How Rajan Cracked His CISSP Exam
On a random lockdown day back in May’20, I was onto casual studies and then while thinking of doing something BIG, I decided CISSP!
LESSON 1: Start is all it takes.
On 19th May’20, I started with AIO - Shon Harris. Back then, I really used to be tightened up on my office schedule 1:30pm-11pm, super pack! So I used to study from 11:30pm - 5am.
LESSON 2: Crest and trough are part of life
It was very clear to me to have hand written notes throughout the reading, which I pursued quite well until 5th July’20, when I was enforced another office mandatory Azure Security training so I had to devote hours to that 8 hours to that and do labs and then I was required to appear for AZ-500 exam, which took a month and on 29th July I passed the exam.
Then right after next day, CISSP was back on schedule. But it literally very very badly affected the rhythm I had and I struggled a lot to get it back. But sooner or later, I started devoting more time on weekends (approx. 14-15 hours) and I finally was there.
LESSON 3: BOOK IT! I targeted that once I am halfway 7th domain, I will book exam, which I did 2nd Sept’20 and I booked it for 14th Oct’20.
(Oh! Wait...during all this tenure, I literally never even went out of my home, I mean I was out of home just twice in 5 months. I will tell you later why, but please you don’t have to do that, go out, have some relaxed time and come back strong is better idea)
After booking the exam, it really fueled me to have put more concentration and think better, basically more dedication than what it was. It really puts effect on your regime/thinking/mindset. Now you are into it, and no escape, not even from your own instincts.
LESSON 4: Experience can’t be beaten
In September, I also joined instructor led 16 day weekday training where I used to invest 2 hours daily somehow, and I was better understanding the content, it was like more of a revision and realization that AIO does have details but it does not cover/contain everything. Which is what triggered me taking advise on do I read Sybex-8thEd too? Everyone suggested, yes. And thaaaat moment, I had to postpone my exam for 15 days more.
Quick recap - Till 2nd Sept’20, I was done with AIO-Shon Harris, it’s questions and instructor led training.
My next target was to revise AIO (a day or 2 per domain) and start reading Sybex-8thEd from 15th Sept & end till 30th Sept’20.
I used to see training videos 2 hours daily and carry on reading Sybex-8thEd during night. It brought probably the most confident phase of the journey.
LESSON 5: Practice makes man perfect! On 2nd Oct I was done with my Sybex-8thEd reading, I didn't make notes from it, not even for new topics, just read it and started questions. Sybex-2ndEd, Shon Harris and then finally entered to THE Luke Ahmed’s open kingdom, SNT and the Wizards’ Palace, Budding CISSP telegram group.
I was doing well on Sybex-2thEd questions 72-77% scores, domain wise. But pushing further to that was tough. Not because of questions were difficult, but remembering every small detail while appearing to it - was! But I kept going in a hope of finishing 3 hours exam in less than 2.5hrs (one question per minute), time management is important. Practice it from the beginning, and keep it in mind, while doing every single question. Create the quite environment and appear for practice question papers as if you are going to appear in real one. It will help you get grip on language as well.
LESSON 6: FALL and BREAK.
Journeys are always about ups and downs. After being on peak when I was going through the 3rd revision of my instructor’s online sessions, after I finished it & started questions, I totally was focussed on questions, and reasons about why right is right and wrong is wrong. I practiced almost 3k-4k questions and was scoring well. But I feel I lost the balance between routine reading, and suddenly there was too much inaccuracy in judging the questions and in-turn logic behind. I talked to 2nd Mentor (aka Anna) and also mailed Luke, told them what I am going through and they told me to take a break and I literally kept away from books for that 24 hours. After that, I caught the rhythm and everything seemed falling back in place.
Moral: Do not lose balance between reading and practicing the concepts. Both are necessary.
LESSON 7: THE COUNTDOWN
(At this time, exam date is 29th Oct’20, and again postponed it to 3rd Nov)
After postponing exam for 15 days (as mentioned before), I was still short 5 days for what I had planned (as below) -
Starting from 15th Oct -
AIO (primary guide through out, hence chosen that to recall concepts well. I had put my heart into it, so I knew it it right thing I am doing. (9 days, by 24th Oct’20)
Every single day, Luke’s one set of questions (between 9pm to 10pm).
After AIO, finish 11th hour and also start Boson in same time slot as of exam (11:30am - 2:30pm), finish till 29th Oct’20.
Weak areas and it’s related videos from Luke and self made notes and make rough mind map (by 30th Oct’20).
Sunflower in last 2 days and self notes (by 1st Oct’20)
Good sleep a night before, this is THE MOST CRUCIAL AND VITAL STEP OF LAST PREPARATION! (Even Luke has mentioned multiple times).
On 27th I decided to pre-pone the exam a day and got myself in the mindset. I just felt prepared.
LESSON 8: NIGHT - THE DAY BEFORE
Obviously I was nervous of “what if” part. But I didn't stress out myself too much and followed the plan and slept on time. I just did one good thing probably was, to just turn the leaflets of my hand written notes and I was simultaneously able to recollect and recall the knowledge and short stories/pictures sometimes you make to remember things. It was good!
LESSON 9: CULMINATION OF AUSTERITY
Woke up a bit early by myself, so just had a walk and good part is, I woke up with very much positivity and confidence. I told myself that if the efforts I put are worth CISSP, I will get it no matter what!
Called parents post shower, had blessings and kept sunflower notes in hand. Also I had made a list in one-note named “last moment topics” which was formed over the time during journey, and opened that during commute to PearsonVue Centre and revised it with Sunflower.
Reached and started exam after proctor session.
To be honest I was not sure what I am marking, but I was making sure that I read the question, read options, re-read question and then options and marked answer.
Strategy: 1-40 questions in 60 mins or 50 questions in 70 mins.
A good soul said to me, that if you do well in 1st 30-40 questions well, chances are more that you will pass it. After 50 questions, roughly I had 1 min per question.
I finished my exam on 104th question, with 45 mins spare.
LESSON 10: AT HALT - EVERYTHING!
The moment I sat up and went off the PC, I was numb, couldn’t feel anything. With every heavy step, I was able to recall all of it I put in, in a hope to desire which this moment “could” have. I was unaware of the result yet, and nothing seemed moving. A paper I was given which had me amid a congratulation and sorry.
I stepped out of the area, saw it and saw it again. “Congratulations!....”
I couldn’t speak, couldn’t keep hold of my sentiments, and just pulled out the phone called my father to told him that I made it through. And for the first time I confessed, that this was important for me.
Why? (Remember I said I’ll tell you something later?)
Today, I’m no more an average student (learner). I fought hard throughout the life with this tag, and today probably, I just keep it along with something extra, which makes me stand out of crowd and probably I’ll do something great with that...someday, but not in average style!
Your family is important. Celebrate and acknowledge the efforts they put in to your journey.
Always & forever!
PS: I was selected for random audit, and my profile was audited in very less time after I sent requested documents. Just AMF away from credentials.