Hi All - Below is the strategy I used to study for the CISSP. Please note that this is what
worked for me and may or may not work for you. So if something sounds unreasonable to
you , please feel free to skip that part. Also , a brief about me as a person to set some
context - I am a mother of 2 small kids (8 yrs and 3 yrs). My husband and I, work full time in
IT companies. We don’t have any parental support or daycare/nanny for the kids. My
husband has been super supportive in this journey esp when I used to attend the weekend
sessions for 4 hrs at a stretch. And also after that. Even during the classes my younger one
would accompany me during the classes so once the classes were over I understood that I
won’t have the liberty to lock myself in the room for even 4 hours let alone 5-6 hrs. I
accepted that early on and designed my study times accordingly.
I originally booked the exam for Dec 1st 8:00 am only to realize that I was not well prepared
and hence re-scheduled it to today 11:30 am. The reason I am mentioning it is you may feel I
wasted that money in rescheduling but I think it was worth it. I re-scheduled firstly coz I am
not a morning person and couldn’t get a noon slot earlier and secondly I did not get the
confidence I needed and panicked around Nov 2nd week thinking I don’t know anything.
Last thing that I want to share it that, I fell severely ill 2 weeks before today, right around
the new year with viral , cold and flu which later was passed on to the kids and last 3 days
my husband was ill. I did not touch the OSG book at all during this time. However, I was
done with my concepts around 20-21st Dec and was only practicing tests after that. I did
manage to do practice tests and was barely able to read the questions but still kept at it as I
did not want to break continuity.
Why am I mentioning it? Coz with my exam booked on Dec 1st, we had planned a year-end
vacation but with the exam re-schedule I knew I had no choice to cancel the vacay as me
and my husband had promised the kids for the vacation. I carried the OSG to the vacation
and literally kept skimming through the book throughout the vacation. I know I may have
looked like a fool skimming through the book while on vacation in a place like Goa, but little
did I care ;) and by God’s grace it was worth it. Now coming to my study resources -
While preparing for CISSP, every time I did a Google search I used to come across Study Notes and Theory portal and somehow thought it was too costly. But little did I know that this portal will play such a big role in me being able to grasp the concepts of CISSP and ultimately clear it as well. I am so thankful I decided to sign up and it’s worth every penny.
The course material is so good, in fact I sometimes used to think that I wish Luke was there
during my school days so that I could have just logged in to his portal and cleared my concepts of the subjects that I used to dread. I am a very no-nonsense person and like to talk
to the point, even in personal conversations. Due to this I come across as a bit rude to others
as you are supposed to do some small talk before coming to the point. When I came across
his videos, that's exactly what they were - no nonsense and to the point. This is why I was
able to instantly connect with Luke's study material.
Study resources -
- [ ] Official Study Guide (9th Edition) - I read it twice , once thoroughly (except some parts of
Cryptography chapter) and later skimmed through the highlights. I kept revising the book
and I think that helped me.
- [ ] Memory Palace + InfoSec Recordings ( listened twice - once in class and once after the
course was over.. Listening 2nd time is really imp and a major game changer). Kept
skimming through Mem palace like a news paper almost every single day once I was done
- [ ] Notes which I scribbled in memory palace. I am not a notes taking person, have never
done that before. So I scribbled whatever I felt was worth noting within Memory palace
only. I took a print of it with one sided blank page and made it my scribble/study guide. I did
try to make notes and ended up copying the whole chapter only to realize its not going to
work for me.
- [ ] Study Notes and Theory by Luke Ahmed - Super helpful for those topics on which you
haven't had a hands-on experience.
- [ ] Shon Harris (only for few concepts like Backups, Kerberos and few others, I really did not
study much from it but if you have the time its a great book just that I felt it has way too
many details so can be used as an on-the-job-ref-guide) I will share some pictures for your
reference to show you how I scribbled and referred to it later.
Practice questions (in no particular order) -
- [ ] Pocket Prep (Premium membership) App - each and every question
- [ ] Study Notes and Theory practice questions - Was able to complete 75% of the practice
- [ ] InfoSec Exam D - Domain wise questions (All of them) and Full length tests (I was able to
complete only 2 or 3 , but I would highly recommend to please do all the tests)
- [ ] Official guide practice questions 3rd edition ( I had purchased the book before joining
infosec classes) - All domains all questions
- [ ] Official guide practice questions 2nd edition (pdf we got in study material)
- [ ] Boson 5 sets (was able to do only 2 sets)
- [ ] Sybex Chapter end questions - All of them.
The most important thing to do while solving the question is to read the explanation of
wrong answers , if you have time, do check the correct ans explanation also. Please
remember this is a CONCEPTUAL exam, if your concepts are clear you are halfway through.
Another halfway is the exam day (mentioned at the end).
Please print the exam outline and keep referring to it and ensure that you are able to recall
the concept the moment you see the name of the topic. That helped me in confidence
Last minute study -
- [ ] How to think like a manager - Luke Ahmed
- [ ] Coffee Shots by Prabh Nair
- [ ] These 2 videos (Thank you AJ for suggesting this)
- [ ] https://youtu.be/-99b1YUFx0A
- [ ] https://youtu.be/HrdNCTA7n6Q
There comes a point when you know you cannot study more, you feel saturated. That stage
came during my preparation also and I was scared of it coz my scores were not like 80%. So I
was worried if I am being over-confident. At this point I contacted Prashant and he helped
me calm my nerves (thanks Prashant ).
I modified the Exam D sheet and added a column that will calculate avg score once I am
done noting scores(which weren’t great by the way) in all the tests. Ensure that you have a
balanced average score in all domains.
Plus I also added Coffee shots sheet in this spreadsheet. Another sheet I had was of SNT
tests. So EXAM D sheet was my goto sheet for test analysis. Pocket prep gives you quite a
nice analysis within the app so I did not add it in the sheet.
Please stop studying 1-2 days before the exam and keep yourself engaged in other activities.
This advice was given by Prashant and helped me personally , in a tremendous way. I told
myself I have done what I could and now nothing more can be done. That was the only way I
could sleep one day before the exam.
The only thing I referred to was the last 30 mins recording (in 1.5x speed) where Prashant talks about tips and tricks for exam prep and exam day. I also skimmed through Memory Palace as if it were a magazine. Literally just flip through the pages. This is the other half of the journey that needs to be taken care of - you have to be prepared for the worst on the exam day and still train your mind to be relaxed.
This will only happen if you have had good food and sleep the night before your exam and have a good last meal right before the exam , trust me its important. Although its a personal choice but I did not say no to any social events. You already have lot of drama in your life when you are a married person (esp in India lol). It’s just a part of the marriage institution I guess, so please ensure you set the expectations with your partner/spouse that you will need to study and if you cant miss the social events , then you may have to get up early or stay up late to study. My kids used to be out to school around 7:15 am. So I would do some basic household chores and sit for studying from 8:30 - 11:00 am roughly. Along with that I also had to cook 3 meals of course with help from my husband.
Last but not the least I want to thank the following people for being super supportive - Prashant (for Mem palace is a gem) , Prabh (for coffee shots), Luke (for SNT), AJ (for helping towards the exam date, you are a true professional), Riddhi (my rockstar study buddy who
kept me motivated throughout the journey). There are few more people whom I spoke to only once and they helped me, I sincerely apologise as I am unable to call you out here as I am unsure which group they were from. I was a part of Luke’s group and Infosec’s group. But
sincere thanks to each one of you.
I hope I was able to share a lot , and if you reached here thank you for staying with me.
Please feel free to DM me on Telegram and I would be happy to help you.
Thank you and All the best to everyone - you got this. :)
Time for some pics of my notes – I would fold the bottom page for the topics that I had to
revise. I added extra pages to Mem palace as I wanted it to be my last min resource for revision.