How Shane Cracked His CISSP Exam


I’ve read many of these valuable articles while I was studying, they gave me great motivation to keep pushing so I want to try and make this as detailed as possible, because once it comes to the exam that’s what it’s all about – The Detail. Pay attention to every single word of the question and answer set, one word could change the scope of the entire question. Read it slowly, absorb every single bit of detail, read it again, give the question the answer that it wants and not what the mind instantly implies.


Here’s what I wrote on my exam sheet on the day to keep me right.

RTFQ / RTFA (Read the F***ing Question) / (Read the F***ing Answer)


  1. Fix the process, not the problem

  2. You are an advisor, not an engineer

  3. Stay out of the weeds, think high level, think like a manager

  4. Stick to the scope


Excuse my language, but this is important - shits about to get real.... It’s show time!!


I started my journey to CISSP certification when I had just over 3 years’ experience within the Information Security field. I’ve always heard this is the toughest exam in the industry, so I gave myself plenty of time to study and by the time I reached the minimum required experience of 5 years to take the exam, I would be ready!


So, over the course of the next 2.5 years I faced some of the most challenging life lessons. I have taken away a lot more from this journey than just a few letters after my name. I have come away with a better outlook on life in general, mainly because of the much time, effort and sheer determination that it takes to become certified. The early mornings, the late nights, the weekends, missing time with family and friends. You name it, there’s just about every sacrifice you have to make if you want to dedicate yourself to this…This is what I mean about valuable life lessons, I didn’t know I had it in me to dedicate myself to something so challenging, so time consuming, so stressful….Please stay with me, don’t let this put you off – the rewards are worth it!


First off, I’m going to move onto a list of resources I used and will then dive a little deeper into my top study strategies:


Books

  1. How to think like a manager

  2. All In One 8 th Edition (Read Once)

  3. Sybex 8 th Edition (Read Twice)

  4. The Effective CISSP

  5. 11 th Hour

  6. Sunflower PDF


Videos

  1. Luke Ahmed, Study Notes and Theory

  2. Kelly Handerhan, Cybrary

  3. Thor Pederson, Udemy

  4. Mike Chappel, Linked In Learning

  5. Sari Greene Crash Course, O’Reilly Learning

  6. Destination Certification, Youtube

  7. Prabh Nair, Youtube


Practice Questions

  1. Study Notes & Theory – 750

  2. Kelly Handerhan – 250

  3. McGraw Hill – 400

  4. Shon Harris 5 th Edition – 400

  5. Boson – 750

  6. Sybex 8 th Edition – 420

  7. Sybex Official Practice Questions – 1300

  8. Thor Pederson – 570

  9. IT Dojo – 280

  10. AIO Total Tester – 350

  11. AIO 8 th Edition – 414

  12. Exam Cram 4 th Edition – 1038

  13. Random QOTD – 250

Total = 7,172


As you can see, this is quite the list and some extremely valuable resources was covered here but let me dive into some of my key takeaways. Actually, if you are going to take anything away from this read it should be this…


After I failed the exam for the first time I knew I was missing something. I wasn’t taking away some of the key details about certain topics and those key details were having a good understanding of the concepts. You hear this all the time in various forums, you got to understand the concepts, you got to understand the concepts!!!


So after a few days of failing on my first attempt and picking myself back up again, I thought to myself – what does it actually mean to understand the concepts and how can I retain all of this information, there’s just too much.. Everyone says that this exam is a mile wide and an inch deep. I disagree, it’s 10 miles wide and 2 inches deep, there is just so much information to learn and the retention period in my brain just isn’t cutting it…. so what are you going to do about it?


I know, I’m going to forget about the practice questions for a while, I’ve already completed thousands of them and when I get a poor score it makes me feel disheartened. I’ve already captured books upon books of notes on why the answers were wrong, so I think I’ve done my groundwork here. So instead I’m going to dedicate the next few weeks reading through the All In One 8 th Edition and record voice notes of myself explaining the key concepts for each topic as I’m reading through it.


By adopting this approach I am mitigating the risk of retention as I can listen back through all the clips a few days before the exam. Please ensure you are taking due care with these valuable voice notes and you have the appropriate backups in place. You won’t want to loose these, they are like gold dust. Trust me on this one, this helped me greatly days before my 2 nd exam. I could clearly recall the effort that I put in to record myself speaking about certain topics this way. I’ve heard it from many of the CISSP instructors, the best way to learn it is to teach it. That’s really what you are doing here, you are teaching it – only difference is the audience is just you!


Please also bear in mind, taking this approach to your studies is tough and requires a lot of energy. This is something that I was completely lacking on the lead up to the 1 st exam as I was so drained from the whole experience. Again, upon review this was something I identified as an issue that required mitigation. OK so how do I get more energy? How’s about I start introducing exercise and healthy eating back into my daily routine again, this is something I had let slide bigtime because my spare time was so limited. I just wanted to use every spare second I had to study, I’ve no time to cook a proper healthy and balanced meal, are you crazy? I need to study……How wrong was I?


If you’re not studying in the right frame of mind you may forget about it, you will not absorb the information properly. You tend to rush to get through it faster which is always a bad idea. My advice, exercise right before you study then you will have lots of energy to focus and get through the next few hours.


Some final notes, hopefully you are still with me! If there is anyone supporting you while you are on your journey to certification, a wife, husband, son, daughter, maybe a friend – Show them some gratitude. Sometimes your stress and worries about this exam can rub off on them and they only want to see you succeed, so please - show them you are grateful for coming on this journey with you. They deserve it because they are also making sacrifices.


Another thing, you see all those doubts you have in your head every single day while you are studying for the exam. Get rid of them, as soon as you notice them coming into your head – Acknowledge that they are there and discard them immediately because you most certainly can do this. The fact that you have made the decision to go on this tough journey says that you are a dedicated individual who only wants to create a better life for you and your family. You are on a mission to prove to yourself that you can become a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. With true grit, courage and making those sacrifices each and every day, you will become a CISSP.


Good luck with the rest of your studies and I wish you all the success in the future!

Shane

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