I provisionally passed the CISSP exam on September 16, 2021, and oh boy, what a feeling it is just to see that one word “Congratulations” on that one page black and white print out.
The relief you feel at that exact moment is an unparalleled experience.
I am very happy and excited to share my bits of this journey of the CISSP preparation that may or may not help, but will definitely give you’ll an alternate perspective on how to approach this exam.
Let me start with some background of myself (so people can relate). I am an IT engineer from Mumbai University (in India) having close to 8.5 years of experience working in IT organizations for BFSI clients in the Information Security Domain majorly as a Governance Risk and Compliance consultant (read non-technical). In the past whenever I’ve given any exam, my approach has always been to find out the shortest way to pass (or ace) it. CISSP was no different. And this was my mistake that I underestimated the exam.
I started with Sunflower notes and Memory Palace (which is usually read at the end) thinking that is all I would need to pass the exam. I was wrong. I couldn’t get the practice questions right because I did not have the required conceptual clarity. That is when I decided to correct my thought process and devise a new strategy. I felt reading reference books cover-to-cover very dry and decided to go through a lot of videos on YouTube, Luke's videos and Thor Pedersen’s videos. I always had the Sybex besides me in case I needed further conceptual clarity.
So, here’s a summary of my study plan:
1. Use any study material (CBK, Sybex, Videos) to gain conceptual clarity and prepare your handwritten notes. Basically, you’re converting a 1250-page Sybex into a 300 page of handwritten notes.
2. Study one domain at a time and follow it up with practice questions of that domain to test your conceptual clarity. If you get close to 75% correct answers, move on to the next domain.
3. Once all domains are covered, do a mock test to check your cross-domain knowledge and understanding.
4. Form a group with peers to discuss various topics and questions to understand why an answer option is right or wrong.
6. One month before the exam, read your handwritten notes repeatedly to prepare your next set of Micro-Notes (Sybe, Handwritten Notes, Micro-notes).
7. Fifteen days before the exam, do a couple of mock tests. If the above six steps are followed, your score should be close to 70-75%.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize the fact that, the exam is not difficult, but the preparation for sure is. You will have to understand the flow, which is; Read and Understand the Concepts don't Memorize Practice Questions. Repeat this until you’re confident. I passed the exam at 100 questions and 2 hours using this strategy in 4 months of preparation time.
For your reference, below is the list of materials I used during my study. Although I feel what is more important is your Intent and Attitude.
· Boson Practice Tests (1 mock test)
· Thor Pederson’s Hard Practice Questions (1 set)
· Memory Palace by Prashant Mohan
Hope this helps in your preparation. Give it your best shot!!