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How to Pass the CISSP Exam on the First Attempt

Mayur Pahwa CISSP SSCP's profile image

By: Mayur Pahwa CISSP SSCP

July 16, 2017

You may read multiple posts on the various blogs and websites where you are given tips as to how to pass the exam on the first go and where the authors refer books and answer questions. In this blog post, I’m not going to bombard you with those details. Instead, I’m going to share my journey and experience from preparing till passing the CISSP exam on the first attempt.
What is CISSP?
CISSP stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional. Congratulations and, all the very best to you, if you have decided to opt for the Gold Standard Certification. The exam is offered by ISC2 and contains around 250 questions. You have to book an appointment for the CISSP exam through the ISC2 website where you then redirected to a Pearson Vue website when you register for the exam. At the time of this writing, the exam costs around 599USD.
Phase 1: Deciding
It is very important for you to finalize which certification you want to do. Try to research the pros and cons of a certification. Do not just start preparing for a particular certification only because the entire world told you to do so. Instead look at your work profile, your strengths, weaknesses and most importantly your interest in the field.
I had cleared the SSCP exam offered by ISC2 in 2014 and hence CISSP was a natural progression for me. I have been working in the field of information security for the past 5 years with an experience in most of the domains of CISSP.
Once you have decided to go for the CISSP exam, it is very important to be focused in your study.
Phase 2: Preparation
There are multiple books available for preparing the exam. Irrespective of the book you choose to study, keep 1 book as your primary source of studying. The most important point to focus during preparation is to make your concepts clear. Do not just learn the various definitions without understanding the basics of the concept.
Remember you will not be tested on your cramming abilities in this exam. The exam is structured in such a way that only your basics and clear concepts will come to your rescue for a confusing question.
I prepared from Shon Harris, AIO Guide, 6th edition. Some of you may say that this is an old edition and the domains have changed from 10 to 8. However, I can assure you that even the sixth edition will cover 90% of the course. The remaining 10% was covered by referring the ISC2 Sybex CISSP guide.
I had also read the CISSP CBK, 4th edition.
The preparation part of the exam should not be given more than 2 weeks of time. However, if you are not confident, take more time.
Phase 3: Revision & Practice Tests
Revision, Revision and only revision is the key to pass this exam. If you have allotted 8-9 weeks of study for the CISSP exam like I did, you must spend 6-7 weeks only doing the revision. There is a way to revise for this exam.
You will not gain anything if you just read every chapter every day and feel confident that you have prepared for the exam. Instead, follow this way: Read and understand a chapter. Learn some points if you have to. Now solve the practice questions given at the end of the chapter of any book you are referring to. This will help you gauge your current level of understanding of the concepts.
Now after completing the test, study the chapter again. Now try to do as many questions for this chapter. The number of questions you do, the more your concepts become clear and you feel more confident.
I referred a lot many sources to get many practice questions. ISC2 official app and ISC2 official questions – Sybex; Practice exams by Shon Harris; Safari Books online; websites offering free practice questions.
I did not refer to CCCure or Skillset as advised by many.
In my opinion, there is a lot of material available free of cost on the Internet which you can refer to and easily pass the exam. I had also referred to the videos offered by Cybrary.
Phase 4: Polish yourself
You feel confident after solving the questions and reading the concepts; wait; don’t feel overconfident now. It is perfectly natural for us to solve the questions after we read a particular concept.
It is important to understand that a question in the CISSP exam is made of multiple concepts from different domains. Hence doing mock 250 question exam tests will help you to prepare accordingly.
Revise the concepts which you still feel are weak at this phase.
Phase 5: One day before the exam
Relax and enjoy this day. You have worked hard. I watched a movie on this day. It is important that you relax your mind. Do not take any stress of any kind for this exam.
Now it’s time for you to give the exam. All the very best and God bless.
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