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How To Prepare For The CCSP Exam

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By: Jenn Barnabee

September 3, 2021

There is far more to earning a CCSP certification than reading through the official study guide. Here is what candidates need to know before they commit.

Summary: Becoming a Certified Cloud Security Professional demonstrates the advanced technical skills and knowledge required to design, secure, and manage data systems and apps in modern cloud-based environments. However, before taking the exam, candidates must ensure they thoroughly understand the fundamental prerequisites.

With almost all enterprises now heavily reliant on cloud computing, cloud information security has become a top priority for business leaders and decision-makers. Building a secure cloud environment requires a high level of expertise in various key areas, such as data encryption, multifactor authentication, and account-based security.

Certified Cloud Security Professionals (CCSPs) are highly sought-after at a time when the skills gap continues to widen around the world. Maintained by the nonprofit organization (ISC)2, the CCSP accreditation is one of the most widely recognized in the industry, and passing the exam can easily lead to a six-figure salary and an abundance of job opportunities.

As is the case with any industry-leading qualification, preparing for the exam requires a lot of hard work, not to mention at least five years of experience in the information security space. Moreover, the exam costs $599 for standard registration, and candidates must pay to take another exam should they fail, up to a maximum of three attempts per year.

Here is what candidates need to do to prepare for the CCSP exam:

#1. Determine long-term career goals

Given the significant amount of time and effort required to earn any of the (ISC)2 certifications, candidates may find themselves struggling to choose which one to go for.

While the broader CISSP accreditation caters more towards strategy and leadership job roles, CCSP focuses more on the technical side of cybersecurity. To that end, candidates interested in roles like enterprise architect, security consultant, or security engineer, will usually find that the CCSP accreditation is the most suitable option.

It is, of course, possible to earn both certifications. That being said, those wanting to earn both should ideally start with CCSP before moving onto CISSP. Attempting both concurrently can be extremely time-consuming and all but impossible for those already in full-time employment.

#2. Ensure all prerequisites have been met

To earn the certification after passing the exam, candidates must have a minimum of five years of cumulative paid work experience in the information technology field. At least three of these years must be directly tied to information security, while at least one must be tied to one of the six domains covered by the exam framework. Candidates will need to provide demonstrable evidence of their work experience before they can earn their certifications.

However, candidates may still enter the exam even if they do not have the needed experience. Should the candidate pass, they will become an Associate of (ISC)2, which will give them six years to earn the required five years of experience.

#3. Purchase the official study materials

(ISC)2 publishes a range of study materials, including the “Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CCSP CBK” and the “Official CCSP Study Guide.” These are regularly updated to reflect major changes to the certification framework. These resources are meant to serve as references but should not be taken as all-in-one learning resources. Other official resources include the official CCSP study app, flashcards, and practice tests. Finally, joining the official online study group gives candidates access to a community of other people preparing for the exam.

#4. Become familiar with the CCSP domains

The CCSP framework covers six domains that reflect the most pertinent security challenges today’s enterprises face. Earning certification requires at least one year of experience in one or more of these domains. They are as follows:

  • Cloud concepts, architecture, and design
  • Cloud data security
  • Cloud platform and infrastructure security
  • Cloud application security
  • Cloud security operations
  • Legal, risk, and compliance

Each of the above domains has an exam weight of between 13% and 19%, so it is necessary to study all of them in considerable depth.

#5. Enroll in a hands-on training program

While conventional study materials, such as the official resources, are valuable references, there is no substitute for hands-on training. A full online CCSP course lets candidates train in their own time through various mediums, including instructional videos and hands-on tests and simulations. This approach allows candidates to learn by doing rather than just trying to absorb hundreds of information pages. Furthermore, they place candidates in scenarios that emulate real-world use cases of the sort they are likely to encounter in their day-to-day jobs as CCSPs. Taking such a course during the weeks leading up to the exam offers a proven way to increase the chances of passing greatly.

#6. Understand the exam structure

The exam itself lasts four hours and can be taken either in-person or remotely with proctoring. Candidates will first need to register and pay for the exam, which costs $599. They will then have access to various additional resources to help them prepare, but they must schedule the exam date within 120 days of making the payment. The exam comprises 125 multiple-choice questions in the English-language version, and candidates must acquire a minimum of 700 points out of a possible 1,000 to pass.

Given the costs of taking an exam and the limitations to the number of possible attempts per year, it is strongly recommended that candidates first perform several test exams beforehand. While the questions will be different from the real thing, these preliminary tests will help candidates become accustomed to the exam structure and scope.

Cybrary for Teams is an all-one-one workforce development platform that helps organizations develop stronger cybersecurity skills, prepare for new certifications, and track team progress. Enroll your team in our CCSP course today!

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