Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What to expect in SSCP exam?

It’s the D-Day and you are ready for the exam. Days of hard work will now be put to test. You have prepared hard and are ready to take the exam. So what to expect in SSCP exam? Read on to find out.

Quick Pointers:

  • Check you have kept 2 identification cards.
  • The ID cards must have a signature on them. One of them must be an address proof.
  • You have the booking confirmation from Pearson Vue.
  • Reach the center 30-40 minutes in advance.
  • Attempt all questions. The wrong answers don’t count against you.

Know Your Enemy

SSCP is a 3-hour long exam offered by (ISC)2. It has 125 questions which are based on 7 domains. 

Following are the domains along with their weight:

1. Access Controls (16%)
2. Security Operations and Administration (17%)
3. Risk Identification, Monitoring, and Analysis (12%)
4. Incident Response and Recovery (13%)
5. Cryptography (9%)
6. Network and Communications Security (16%)
7. Systems and Application Security (17%)

Many people are experts only in 1 or 2 domains. It is important to understand that (ISC)2 wants you to have an understanding of all these aspects in this exam. If you are feeling this is too much, you would like to read Quick Tips for the SSCP exam.

Although SSCP is not like the CISSP exam, yet it is a difficult exam. The exam material and blogs out there are very less in comparison to the extensive coverage done on CISSP. Having given the exam myself and passed in the first attempt, I will share with you the challenges and strategy for the exam.

3 Hour long exam – You have 125 questions to attempt. Mathematically speaking, you have precisely 1.44 minutes for each question. This gets reduced to 88 seconds per question if you decide to take a break of 10 minutes each, two times in the exam. You need to do time management accordingly.

Mock Tests – There is not even an iota of similarity to the level of questions which you attempt in mock tests in comparison to the real test. Do not just depend on those mock or sample test papers. They are only a good preparation tool.

Experience – I had just 1.5 years of experience before appearing for this exam. Even if you do have enough experience for this exam, not to worry. If your concepts are clear, you will be able to clear the exam.

Let the Games Begin

You are sitting in front of the screen, where you are being asked to sign the NDA. Remember, you need to sign the NDA within 5 minutes. 

Quick Pointers:
  • ISC2 has a huge bank of questions so the questions asked in your exam will be totally different from my exam.
  • As soon as you accept the NDA, your exam will begin.
  • There is a timer which shows 180 minutes. There is an option to flag the question. 
  • Questions will be from all the domains. Do not fall prey to mock tests which may focus only on some of the domains.
  • The questions will NOT be difficult. They will only be tricky. You need to choose the best option from the choices given. Even though you may find that all the options are correct or wrong, but the best one needs to be chosen.
  • Do NOT answer the questions basis the best practices in your organization. 
It’s a personal choice as to how you want to attempt this exam. I am sharing my exam strategy with you. The point I wish to make here is you should aim for attempting all the questions and flag and review it.

Answer & Flag – Glance through every question as soon as possible and if you know it, answer it. If you have a doubt, flag it. Try to answer all the questions or just glancing it in around 100 minutes. Time is very important.

Review Flagged – You have finished viewing all the questions. Now it’s time to review all the flagged ones. Take your time and read it again and again. Try to understand the question and more importantly the choices presented to you. 
I found this activity extremely helpful as it helped me answer a lot of questions.

Review ALL – I know you are tired. But it’s time for that final blow. If you have time, review all of them. If you have a doubt even at the last moment, not to worry. Read it again and try to understand what made you think about this alternate choice.

Checking, double checking and triple checking your answers will help you to squeeze every mark you can out of the exam, and it could be one question that makes all the difference between a pass and a fail!

If you are still preparing for this exam, read “How to pass the SSCP exam in First Attempt”.

Remember, it’s a difficult exam no matter whatever people say and hence staying focused and calm will be the key to slaying this beast and come out victorious.

Would love to hear your experiences in the comment(s) section below. Sharing is Caring :)

If you like this blog, please share and subscribe for more updates.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What to expect in CISSP exam?


It’s the D-Day and you are nervous… Your heart is beating fast or you are extremely calm. You are just having nice thoughts or extremely petrified as to what will happen in the exam. Everyone faces unique challenges in preparing for the exam. Now that you have done the preparation and revision and are ready to face the beast; read on to find out what ammunition you need to slay this beast… 

Know Your Enemy

Much is available on blogs and ISC2 website detailing what will be the CISSP exam all about. You will have 250 questions to be answered in 6 hours. Many argue that CISSP is not that tough as people portray it. It's only who has experienced this exam can share the real challenges of this exam. 

So here are the real challenges which I faced:

Vastness – It is rightly said “CISSP is an inch deep and mile wide” exam. The enormity of the domains and the material associated with is huge. But hey, you have already prepared and are appearing for the exam. So why to talk about it now? The enormity creates a problem in mind sometimes. Remain calm. There is no substitute for going with a calm mind and coolly slaying the beast.

6 Long Hours – Let do a mathematical calculation here to explain to you that 6 long hours are not so long. 250 questions in 360 minutes. 1 question in 1.44 minutes. Sounds fun? If you take a break, say, 10 minutes (2 times), it becomes 1.36 minutes or just 96 seconds.

Nerves of Steel – You need to have nerves of steel as concentrating for 6 long hours is not a child’s play. The first 2-3 hours are tolerable, but after that, the fatigue starts creeping in. My simple advice – Don’t be harsh on yourself. Take breaks of even 5 minutes after regular intervals to come with a fresh mind again.

Cost – The CISSP exam costs around 599USD or around 39000 in INR. Spending this money for an exam is no joke, so there is always a pressure on you that in case you get killed yourself by this beast, the money goes down the drain. 

No Similarity to any Mock Exam – The questions in the real exam do not have even an iota of similarity to the practice exams available on any website or book(s). The play of words by ISC2 will surely trick you, so the trick is to understand what the question actually asks and which choice is the best one.

Take a break? Kit Kat? – Although you should take regular breaks, but remember, the time goes on. So don’t start having lunches or music breaks in there. Thinking long on the toilet seat can also cost you dearly. So best is to take small breaks…and munch a KitKat and come back. You can enjoy after you have cleared the exam.

Know your center – CISSP exam is scheduled at a Pearson Vue Center. It is recommended that you visit the center once before the exam to find out its real location. Don’t depend on Google Maps or something else. On the D-Day, this surely helps. Reach the center early. Don’t come crashing with papers flying around at the last moment begging them to allow you in the exam hall.

Party’s Started

So now you have given your palm prints and photograph and are sitting in front of the exam screen. What to do now? Read on to find out.

It’s a personal choice as to how you want to attempt this exam. I am sharing my exam strategy with you. The point I wish to make here is you should aim for attempting all the questions and flag and review it.

Some pointers before that:
1. There is no negative marking in this exam. So attempt all the questions.
2. If you have even an iota of doubt in your answer. FLAG IT. No extra cost in that!

So the strategy now:

Answer & Flag – Glance through every question as soon as possible and if you know it, answer it. If you have a doubt, flag it. Try to answer all the questions or just glancing it in around 120-150 minutes. Time is very important.

Review Flagged – You have finished viewing all the questions. Now it’s time to review all the flagged ones. Take your time and read it again and again. Try to understand the question and more importantly the choices presented to you. 
I found this activity extremely helpful as it helped me answer a lot of questions.

Review ALL – I know you are tired. But it’s time for that final blow. If you have time, review all of them. If you have a doubt even at the last moment, not to worry. Read it again and try to understand what made you think about this alternate choice.
Checking, double checking and triple checking your answers will help you to squeeze every mark you can out of the exam, and it could be one question that makes all the difference between a pass and a fail!

I highly recommend reading “Quick Tips for the CISSP exam” to help you better understand how to overcome the challenges listed above.

If you are still preparing for this exam, read “How to pass the CISSP exam in First Attempt”.

Remember, it’s a difficult exam no matter whatever people say and hence staying focused and calm will be the key to slaying this beast and come out victorious.

Would love to hear your experiences in the comment(s) section below. Sharing is Caring :)

If you like this blog, please share and subscribe for more updates.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

How to Pass SSCP Exam in the First Attempt



Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) exam is offered by (ISC)2. When I prepared for this exam, there was hardly any material for preparation or blog posts to help me understand the experience of this exam. In this blog post, I will try to explain to you how to study for this exam and the experience of this exam. 

Before I begin, let me congratulate on your journey to becoming an SSCP. Although this certification may not be highly recognized as the CISSP certification, still it shows your employer and the world that you are really interested to pursue your career in this field. You become a practitioner in this field.

What is SSCP?

You would like to read CISSP vs SSCP in case you want to have a comparison between the exams. SSCP is a 3-hour long examination having 125 questions. You are required to score a minimum of 700 out of 1000. 25 questions are not graded as they are research oriented questions. It is important to note that since these questions are not graded, you need to score 700 for 100 questions. These “research” questions will not be explicitly mentioned/marked, so attempt all the questions. There is a total of 7 domains which are tested in this examination.

Following are the domains along with their weight:

1. Access Controls (16%)
2. Security Operations and Administration (17%)
3. Risk Identification, Monitoring, and Analysis (12%)
4. Incident Response and Recovery (13%)
5. Cryptography (9%)
6. Network and Communications Security (16%)
7. Systems and Application Security (17%)

Many people are experts only in 1 or 2 domains. It is important to understand that (ISC)2 wants you to have an understanding of all these aspects in this exam. If you are feeling this is too much, you would like to read Quick Tips for the SSCP exam.

How to pass the exam in the first attempt?

Remember, there is no shortcut to passing this exam. It is not as rigorous and difficult as the CISSP exam but this exam is still difficult and you need to prepare well to pass this exam. So the only solution to passing this exam is understanding the concepts (don’t cram the definitions) and practice as much as you can. 

If you have no experience in the field of information security, it is really important for you to understand everything and watch videos if you do not understand by reading theoretically. If you have some experience or lots of it, don’t be overconfident. The exam tests your understanding of all these domains and it is rare that you are an expert in all these domains.

So accept your weakness and practice all the domains. I took around 3-4 months to prepare for this exam. Last 1 month was spent in practicing and only practicing. 
Revision is the key to everything. Practice exams don’t work if you just attempt questions and do not work on the weak areas. Practice and revision will surely make you pass this exam in the first attempt.

How to prepare for SSCP?

Way back in 2014, when I cleared this exam, there was not much available either on the internet or as study material. The story is different now. It is important to keep in mind that you should have a primary source of study and others which you can just refer for a detailed understanding or solve the practice questions.

I had referred the 1st edition of SSCP AIO guide by Darril Gibson. The second edition of the book is now available. There are a lot of other sources available for this exam as listed below:


Remember, there is no alternative to hard work and studying (no matter whatever book you study)
It is important to prepare a plan to study, when to study and what to study. In case you are working, you need to identify as to when you can study. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses and working on them when you study is important to pass this exam.

Set Targets… & Pieces of advice

It is really important that you set your targets and achieve them. Set your targets by weeks or by domains as it suits you. I cannot tell how to set your targets as it involves a lot of parameters. 
The point I wish to make here is that in case you are not focused on achieving the targets which you fix for yourself and take the preparation casually, you’ll feel the pain while attempting the real exam.

An important piece of advice for you, my dear friend, is that, no matter which book or practice exam you study, NO practice exam or mock test is even a pinch close to the real exam.
If you are learning to run and think by practicing all the mock tests you can top the marathon, the exam will question you how good you can fly. Do NOT think that by getting 90% score in mock tests, you will definitely clear the exam.

It ultimately boils down to only one fact that how good your concepts are. Mock test will only broaden your thinking and understanding of these concepts. So it is important to clear all the misconceptions in your mind.

Another important advice (if you are already working in this field) – Do Not apply what happens in your organization to this exam. Most professionals make this mistake of thinking and answering questions based on their experience and what happens in their organization.

Your organization may be the best in its business, but it has made its own policies and ways of handling problems. Remember, whether its SSCP or CISSP, you need to go with an open mind as it focusses on testing your concepts, not your organizations’.

The D-Day

Go with a very clear and calm mind for the exam. Reach the center early and take appropriate rest the day before. 
1. When you will reach the Pearson Vue center, you will be given a set of instructions to read. These instructions are different from the NDA to be signed for the SSCP exam. In case you have any queries regarding the instructions, feel free to ask the proctors. They are friendly and helpful.
2. Your photograph and palm scans will be taken before beginning the exam.
3. Do not forget to carry two identification cards having signatures on both the proofs.

So all the best for your exam. Do not forget to read Quick Tips for the SSCP exam

If you like this article, do not forget to share and subscribe. Also, share your comments in the comment section below.