset and tried to maintain it throughout the exam. If one question ends up looking badly worded, I didn't let it bother me when I was answering the next. Staying the course and focusing on question on hand is super important.
* I wanted to maintain a healthy speed, as I felt that more than 100 questions was very much a possibility. My overall strategy was to do 50 questions in 50 minutes and take a break. But I ended up taking 4 breaks overall to get my focus back. First one at 50 minutes mark followed by second one at around 85 questions, 3rd at around 115 and 4th at 135 questions.