Every three years, I take the CISSP exam instead of submitting CPEs to keep current my certification. Given my job, you might assume that I am very comfortable with taking exams.
This was my fourth attempt to pass the CISSP exam. The first time I passed the CISSP exam was in 2012. Ah, the “good old days “… when you had to register at a particular time and date in a specific location for a SIX-HOUR exam with 250 questions. I had to travel to Indianapolis to take the exam because they didn’t have any availability near my location.
The CISSP had moved to a computer-based exam in 2015. There are no more bubbles to mark! It had evolved to be adaptive by 2018. I can tell you that wading through 100-150 questions IS FAR more enjoyable than dealing with 250!
It’s 2021 now, so it’s time to recertify. Although I don’t know how long the exam took, I think it was a little more than one minute per question. It said that my exam was complete after it had completed 100 questions.
I did not use any tools to study. I relied only on current knowledge and practical experience. Despite this, I’m not a newbie to IT or the CISSP exam. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to take the exam as cold as I did.
You probably know what I would recommend you study. Instead, I will share some tips with you on how to approach the exam.
Many people claim that this is not a technical exam. Yes, and no. Yes, you do need to think like a manager/owner. To be able manage well, you must understand technology. I was faced with many technical questions during the CISSP exam. You will need to be able to comprehend a variety of terminology, concepts, steps, and methodologies. When you are asked questions about these topics, you will need to be able to link that knowledge together. You might not need to know how a firewall is configured, but you might need information about where, why, and what type of firewall it might be. Protocols? Yep. Network devices? Yep. Headers? Yep. Authentication? Yep. VPNs? Yep. How do you encrypt your data? Yep. Yes.
Each question should be carefully read. This is both a reading comprehension and technical exam. Pay special attention to bolded or capped words such asMOST,BEST and FIRST.
Each choice should be carefully considered. Focus on the positive choices and eliminate any that are obvious. While some choices may seem similar, if you understand the concepts and have studied them, you will find nuanced differences between them.
There are often multiple “good” options, but there is always the BEST choice.
There are also choices that are not factually correct but don’t answer the question or meet the requirements. (Yes, Choice C can be accurate, but it’s not 100% relevant to the question as Choice D).
These tricky questions can get people stuck. Practice exams can give you the practice you need to carefully consider each answer. Re-read the question if you get stuck. Look out for key phrases that could give you an idea of which choice might be best.
Don’t rush. Be patient. It’s possible to complete 100-150 questions in 180 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if you take 2-3 minutes to answer a long question. You will probably find some short ones you can answer in a matter of seconds.
Adaptive exams can be very difficult! Even if you are doing well, the exam may challenge you with more difficult questions. It will make it seem like you don’t know anything. Do not panic. This will cause you to lose your focus. If you find the exam difficult, it could be a good sign that your performance is good.
If you go past question 100, DON’T PANIC. Keep your eyes on the prize. It is important to do well in the 50 last questions. You might be able to pass the exam as long as you keep getting asked questions.