CISSP Preparation Strategy

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CISSP is an expert-level certification that satisfies DoD IAT Level III requirements and is considered the gold standard when it comes to cyber security certifications. There are many boot camps that can help a candidate prepare for the test but many of them are in the $5,000 price range. When I was studying for my CISSP certification I did not have that kind of petty cash lying around so I had to figure out a more economical way of ensuring I was prepared. Below is a list of what helped me pass my exam on the first attempt in late 2017. Since then, ISC2 has not made any significant changes to the test content. As far as I know the only difference now is that they switched to an adaptive testing format which should help new candidates from having to experience the test fatigue associated with the old 6-hour version of the test.

[1] Cybrary – Kelly Handerhan 

Cybrary offers a free CISSP video course and it is taught by the amazing Kelly Handerhan. She has a great personality and definitely tries her best to keep even the driest content interesting. In fact, on test day I could hear her voice in my head coaching me to the correct answers. The course is very long so I made it a point to not taking any notes while watching so I could focus completely on how she intricacies of the common body of knowledge to real world scenarios.

https://www.cybrary.it/course/cissp/

[2] Official Sybex Study Guide

Read this book cover to cover at least twice. The first time you go through it, try to read the sections in the book that you just watched in Kelly’s course and highlight all of the key concepts that you remember her talking about. This book comes with chapter tests and full practice tests. It helps to stagger the chapter tests so that you are taking the Chapter 7 test while you are reading through Chapter 12. The CISSP has a wide scope and this strategy helped me keep all of the information fresh in my brain. When you finish the book, take a full practice test then start reading the book from the beginning again and this time take a lot of notes. You should already be pretty familiar with the material on your second read so you’ll have a better idea of what you need to write down.

Official CISSP Sybex 8th Edition

[3] Mobile Study

You will probably be studying for this exam over the course of several months and you will not always be able to carry around your laptop or study guide. Make use of the dead time in waiting rooms and lunch breaks by downloading some CISSP study apps on your phone. I have an iPhone and the apps I used were:

CISSP Certification Test Prep

CISSP Pocket Prep

[4] Practice Test Frenzy

I took as many full practice tests as possible. You may not have to do this. The only reason I conditioned myself so well was that many people blamed initial test failures to being unprepared for test fatigue. The last two months before my actual test, my Saturdays consisted of sitting down and pretending I was taking a legit test. They usually took about 2-3 hours then the rest of the weekend would consist of going over all the questions that I guessed or got wrong.  The Official Sybex Study Guide includes a pretty solid test engine. I also highly recommend coughing up $100 to access the Boson test bank. The Boson tests contained very challenging questions that better prepared me for the real exam.

Boson CISSP Test Engine

[5] The 11th Hour

Two weeks prior to your test I highly recommend picking up Eric Conrad’s 11th hour. It is an extremely short read and it will really help refresh and reinforce all of the essential concepts that you have already learned but may have started forgetting. My strategy was to build a mind map using XMind while I read the book.

Eleventh Hour CISSP

CISSP CBK Mind Map

[6] Let CISSP Consume Your Life

It took me about 4 months to prepare for the exam. I spent a lot of time on the CISSP and netsec subreddits. I watched crypto/cyber related media like Zero Days and Imitation Game to stay motivated. Even watching funny youtube videos on study breaks kept me focused.

Subreddits:

r/netsecstudents, r/cissp

Movies:

Zero Days Documentary

The Imitation Game

Youtube:


[7] Test Day

Just bring snacks, caffeine, and make sure to take breaks.

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