I wrote the exam on June 16th and I passed it! I am writing this post in a chronological way so that people in any stage can adjust their preparation strategy.
I started out my CISSP journey this February, so it took me a little over four months to do it. Having said that, I had some basic idea of concepts as I took and passed the CISA exam last December which has a domain about Information Security.
But I feel that 5-6 months is sufficient amount of time to prepare adequately for this exam if anyone is starting from scratch as well. If I have to, I would rate the
Exam difficulty level as moderate.
Exam is evenly split in Easy, Medium and Difficult questions in ratio of 4:3:3.
Exam focuses more on your conceptual understanding and a less on your ability to memorize things.
Books referred to:
1. Sybex CISSP (ISC2) Official study guide (7e):
2. Shon Harris All in One Exam Guide (6e)
3. Eric Conrad CISSP Eric Conrad
4. Sunflower Notes CISSP notes
Cybrary IT CISSP Training: Kelly Handerhahn Cybrary.it
Networking Videos (Anthony Harris):Comptia Anthony Harris Cybrary.it
Networking Videos by Eli the computer guy
Larry Greenblatt Cyber Kung Fu – Didn’t watch all of it though.
Main Sources of Questions
* Sybex CISSP (Chapter Questions + Four Full length Practice tests): 1400+
* CISSP Official Study Guide CBK (Chapter questions): 200
* McGraw Hill : ~1000 questions
* CCCure Question Bank: ~1700 questions
Approximately practiced 4300 questions. I feel above sources of questions sufficiently cover the breadth of the topics and difficulty levels.
My first step of the process was to understand the scope of the syllabus and plan it out over the next few months. So below was my study strategy:
1. I started off by watching all videos of Cybrary Kelly Handerhahn CISSP course to get an basic idea of what I was getting into. It helped me in establishing a basic understanding of all the domains of CISSP curriculum. It’s especially beneficial to people who don’t have any prior work experience as she explains all the concepts in a very simple way. While watching her videos, You might not be able to remember all of what she is explaining, But that’s OK. Try to absorb as much as you can. This is just to make your ready for the next stage. It took me almost 2 weeks to watch all her videos.
2. Moving on, March and April; I read Sybex CISSP book end to end. Try to reinforce the concepts that you learned in the Cybrary videos. There were few domains I couldn’t grasp fully from Sybex such as Security Engineering, Operations, Networking and communication security, Risk Management, BCP; I read them from Shon Harris and watched Cybrary.it videos again to clarify concepts.
Tip 1: Try to create a plan and allocate a week or two to read each domain. Try to finish all domains in 10 weeks!
3. It was May already and apart from reading the books and watching the videos I had practiced a few questions from CCCure. Initially my exam was on 27th May. And at the end of Week 12, I was feeling quite confident about the exam but Boy! How wrong was I. It was second week of May when I gave my first Sybex practice test and I scored 60% in the practice exam. I was almost depressed, something was clearly wrong! This was a wake-up call for me. I rescheduled my exam to June 16th and revised my practice strategy.
Tip 2: Give yourself at least 3 to 4 weeks to practice after you complete reading all the chapters from the book, This was a mistake I made and I had to reschedule my test to 16th June.
4. Analyzed my weak areas from the practice test result and started practicing CCCure questions by selecting the topics in which I didn’t do very well in. Again went through Shon Harris and Sybex Notes to fill the knowledge gaps (But only on need to basis for the particular topics I felt weak in). I did almost 1700 questions from CCCure in rest of the May. My average score in CCCure is around 79%.
5. In June first week, I did all the McGraw Hill CISSP practice questions (Around 1000). I feel the questions are very comprehensive and give the real feel of difficulty of the exam. Questions are tricky and made intentionally to confuse you (Just as in real exam)! My average score in the McGraw Hill tests was anywhere from 75 to 80%
Tip 3: When you’re reviewing the McGraw Hill and Sybex practice questions, You will come across many concepts that you may never have seen before, Don’t be discouraged and Make notes of the questions/answers you didn’t answer correctly.Review these notes in the last week. In fact I was learning new things till the last day of my preparation, That’s the beauty of this exam!
6. Okay Now we’re in last week of the preparation, All the hard work in Done! I took the remaining of the Sybex Practice tests where I averaged around 75 to 80%. In last couple of days, I reviewed all the notes from Mcgraw hill, Sunflower notes and Sybex. Didn’t study much an evening before the exam. Went for a walk and watched a movie to calm my mind.
Tip 4: If you’re giving exam from say 8 am to 2 pm, I would suggest to take full length practice tests during the same time in the last week, It will train your biological sleep cycle and make your mind more active during that time.
7. You can take as many breaks as you like during the exam So make sure to carry couple of energy bars and drinks along to stay refreshed. Make sure you read every question very carefully before answering and pay specific attention to keywords such as ‘NOT’ , ‘BEST’, ‘MOST’ etc. Mark the questions you feel are little confusing as “Review Later” and come back to them in Round 2.
Good luck and Let me know if you have any questions!