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How Monal Cracked Her CISSP Exam!

I am pleased to share that I cleared CISSP on 27th May 2019 in the first attempt. May seems to be a lucky month for me as a year back I cleared my CCIE Security in May itself :).

From that day onwards, I have been receiving multiple messages from friends and colleagues who are interested in taking this exam. Thus, I wanted to share my experience on this journey, hope it could be useful for people preparing for this exam.


One thing that this exam will teach you is always to question WHY?

So start with, why do I want to take this exam? Do your research regarding this certification, your due diligence in finding this “Why” as this would be your continuous motivation throughout this journey to keep you going.


Once you have decided to take the exam and are in the CISSP mindset, “BOOK AN EXAM DATE.” Yes, this is important as this will keep you on track and remind you of the deadline every time you procrastinate. I planned four months of preparation and booked a date, assess your professional and personal commitments and book an appointment accordingly. At any time, if you feel your preparation is not up to the mark, or you need more time for preparation, ISC2 gives you the flexibility to reschedule the exam date 24 hrs prior.


There is a lot of study material for CISSP. Pick up ONE primary study guide Sybex/ Shon Harris AIO/ ISC2 CBK (All guides are great, you can choose one according to your reading preference) and keep others as supplemental guides. This guide will be your Bible for the coming days.

I read the Sybex 8th edition cover to cover thrice. Although quite lengthy, however, it provided just the right amount of detail in all areas needed for the exam.

In the first reading, I got an overview of the topics and honestly could grasp only a few concepts. Thus, I changed my approach a little for future readings.

Before the second reading, I watched videos from Kelly Handerhan and Sari Greene followed by practice questions (400-500 questions) of that particular domain. This gave me confidence regarding a particular domain and similarly I finished all my eight domains.

I have a habit of highlighting and putting the keynotes in the book itself. The third reading was ten days before the exam to review all the essential points which I highlighted and the short notes which I wrote in the book itself.

In the last week of my exam I wanted to put up all the content which I have gone so far and put it together, Eric Conrad 3rd edition is an exceptional BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) guide which did wonders for me. I spent four days reading Eric Conrad to summarise all domains.


Practice questions are the only way to honestly know which domains/topics you need to improve on. I practiced close to 6000+ questions and read an explanation even if I choose the right answer because once you learn the explanation, then your concept becomes concrete. The practice helped me to understand and retain the concepts, and I would strongly recommend doing at least 5000 before you take your test.

There are no right or wrong answers, instead, ISC2 wants you to understand how to focus on permanently fixing a situation rather than implementing a temporary quick fix. Always remind yourself that this is a management test and therefore you must think long term.


Teach yourself discipline and cultivate it. Be patient with yourself as this is a learning process and try to enjoy the journey as this is the thing you will embrace for life after holding the certification.

Plan a schedule for each day and Hold yourself accountable to your study plan. You have to put in the time and use multiple resources to refine your CISSP foundation day after day.

Although I planned 4 months of preparation time but could give honest three months to it. I used to study for 3-4 hours every day after the office in the first month; then as I progressed, I gave 4-5 hours every day from the second month and last week before the exam I used to study for 8 hours a day.


While I started this journey, I read hundreds of opinions about HOW to become a CISSP. There were a lot of views. However, the common denominator is "SACRIFICE". As soon as you are ready to make CISSP your only goal, you will succeed.

You have to put everything aside and invest in quality time and hard work.


"Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have provisionally passed the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) examination."

Please find the link for the resources I used:

1.> Sybex 8th Edition

2.> Eric Conrad 3rd Edition


1.> Cybrary Kelly Handerhan

2.> Saree Greene

3.> CISSP Video Course by Shon Harris

Practice Test Engines:

1.> CCCure

2.> Kaplan

3.> Wiley

To connect with like-minded people working towards CISSP, I also joined this amazing group been admin by Luke and madunix.

Thank you for reading and wish you All the Best for Your Journey :) !!

-Monal Mahajan


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