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How Binay Cracked His CISSP Exam


I was dreaming, visualizing that one day I will write my CISSP journey and this is becoming

true. If you are reading this - I am sure you might be thinking to start your CISSP journey or

you have already started or your exam is just in a few weeks. Whatever is the case, stay with

me till the end, it will be worth it.

Alert:  This will be a long post and BONUS TIP in the end. Stay tuned.

There are 3 parts of this write-up – in case you want to jump to other sections and don’t

want to read my journey – please do so.

1. My Journey

2. Key Points to remember

3. Resources I used to pass CISSP


My Journey

I will complete 10 years in the IT industry this 25th June 2022 and the first time I heard

about CISSP was from my manager Arun Ramamurthy. He is one of the best managers in the

world who always supportive and encourage and give space to grow. In 2016, he told me to

go for CISSP and I ordered Shon Harris 6th edition from Amazon immediately. And guess

what, after looking at the book - I didn't even read a single page of that book. That book is still with me and completely fresh and it covers 10 domains :)

A year passed and in 2019 - again my manager told me why I am not doing this. This time I

found there are 8 domains now, and I am happy that I need to read less, I ordered another

book of Shon Harris 7th edition. I did start - read 50-60 pages and gave up. I was having fear

of failing more than passing.

Covid hit and life goes on. What different happened in 2021?

It's 15th May 2021, Saturday I called up my ex-colleague Archana just to say Hi and how is

she doing in life? And that conversation leads me to decide that I need to go for CISSP. She

just completed her CISSP in March 2021 and she told me I can do it too. It's not that difficult.

And I know that a few other ex-colleague and friends Twinkle Lath and Akram Kham - also

completed their CISSP during that time. That gave me immense faith that I can do it too. But this time - I was not focusing on that I have to pass the exam. I didn't take any pressure. I was just telling myself I need to learn something new. That's all it makes the difference.


This was May 2021 and I got to know that CISSP is having a new syllabus now. 

Later I found that only a few percentages of the syllabus have changed. I didn't purchase a new book this time. I referred Shon Harris 7th edition book that I already had and read cover to cover 1 time.


When I started reading the book, first I looked at 8 domains and found domain 6 is having

least number of pages. Around 60 pages or so. So I started with this domain. I completed

that domain in 4-5 days and I was very happy that one domain was completed. Little did I

know that this is just the beginning.

My way of studying is different and I won’t recommend you to follow. I read based on topics

first. I saw Domain 4 (Network Security) topics are very familiar to me and this is the longest

domain in the CISSP book. As I started reading this - I got the sense I am learning so many

good things. That kept me moving. I was just reading, reading, and reading. One domain

after another. When I completed 3 domains I started feeling I am forgetting what I read

before. And this is normal. Thoughts are telling me I shall stop this. I am going away with my

social life, family time, and all. But I was telling myself. I already completed 40 percent of my

journey. I have to complete this. So I continued reading at night (mainly) and watching Mike

Chapple’s LinkedIn Learning Videos during day time and started making handwritten notes.

My first target was to give an exam in mid-Oct before I go to my hometown Assam, India for

Durga Puja and Diwali. So I have decided I will complete 1 -2 domains in May; 2 domains in 1

month (June, July, and Aug), and 1 domain by mid of Sept; 1 month of revision and bingo –

and will give the exam in Oct. This plan didn’t work out as I was on and off during this

journey but I did read all the domains by Sept end. Parallel I was giving CCCure domain wise

practice questions and scoring around 70 percent or so.  In Oct, I realized I have to study

more and will give my exam in Dec. 

I went home during this time and there was a break for around 20 days. I came in mid-Nov

and as my target was to give CISSP by year-end; I accelerate my studies and read again; the

topics that I was feeling uncomfortable with. I didn’t book the exam. During that time – I

came to know about LearnZApp and it contains good questions mainly from the Sybex book.

I started giving full practice tests and scored between 60-and 70 percent. I realized I am not

ready for that exam and thought of postponing again.

During this time, I get to know about the CISSP Facebook group named “StudyNotesandTheory” from my colleague Siva who stay in NCE, France. That’s the

game-changer for me. I started reading the post and from there I subscribed to Luke Ahmed’s membership. I started watching his videos and doing a practice test. What I shall say about Luke. He is a legend. When I started going through his material – I learned so much. The way Luke brings out any topic – I never found such info anywhere on the internet. It is so precise, clear, and with a real-life scenario. Hats off to him. And his practice question – my goodness; it is on another level. I thought about how much less I know about the topic. For those who are studying CISSP and even in the security field; I highly recommend going for Luke Ahmed’s StudyNotesandTheory subscription. You will never regret it.


In Jan and Feb, I was reading, watching Luke videos, and doing practice questions; and

thought I will give the exam in May 2022.


In March first week – there was some update from ISC2 that from May, the CISSP exam

pattern will change to 200 questions and a 4-hour exam. I can’t imagine sitting for 4 hours

and going for 200 questions. I immediately book the exam for 25th April on 8th March. That

was enough motivation for me to book my exam before May. Later the new exam format is

going to change from June not May. 

Now I say thanks that I booked in April and saved a few more weeks. :P

I had exactly 47 days for the exam when I book it. But I have already planned for a vacation

in mid-March for 8 days. 

You can say crazy to me but I don’t want to cancel my vacation. I know I have studied well

so far and just have to push myself and revised well for the remaining days.

I came back from my holidays on 22nd March and from then till 24th April; the 100 percent

focus was on CISSP. I revised all the domains, given multiple practice questions, and

watched Luke's membership videos and Prabh Nair’s coffee shots. 


The last month was tough, it was tough. I just want to get it through. I was less worried

about results. One of the game changers for me is to join the Telegram discussion group run

by Luke Ahmed. I started posting all my doubts there and the members’ there helped

me.  Special thanks to Aniket and who become my CISSP buddy and his input really helped

me. Waiting for you Aniket to see “Congratulations” in your CISSP provisional certificate.

The week before the exam - I was completely exhausted. I took time off from the office and

just went through the materials. The countdown was started. I was feeling anxious and

frustrated and just don’t want to open any pages. As the day was coming nearer – I slow it

down and took enough rest.  


BIG DAY – THE EXAM DAY - On 25th April 2022, after having my breakfast, I did meditation,

drank buttermilk, and booked cab. It took me 30 min to reach the exam center and throughout my journey, I was listening to music “UNSTOPPABLE” - a song by SIA . This song always supercharged me. I reached at 12:10 pm and my exam started at 12:30 pm; 30 min before scheduled time. I took 2 breaks (at 50 questions and 75 questions).


After 2 hours and 10 min; when I click next after answering 100 questions, the exam stops. 

I walk towards the testing center proctor and he handed over me the printing paper. I came

out and saw Its CONGRATULATIONS and tears dropped from my eyes. I would like to take a moment and thanks everyone who supported directly or indirectly in my CISSP journey.


Key Points to Remember:

Have patience. Have faith in yourself. There will be a time in your study journey

when you will feel irritated, frustrated, and just don't feel like reading at all. But you

have to keep going. You need to ask yourself “WHY did YOU START?". You already completed 50-60 percent of your journey and you don't want to restart it again.

Just FINISH IT OFF. Take break. Watch movies sometimes in your early days of study.

You are not competing with anyone here. You are competing with yourself and you

know you are getting better every single day. It's a marathon and you never get out

of track and once you finish it; the joy is 100X bigger than all those painful nights and

it's worth it.


During my 11 months of the journey - there are days where I have not read at all but

it never goes beyond 4-5 days at a go. I travelled 4 times during these 11 months.

But I did read something about CISSP topics or watch videos or practice questions

from LearnZApp. It is such a wonderful app that you can carry your CISSP anytime,

anywhere. Even before boarding the flight - I kept the app open so I can practice

some questions during the flight. Just don't lose track. 


So I would say approx. 10 months I was in the game.


Everybody is unique and their way of approaching things is different. There are super

awesome blogs and videos by legend Luke Ahmed and Prabh Nair and they

explained beautifully how to approach this CISSP. I just followed their advice and

couple of inputs from my friends and manager and in the process stick to my way of

doing it because no one knows better than me. As LUKE says - The most important

RESOURCE in CISSP is YOU.  

SO – Make your own study plan.


You will never feel ready for CISSP. Just book your exam at least 2 months before

and trust your study and go for it.


Resources and Practice Questions Used:

====================================

1. Read Shon Harris 7th Edition cover to cover one time. ( I break my study in 30 min

intervals 2-4 times a day)


2. Mike Chapple Linkedin Learning videos ( I used to read books at night and the next

morning watch videos on those topics)


3. Referred Sybex and CBK book for revision and whenever doubt for any topic. This I

referred during last 2 months.  


4. Luke membership videos (highly recommend). When you are 2- 3 months from your

exam; you must consider this.


5. Prabh’s coffee shot (highly recommend) (I watched each of his videos at least 2-3

times.)


6. Destination Certificate Mind Map Youtube videos ( Amazing videos - we shall give

tons of thanks to Roger to bring this for us and make our life easier)


7. And most important for me my HANDWRITTEN NOTES.


Note: If I need to restart it again – I will read Sybex 9th edition as my primary study material.

PRACTICED 6000+ questions:


1. CCCure (2000+ questions) - Good number of questions and topics. 

Mainly straightforward. Good to have when you are completing your domain and

practice this.


2. Pluralsight (750 questions) - Good questions but seems still with the 2018 CISSP

course. May try it once. They provide a 10-day free trial.  


3. LearnZApp or Sybex (2000+ questions) - Highly recommend. Awesome app. Good to

practice throughout your CISSP journey.


4. Luke's practice question – 850+ questions (You don’t want to miss this). 

Luke’s practice question will take you to next level. Highly recommend. Good to start

when you have 2-3 months of your exam.


5. Thor 4 sets of hard questions - 500 questions (little technical I found) but a good one

to sit for 3 hours and practice those. I bought it from Udemy and practice for the last

20 days of my exam.


6. A few hundred questions from the legend Late Shon Harris's book as I had the book

with me. Good questions those are.


7. Book - “How to think like a manager” – by Luke Ahmed. Mind blowing 25 questions

that will take you to a different world and be well-prepared for your CISSP. Should be

in your checklist 1 week before exam.


Note: LearnZApp and Luke's StudyNotesandTheory Practice questions are highly

recommended from my end.


I scored around 75-77 percent in the LearnzApp practice test, 40-60 percent in Luke

Ahmed’s StudyNotesandTheory, and 50-60 percent in Thor’s hard question. Understanding

questions and answers to why this is correct and other options are incorrect is very very

important. So, give yourself time to do this exercise and don’t rush of going through the

practice test.


BONUS TIP:

While doing practice questions...keep a blank piece of paper and pen with you....when you

are answering...you know if you are answering the question confidently or you don't know other options.


Make a note of those keywords and concepts. Open Sybex book and read that concept

completely, that's the way you will learn it and grab it and discuss more with peers; that's

the best way to remember.


If this helps you – I think I have done my job and you please help me to

see “CONGRATULATIONS” on your CISSP provisional certificate.  


 I would love to connect with you in LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/binay-agarwal-



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