“Failure is the biggest motivation on the road to success”
Yesterday I provisionally passed CISSP exam and I can have my life back. My journey for CISSP originally began in the start of 2013 when I was new to InfoSec world and heard that key to grow in this business to have this certification.
I tried giving a shot but failed. Many advised that I should re-try in 30 days time as I know the material. Two reasons I didn’t go for second attempt as I had some personal deliverables at that point. Secondly I felt that I lack a lot of practical experience to take that exam. The journey continued and in 2015 I came to know that ISC2 has restructured their content and created 8 domains from what it was, 10. I thought that was a moral boost for me as 2 domains were lessened ;) Yeah! That’s how I always fool my brain in getting things done.
I bought Sybex Official book 7th Edition as I read a lot about this book. I started reading but I was not able to grab the momentum. Time flew and I moved to a newjob where I had a colleague who was preparing for CISSP.
Man! That was the turning point. I decided to join him as it’s very important to have a person with you with same goal as yours. This makes the journey very comfortable. I started doing the domains which were short length or I had good hands on exposure (Fooling my brain again ;)). I completed reading Sybex book and simultaneously I was making my hand written notes. Once I was done with these things, I revised the book once again and rewrote another set of notes which only contained key points (11th hour sort of). All these took me 3 months.
After that I started taking practice questions from multiple sources for next 2 months. I practiced ~9000 question. Yes, this figure itself gave me a lot of idea about how we need to answer the questions in the real exam.
Month before I contacted Luke and sought his help in getting his website’s member subscription. Luke is an amazing person. He will selflessly guide you with any problem you have. I used to ping him quite often and ask for things like “Hey man, do you think I am ready?”. Later I used to laugh as how he would know if I am ready or not. He was very patient with all my questions and doubts. I got a lot of help from his videos. They are too good. He will make you relate with his real life experiences which you will understand and not forget ever. Questions that he creates are HARD! But, they will give you a great understanding of the concepts.
I joined the Telegram group as well. I took this point last as I had a lot to say about this group. This group doesn’t prepare CISSP. This group, eat, drink, sleep, and breathe CISSP. It’s a non-ending learning with amazing minds around. This group is an addiction and thanks to Ahmed Khatib & Madunix for maintaining this platform so well. Be it 6 AM my time or 3 AM, you will see people around. You leave the group for 10 mins, you will have 100+ pings. This was a roller coaster ride for me. I got a lot of inspiration from this group. Folks are amazingly awesome. They showed so much confidence in me who made me realize that I should go ahead and book the exam.
Below are the preparation materials I used with my personal opinion on how they were for me.
ISC2 Official study Guide – Sybex (7th Edition) – 10/10 - This was my primary resource for my preparation. This book is easy to understand and won’t leave you high and dry. I think this is must for creating your foundation.
AIO – Shon Harris – 6th and 7th Edition – 9/10 – I used this book just for my reference and topics like BCP, SDLC and Security Modes. This book is very close to what happens in real world.
Sun Flower Notes – 8/10 – Good for day revision. I tried but was not able to complete all the domains
Eric Conrad 11th Hour – 8/10 – Similar to Sunflower notes. This book has a lot of terms you won’t find in AIO or Sybex. Don’t panic. They are just meant be there. They won’t harm ;)
***Audio and Video***
Shon Harris MP3 – 10/10 – This was my daily activity while travelling to work. This is an amazing resource. It helped me a lot in clearing a lot of my concepts
Cybrary – Kelly Handerhan – 10/10 – I can’t appreciate enough the work she has done. These videos are amazing. I used to watch each domain them before reading the book
McGraw hill professional resources – 10/10 – These questions are free and they are amazing. It tests your concept and provides great justifications for the answers.
Total Tester 7th Edition – 9/10 – This simulator contains ~1700 questions which you can take either on practice mode or exam mode. Questions are technical but great in having the concepts clear
AIO Exam prep 4th Edition – 9/10 – This was similar to total tester with ~1000 questions.
ISC2 Official test bank (Sybex) – 10/10 – This book comes with 100 questions for each domain and 2 full length tests. These questions were closest to the real exam. I highly recommend this before taking actual exam.
Wiley publication (Came along with Sybex text book) – 9/10 – It has 4 full length exams with 360 mins timer running. Good to check the track of time!
I also did questions at the back of each domain from AIO 7th Edition, CBK 4th Edition, Sybex 7th Edition.
I reached the centre very early in an assumption that I might get traffic or a flat tyre on my way. I even reached before the centre was open :D. I waited for the centre to open and was done with formalities. The person asked me to wait for my scheduled time as it would be too early. I started my exam 15 mins before the scheduled time and I was nervous as hell while reading the NDA.
I quickly started the exam and came the first question. Honestly questions were not technical. They were asked in a way where you had to suggest a best solution keeping security and cost in mind. I flagged almost 100 questions as I was not sure on my choices. But when I reviewed, I only changed answers for 5 or 6 questions which I felt I missed some key points. I finished my exam in 3 hours and reviewed my flagged questions twice just to be extra sure. I took 4 short breaks in between.
While I was submitting the exam, I was shivering as did not want to go back to all those sleepless nights again. But the moment I saw “Congratulations!...” I had tears of joy in my eyes. All those hard work and efforts have finally paid off.
On my final note, journey to become CISSP is not only about getting the certification or passing the exam. For me, it was a transformation. I have become really focused and disciplined towards my goals. In this journey, it’s not only your sacrifices that matters. Your family makes equal sacrifices with you. It’s all about how bad you want to do this. What are the forces behind you who won’t see you fail. For me, I had a lot of people behind me making their sacrifices on their own way. But in the end, it’s all worth.
“Fruit that has suffered the most, eventually becomes the sweetest”
Wish you all a very best! If I can do this, this can be done.