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How Ofer Cracked His CISSP Exam

Hi all, so I am going to publish here my CISSP experience and conclusions in a few posts to cover the following aspects:

1. How to do it right with a CISSP course (or don’t do it the way I did)

2. How I learned for the exam

3. Tips for how to do in the exam itself (without giving any real questions of course), mainly my time management experience

4. Tips if you, like me, have a minor ADHD and difficulties with memorizing (especially names and connecting them with the subjects they represent)

My background: I am coming from development: I have been a software developer, team leader and development architect for many years. I changed direction and became a security architect about 7 years ago.

In terms of the CISSP domains work experience:

I mainly have work experience with risk management and threat modeling (part of domain 1), testing and penetration testing (domain 6), experience with identity and access management (domain 5) – hands on experience with SAML 2.0, Oath 2.0, IDM, RBAC, MAC and more, lots of experience covering domain 8 of course and a few things from operations (domain 7) like IDS, SIEM, etc. In terms of networking (domain 4) I have experience only on a local scale (setting up my penetration testing lab, etc).

So get prepared for my coming posts

Part 1: How to do it right with a CISSP course (or don’t do it the way I did)

* The introduction to the following posts was published in an earlier post.

In February I took a CISSP course (an official (ISC)2 course). The course was good but I did 2 major mistakes and actually I completely missed this course opportunity. This was a great waste of time (and money) on my behalf.

Following my experience, here are my conclusions how to do it wiser if you decide to take a course.

The first day of the course was also the first time I opened the CISSP book – BIG MISTAKE!

My second mistake was that I didn’t have time to continue and learn after the course and I actually didn’t look at the CISSP material at all for 3 months after the course (pressure at work and had to fly abroad for a long period of time).

Part 2: How I learned for the exam

How to do it right: learn before the course as much as you can, arrive at the course with knowledge and questions, and set your exam date to be right after the course. The course should only close gaps in your knowledge, it is not meant to teach you the whole CISSP. During the 60 hours of the course you only manage to pass quickly through the important stuff.

At the beginning of June I realized that I have 2 months that I can learn. During August I am planned to be abroad. Also within these 2 months I had to fly for 10 days. Usually when I work abroad everything is more stressed and not much spare time. So I scheduled my exam for August 1st and I had to begin learning all from scratch (because I already forgot what I learned in the course).

Part 3: Tips for how to do in the exam itself (without giving any real questions of course), mainly my time management experience

In the sample exam that I did at home I learned that I must read the question carefully and *all* the answers. I had mistakes that were caused by not reading everything. In the sample exam I saw that when I have got a question that it was very clear to me what the answer was, I was looking for the right words in the answers without actually reading the full answers (this is also due to my ADHD). This is bad, because you can have a wrong answer that has all the right words, and a right answer that is written using different words than those used in the book but the overall is the right manning.

I decided to go thoroughly on the questions on the first round, because in any way I will not have time for a second full round, so there is no point to leave time for a second round (except going through the marked questions).

So I started the test with going very carefully with each question, even with the easy questions, reading all the answers two times. Then halftime into the exam I realized that I am too slow! So I stepped on it, and changed the strategy to go carefully only with the tough questions, and move quickly with the easy questions (but still reading all the answers).

I finished all the 250 questions after 5.5 hours having 2 short breaks. I had about 20 questions that I marked for reevaluate, so I went through them and I believe I changed my answers in about half of them. I ended that exam 10 minutes before the time end! So I think I did great in terms of time management.

Another tip I used: When I have 2 answers that I am not sure which one of the 2 is better, I tried reverse engineering: tried to see which answer in a way of saying it to myself in a different way, brings me back to the question. Try it and see if it works for you.

One more thing I was surprised to see in the exam, and actually I liked it, is that there are many questions that check your understanding and not only your memory. So if in the book they mention A and B, in the exam you might find a question that asks you how A and B will cause to C which is something that was never discussed in the book, but if you know A and B well, you can think of the answer.

Part 4: Tips if you, like me, have a minor ADHD and difficulties with memorizing (especially names and connecting them with the subjects they represent)

First, as I mentioned in a previous post, I actually never read any of the books back to back. In order to cover the material in a way that I can cope with, I read it using the flash cards and tests. Each flash card took me to another subject to read. Each test revealed subjects that I need to read.

It is easier for me to remember things in pictures. It is hard for me to connect names to their subjects. For instance, I know Smurf and Fraggle and all the rest, but it is hard for me to connect the right name with the right attack. So let’s look at Smurf for instance, to remember that it is an ICMP exploit, I visualized for myself a picture of a Smurf in ice. (Maybe something like this:…/Smur…/revision/latest…).

I do get blackouts from time to time, especially when I am tired and have to read a long and complex question. This is tough, and the only way to overcome this is to use all your strengths to concentrate.

It was very difficult for me to stay focus throughout all of the exam and it required a lot of energy from me. I did feel dizzy from time to time and had to gather strengths and continue. At the end I was really exhausted.

Bring energy sandwich with you, you will need it! (I had a peanut-butter sandwich).


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