I passed the CISSP exam on my first try on Saturday, November 2, 2019 after months of preparation and several starts and stops. Aspiring CISSPs have asked me how I did it.
Here are some of the specifics of my journey.
Preparation I initially followed the typical recommendation to read a reputable study guide from beginning to end and then to read it again. I started reading the official study guide by Mike Chapple et al. During my preparation, (ISC)2 revised the exam and the 8th edition was released. I bought the 8th edition, picking it up and putting it down many times. A substantial part of my workday is spent reading; therefore, it was hard to pick up this brick of a book every evening. Eric Conrad’s guide ended up being my main resource because of its preciseness. He doesn’t waste words. If the topic needs to be addressed, he addresses it. I highly recommend Conrad’s guide.
Meanwhile life got in the way. Time with my family was necessary and important to me. Deadlines at work took priority. There were vacations to take. My manager procured vouchers for a group of my team members to take the exam. I sat on the voucher for about four months before considering booking the exam. We had a bucket list vacation in Australia planned and I was tired of trying to study while traveling. My plan was to sit for the exam and then pass or fail, go on vacation and worry about it later. I delayed again. I gave myself three more months, but I did at least schedule the exam this time.
Curveballs and Doubts Life wielded another change. The opportunity to move to a new team presented itself. Learning a new job while studying for the CISSP is very challenging. I pushed my exam date off three more months. By this time, my husband was over all of my procrastination shenanigans. He suggested I take the exam as a part of my preparation and take away the mystery. I could then fine tune my study plan and take it again. A week out from the exam I felt deep in my bones that I could be more prepared. I just wanted one more entire weekend for several full practice exams. I postponed the exam exactly one more week to November 2, 2019, promising myself that no matter what I would sit for the exam.
The Exam The morning of the exam, my husband continued to show his support by driving me to the testing center. I advised that this could either go really quickly with the new adaptive format of the exam; or this could take a while if the exam continues to give me questions. I went two hours and fifty minutes. I took my time and thought through each question. There were some that I read three times before answering. I completed the exam and went to retrieve the results, thinking okay, that wasn’t that bad. I can do this. The results were handed to me folded and I could only see my name. The suspense was nerve wracking. I unfolded the piece of paper and saw, “Congratulations,” and was overjoyed.
Study Routine I didn’t feel like I was making progress with just reading. I did not read any one study guide in its entirety. I addressed domains that I had the least work experience in first.
I watched videos on the Study Notes and Theory member site and on YouTube as needed. I used study apps on my phone to review flashcards by domain. Study Notes and Theory also has good flashcards. When I got serious about the exam, I studied by using practice questions, paying just as much attention to why answers were wrong as why they were right. If I didn’t understand, I used the Shon Harris All-in-One study guide and/or her mp3’s for reinforcement. I didn’t repeat any questions. I just went to another resource for more practice questions. I did not want to get used to seeing the same questions. I needed to understand how to answer the questions. In my opinion, the Shon Harris 5 th edition Practice Exams book was one of my highest rated resources.
Fortunately, I am a Resiliency Advisor in my daily job. I never fix the issue. I advise. So, it was not difficult to think like a security risk management adviser. I also participated in Sari Greene’s live O’Reilly CISSP preparation where she taught various ways to interpret exam questions.
I usually tried to study every day an hour or two before work. I am not a night owl and would rather get a good night of sleep and wake up early to achieve my goals. In addition, I studied six to eight hours on Saturday and Sunday for about four months.
Final Thoughts For me it was necessary to book the exam. The self-imposed deadline made my preparation more relevant and urgent. The sacrifice will be worth it.
Online Resources Study Notes and Theory member site: https://www.studynotesandtheory.com/signup/
CCCure Quiz Engine: https://cccure.education/home
SSI CISSP Exam Practice: https://www.cisspexampractice.com/Public/CISSPPracticeTests.aspx
McGraw-Hill Education CISSP Practice Exams: https://www.mhprofessionalresources.com//sites/CISSPExams/exam.php?id=AccessControl
Learnzapp Official CISSP Study app
Learnzapp Official CISSP Tests app
Written Resources CISSP Study Guide 3 rd edition by Eric Conrad
(ISC)2 CISSP Certified Information Systems Security Professional Official
Study Guide, 8 th edition
CISSP Official (ISC)2 Practice Tests, 2 nd Edition, by Mike Chapple et al
CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, 7 th Edition by Shon Harris
CISSP Practice Exams, 5 th Edition by Shon Harris