How Guharaman Cracked His CISSP Exam

Here goes my exam preparation journey debrief:

I started the CISSP journey about 8 months back (with Sybex version 7). Since the subject was vast and I am not great at cramming, I wanted to space it out. Also, I relied on lot more of audio/video content compared to reading books intensely.

My approach was as follows:

Phase 1: Getting familiar with the overall content: • Start with the Ultimate guide you get from ISC2 site and get an overall understanding of the exam content.

• I got familiar with the overall content by taking on Sari Greene's bootcamp (4 hours over 2 days- - Free with Oreilly safari subscription at work)

• I bought 2 audio books on audible and listened to them a couple of times- Simple CISSP and Simple CISSP Exam Questions. I could listen to it during the dead time (such as washing dishes or commute). It plays on amazon echo, so that helped me as well.

• I listened to a bunch of YouTube tips, tricks and exam mnemonics

Phase 2: Identifying areas of strengths and Weaknesses * With the familiarity of content and terminology, I did my assessment of strong and weak domains based on my comfort level

* I reviewed the exam essentials at the end of every chapter and marked the topics I had no idea on

* I took one full test from Sybex Wiley site as an assessment and one on skillset

With all these in place, I identified the areas where I was quite weak on such as Telecom and Networking. I also identified areas where I was doing well, but needed some more focus such as Security Engineering and areas where I did quite well such as security operations, software development and risk management.

I read through Shon Harris for my weakest domains. Apart from this and some random tests I that took with Shon Harris' test engine, I didn't use Shon's book as much. It goes through in-depth on every topic. Not sure if that is the best use of time preparing for this exam.

Clear and concise writing in the blogs on is an awesome resource. I read up on some of the topics unclear to me.

I read through Sybex for some of the other weaker areas, and followed it up with the end of chapter quizzes for those areas. I also used Sybex exam questions book and practiced some more questions.

Phase 3: Preparation for all the other Chapters

For other chapters, I used a combination of Sari Greene's 20+ hours video course, YouTube videos on specific topics and Sybex to cover rest of the content.

I didn't overdo the number of mock exams and quizzes, but spend a lot of time analyzing and understanding where I went wrong on whatever I took. Some examples: Real exam expects you to think like a manager and not think like a techie. Lot of questions are on decision making such as BEST decisions given a situation. Developing conceptual clarity on topics is very important. For the processes and sequence, I used the Sunflower study guide.

Phase 4: Week leading to the exam I had lot of plans for the last week to ramp up on mock exams, but hardly got to anything given a hectic schedule at work, and personal time taken being under the weather. I focused on just covering security engineering again and taking enough rest to not be mentally exhausted before the exam. I also studied the chapter summaries and some of the notes I had taken when I had prepared.

Phase 5: Exam Day * I got enough sleep and also ensured that I took a short power nap right before heading to the exam. I cannot emphasize this enough. Reading questions need a lot of focus and mental energy. Sleep well.

* I went in with a very neutral mindset and tried to maintain it throughout the exam. If one question ends up looking badly worded, I didn't let it bother me when I was answering the next. Staying the course and focusing on question on hand is super important.

* I wanted to maintain a healthy speed, as I felt that more than 100 questions was very much a possibility. My overall strategy was to do 50 questions in 50 minutes and take a break. But I ended up taking 4 breaks overall to get my focus back. First one at 50 minutes mark followed by second one at around 85 questions, 3rd at around 115 and 4th at 135 questions.

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