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How Andy B. Cracked His CISSP Exam

I'm very happy to say that I passed my exam today on the first attempt at 100 questions!

I've taken multiple Microsoft exams in the past and I can say that this one was definitely the hardest exam I've ever taken. It is surely a test of mental strength, perseverance, critical thinking, and data retention.

I began studying in January of this year more informally, just watching training videos, and then very regimented about 8 weeks ago with videos, books, and practice questions. I spent probably 3 hours a night for those last 8 weeks, after my full time job and family time and getting the kids to bed. And I did not feel overly prepared. I think I could have kept studying for another 8 weeks and not felt fully prepared! There is so much material to master.

My Study Timeline:

3 months out: I watched all of Kelly Handerhan's Cybrary videos. These were very helpful, informative, and entertaining, and gave me a good foundation for the material. Also started reading the Official Study Guide, 8th edition. Skimmed the chapters I felt comfortable with and did all the questions at the end of those chapters. I also started using the CISSP pocket prep app on my phone. I watched Prabh Nair's youtube video on how to pass the CISSP exam, which gave me a great overview of the mindset of the exam.

2 months out:

Continued reading the Official Study Guide, 8th edition. Reading more closely the chapters I was not too familiar with. I read the chapters and then did all the questions at the end of the chapters. I bought the subscription and started doing the practice questions there. These were very difficult, and while it was helpful to see where I needed to improve, I wish the explanations to the questions have been more informative.

1 month out:

Mainly practice questions. I bought Luke Ahmed’s "How to Think Like a Manager" book and did all the questions and read the explanations carefully. I also bought the Study Notes and Theory membership and did most of Luke's practice questions. Luke's book and practice questions were the best resources I found for learning how to pass this exam! I also did all the practice questions in the Sybex Official Practice Tests book. I also started writing some of my own questions and posting them to the Study Notes and Theory group. This was great because you have to get into the mindset of the test makers in order to write the questions. I definitely recommend others doing the same. It also forces you to really know why you are saying one answer is correct, since you have to defend your answer in front of all the smart people in this group!

1 week out:

Practice questions for 3 hours each night! I dozed off many times and woke up to CISSP Practice questions staring back at me!

Day before the exam:

Tried to relax and not stress. I reviewed some of the practice questions I had gotten wrong in my testing. I read through Mike Chapple's Last Minute Study Guide pdf, which was a really good overview of all the concepts I had learned. I also read through's Memorization sheet with mnemonics to help remember various processes, systems, standards, OSI model, etc.

Day of the exam:

Got a good night's sleep, ate a light breakfast, and drank a little coffee to wake me up. Just remaining positive and not stressing, if I have to retake the exam this will be the best practice test. Watched Kelly Handerhan's "Why you will pass the CISSP" and Larry Greenblatt "Cissp 2020 Exam Tips" on Youtube. Ate a banana right before I went into the exam to prepare for the long mental journey.

In the exam:

I know they say to take your time on the first 10 questions. Whoa! These were the hardest 10 questions I have ever seen, and I had done about 4,000 practice questions at that point. I was feeling a little discouraged because I had no clue about how to answer these. If the whole test is like this I'm definitely going to fail. After the first 10, I settled into a groove and began to feel more confident about how to answer the questions. They were still harder than the practice questions, but I was beginning to see the "questions behind the questions" and all of Luke's manager-mindset teachings were kicking into high gear. It was a good mix of technical and managerial questions, maybe 30% technical, but the technical questions were not "in the weeds" as they say, they were more high level to see if you understand the technical concept and why it is important to implement in this scenario to support the business.

By question 85 my mind was feeling very tired and I needed a break. I still had enough time, so I took a short 5 minute break to stretch and walk around for a minute. By this point I felt confident in 60% of the previous answers, and iffy about the rest, but I just kept going and kept choosing the "fix the process not the problem" choices. I felt like if the test ended at question 100 I would be in good shape since I was pretty sure I had answered at least 60% correctly. I made it to question 100, clicked Next, and the test ended. WHEW!! I walked up to the front counter to get the results and the lady at the desk was smiling. She handed me the paper: Congratulations!

This was an incredible journey and I learned a tremendous amount. It has definitely changed my mindset forever.

Special thanks to Luke for all of his invaluable material to help us pass the exam! And thanks to all in this Facebook group!


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