Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Pass the CISSP Exam in First Attempt

You may read multiple posts on the various blogs and websites where you are given tips as to how to pass the exam in the first go, refer which books and solve which 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 in 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. 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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Quick Tips for CISSP Exam

Let me say “All the best” to you, before I start giving you tips for the CISSP exam. These tips are not mandatory to follow, but will surely help you manage and crack the exam.

CISSP is a six-hour long exam which contains 250 questions. The majority of these questions are multiple choice questions. There is a few drag and drop type and a few Hotspot questions asked in the exam. You have to schedule an exam through (ISC)website which further takes you to booking the exam at the Pearson Vue website.
  • Reach the exam center approximately 45 minutes in advance before your scheduled time. This will help you to settle down. Start early so as to reach early rather than waiting on the way and thinking whether you will reach on time or not.
  • When you 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 CISSP exam. In case you have any queries regarding the instructions, feel free to ask the proctors. They are friendly and helpful.
  • Your photograph and palm scans will be taken before beginning the exam.
  • Do not forget to carry two identification cards having signatures on both the proofs.

Now, when your exam starts, do keep the following in mind. These tips will surely help you.

  • You will be greeted with an NDA before you begin the exam. Read the NDA – you have 5 minutes to do so.
  • Failure to accept this will forfeit your exam money and you will not be allowed to move further ahead in the exam.
  • Post the successful acceptance of the NDA, your exam begins.
  • You have a timer which shows the 360 minutes you have for the examination and a “Flag for review” option where you can the flag the questions which you are unsure of at that moment for further review.
  • Try to make a strategy to solve the 250 questions. 25 questions are reserved for research purposes.
  • I followed the following strategy. It is always better to follow your own plan basis your strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is extremely important that you go through all the 250 questions at least once in around 2.5 hours. I glanced through all the questions and answered around 100 questions in one go and took around 3 hours. I used the “Flag for review” option wholeheartedly. Remember, you have to be focused for six hours, so it is very important that you should not stress yourself if you don’t know the answers. Remain calm, if you do not know the answer to a lot of questions in the first go, then flag them. This is perfectly normal.
  • I used the next 2 hours to solve those questions which I had flagged for review or had left unanswered. The remaining one hour was focused on reviewing those questions which I was extremely unsure of or confused between two options as they both seemed likely.
  • There is no negative marking in the exam. So it is recommended that you answer all the questions.
  • There are no scheduled breaks in the six-hour long exam. Try to take a break after 2-3 hours depending on your level of focus which you have at a particular point during the exam. It is perfectly normal to feel that you are not able to answer any questions even after repeatedly reading the question and taxing your brain.