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How Olivier Cracked His CISSP Exam

What a relief and what a great feeling of achievement after this 1st August when passing my CISSP. I take some time for a little feedback on my CISSP journey.

First of all, I would like to thanks Luke for this amazing Facebook group (and the website behind ;-)) and everyone here who help me to reach my goal with questions, thoughts, discussions. Special thanks must go to Pierre for his support during this adventure. It’s your turn now !

Background Over 15 years in IT : 5 years in Software Development and the rest (my current activity) is everything about Systems, Networks, Data and Security. My position is officially Systems/Network Architect (yes nothing about Security in my title… Hope it will change now !)

I started my journey the last week of March 2017 with a classroom training of 5 days in Paris where I met Pierre. After these 5 days in Paris (where I don’t live), I realize the amount of work that awaited me for succeeding in CISSP. Honestly, I must admit I have underestimated this before the training.

The first goal was to take the exam at the end of May/beginning of June. That may appear a bit pretentious in hindsight. Anyway, the Sybex CISSP Official Study Guide 7th ed. was included in the classroom training pack and recognized to be maybe the best book to start with. I have read it cover to cover, practice each review question at the end of chapters as well online several times. I’ve worked on this every day for several weeks during lunch time at work and evening at home (about 4 hours a day and more during weekends). I have 2 kids, it was not easy for them and I sometimes…

I’ve taken all the possible practice exam of 250 questions (One 250 questions practice exam was generally finished in about 4 or 4,5 hours on the Sybex Test Banks (access included with OSG 7th ed.)) and finished all possible tests in the CISSP Official (ISC)2 Practice Tests (paper or android app). Scores were varying between 70% and 90%. I didn’t want to multiple sources and focus only on official material even if I used the Sunflowers document. No use of videos or MP3s during my study plan… I know I must be an exception…

Exam was scheduling for the June 1st at 10:30 in french. I’m living at about more than 100 km of the Pearson Vue exam center. I felt in horrible traffic jams and arrived 10 minutes before deadline and haven’t slept a lot, overstressed. The exam began and I was totally surprised by the difficulty of questions compared to all that I could see before in Sybex material… My time management was very bad : spent too much on first questions to manage to find the right answers and finished the first pass after 5 hours. I felt the exam escaped me… So no break, but hypoglycemia was here and my head was turning… Finished totally exhausted after 359 minutes countdown. Result : failed with a 686 score… Some said FAIL meant to be a First Attempt In Learning. Yes indeed, but the result was there and it was a failure.

Very disappointed and wanted to stop the adventure here for about 10 days.

Time to digest.

I re-motivated myself with remembering why I would like to become a CISSP and with the help of Pierre. I restarted studying in the mid of June. Same plan : studying every day during lunch time at work and in the evening at home. I started to read the Shon Harris book but found it too technical for the exam, so decided to stop the reading. I didn’t want to read Sybex again…

I joined 2 Telegram group (InfoSec Professionnals, thanks must go to Sinan Aydogdu and Vineet Srivastava and the second : CISSP 2017, thanks here must go to Madunix, Zanshin and Shourovk). These Telegram groups were helpful in my second part of journey to CISSP for practice questions.

I used every test engine I could find a bit relevant and focus on practice questions : Sybex test banks, McGraw-Hill, SkillSet, Quizlet, … I’ve stopped counting questions but it must be a lot…

Anyway nothing is similar to real exam.

Beside this aspect, I focused myself on the ability to take a white paper and write down the main concepts I found important for exam and their different phases. By heart. Nearly every day.

This gave me self confidence and as days advanced I felt ready to schedule for the second attempt.

I also read the 11th hour during last week before exam just to refresh…

D-Day : August 1st, 11:30 this time and in English. Why ? Because I’ve lost plenty of time using the translate button during the first attempt and anyway, all my learning, studying and practicing was in English. So it appeared to me as an evidence to take the exam in English. The French was just something to reassure me the first time but it has a very negative effect on my time management and finally didn’t help in understanding because of poor translation in my humble opinion.

August 1st : summer holidays, scheduling for 11:30 : no traffic jam. Arrived at the Pearson Vue exam center as cool as a cucumber at 10:45, no problem for parking the car. Eat my sandwich quietly to avoid hypoglycemia, enjoy chocolate and drink the famous soda (yes the one that illustrated the concept of trade secret) and far better for this kind of fight than water… Relax.

Exam time NDA OK, let’s go. I finished the first pass on the 250 questions after 3 hours. As the time management was pretty good, I permit myself a 5 minutes break to drink again…

3 hours left to review the flagged questions (about 80). I ended this review and the countdown showed me that 10 minutes left…

I decided then to validate my exam. The woman asked me my ID Card because it wasn’t the same that the one who made my checking at the beginning… No time to take breath, she tendered me the “graal” where I could see the Congratulations word…

This moment was a really feeling of relief… I kissed her (yes really !) and go back to the car and go back home with this incredible feeling of absolute achievement.

Final Thoughts This exam is definitely not a technical exam. My studying and the exam permit myself to leave my custodian suit to wear a manager suit.

You must be ready physically and psychologically for this 6 hours marathon. Eat well, drink well. If you can sleep well before the exam day but it wasn’t my case…

Don’t panic if you don’t understand a question, flag ! Next !

RTFQT : Read The Fu*k*ng Question Twice (Pay attention to the words most, best, least)

Time management is also in my mind a key to success.

All the answers to exam questions are not in the books. Whatever you read. Another key to me is self confidence.

Trust in you ! You can do it !

Wow, finally the story of my journey is a bit long, sorry and thanks if you read me till the end


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