For months I thought about how would I have felt once at the test center in front of the screen, ready (...or not ?) to tackle the first question of the CISSP exam.
And there I was … (Click Next to Begin the Exam) … experiencing a feeling that a few months ago I would never have thought I would have felt the day of the exam: it was not fear, doubt or insecurity.
Instead, it was excitement - looking forward to the first question. How did I get to that point?
Read, write, do questions, repeat.
I am not trying in anyway to make it sound simple - it isn’t.
It takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice.
However, the journey that takes you there is worth every second you invest in it. And the good news is: just a few months ago I was reading these blogs as you are right now … and now I am writing one on how I passed my exam… and so will you, I am sure.
What I’m listing below is what I have learnt as I was preparing and worked for me: I hope it can help you as well.
The resources that I used:
● (ISC)2 CISSP Official Study Guide (Sybex)
● How to Think Like a Manager for the CISSP Exam, from Luke Ahmed
● (ISC)2 CISSP Official Practice Tests (Sybex)
● SNT Videos
● SNT Questions
● SNT Telegram Study Group
● Official CISSP CBK Reference
Choose your core resources and stick to them: there is almost infinite material available on CISSP if you start looking around, often different sources contradict themselves and this will lead to frustration, confusion, distraction and time wasted.
Pick the Sybex Official Study Guide or the All In One to build your foundation and stick to one of them all the way till the end.
Preparation Before you begin studying, watch this video from Luke that explains the philosophy of the exam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq5eodSz_0k&t=241s
It will help you prepare the right way, always looking at the bigger picture and at the business aspects.
I read the Official Study Guide cover to cover 3 times.
During the first pass I did all the questions for each chapter.
If you have the Sybex Official Study Guide, you can do the Questions online using the Wiley test engine, which I used massively as it allows you to track you questions, your stats etc and it has a mobile App as well, very useful to do 10-20 questions here and there when you have time.
During the second pass I took e-notes and tackled the Official Practice Tests per Domain.
Here too, I used Wiley. I also started watching the SNT Videos at this stage.
During the third pass, I wrote on paper my own summaries doing correlation between domains. This is extremely important: here is when you connect the dots and you begin to see the bigger picture and understand how all the Domains are actually connected together.
At this stage I also started tackling the Full Practice Tests in the Official Practice Tests.
Once I was consistently scoring 80-90% on the Official Practice Tests, I started on the SNT Questions. Here the key is to read the explanations to the answers for each question: there is a lot of gold which is contained in those notes!
A word of advice: do not get frustrated once you see your score dropping to 60-70%.
Luke’s questions drove me mad … however they were immensely helpful to be ready for the questions I got at my exam, and on top of that they taught me so much…
These questions are designed to make you think like a manger, to find the long term strategic solution, not to find the tactical fix.
I cannot stress enough how important they are together with the book “How to Think Like a Manager for the CISSP Exam” for the final preparation.
The last 3 weeks, I skimmed through the CBK to fill any gaps (mostly terminology) on top of everything else.
How long did it take?
I started studying on and off around February, but I really got serious only towards the end of May, when I started putting in 4 hours a day consistently.
What this meant was getting up very early (5AM) and going to bed late (11PM or later), day in and day out, weekends and holidays included.
Also, I used two Apps to practice whenever I had free time (train, bus, waiting, etc.).
The Apps I used were: CISSP - ISC2 Official App; Wiley Exam Prep.
I passed the exam at the end of September.
During the exam
Prepare yourself mentally: during the exam you might (...you will …) reach a point when you think you are failing miserably - keep going, you are not!
Think about all the time you put in to prep: head up, smile, show off your knowledge, click your way through!!
You will probably see questions you have no idea about the answer: in this case see if you can eliminate 50% of the answers, and use your best judgment and common sense to determine the right choice between the 2 answers that are left.
Keep the pace: I am terrible at time management, so what I did was to create my own time plan to follow during the exam.
Assuming I was getting 175 questions in 4 hours I worked out that the pace that I needed was of 22 questions every 30 minutes.
That meant a minimum of 44 questions after the first hour, 88 questions after 2 hours etc.
I checked in regularly to ensure I was not spending too much time on any question.
Don't overthink the questions: read carefully the question, pick the answer, read the question again, confirm you took the best option, move on to the next question. Repeat.
The real important thing: study to UNDERSTAND the concepts, not to MEMORIZE them.
The exam will test whether or not you know how to apply your knowledge, not if you know a specific definition.
Do not make the mistake of thinking "This topic is something that will never be asked during the exam"...it will!
Be consistent: especially in the beginning you will be tempted to take days off. Don't.
Develop that routine and discipline that will help you immensely in the final stages of the preparation, when you are just looking forward to finishing and be done.
Start reducing the workload during the last 1-2 weeks: your brain will be in overload by then and you need to progressively get some rest so that your mind is ready to perform during the exam.
Write down your own summaries:
1. It will help you understand the concepts and connecting the dots between different Domains
2. They will be immensely useful during the last 1-2 weeks during which you will be constantly skimming through the whole content
The preparation will take a lot of your personal time: be prepared for this, share it with your family and friends, let them know that for the next weeks and months you will be head down preparing and will basically have very very little free time.
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family who provided me with all the support that I needed and that did make a huge difference.
Trust your hard work: your knowledge will come out at the right time during the exam.
If you have been studying diligently to understand, not just to pass the exam, you will see that you will reach a point just a few days before the exam when you will think: “I am a CISSP now, and I am passing the exam”.
It did happen to me, and I clicked my way through the exam with this thought in my head.
An finally: be proud to have decided to take the CISSP exam.
It is one of the most challenging exams in the industry, but the knowledge you will gain from the preparation is worth the hard work.
The real prize is in the journey!
Good Luck!! .... "Click Next to Begin the Exam" .... ;))