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I passed on 12/13 on my first attempt!!! Here's a not so typical success post...
I finally got up the nerve to take the exam. I studied off and on for too long. I studied the first time for about 6 months about 2 years ago then chickened out to take the exam and never registered for a test day. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you register for a test date. It changes the way you think about studying. Life happens, I have a couple kids and a wife and in the middle of my second go at studying we bought a house so that delayed me even more, or so that's the excuse I gave myself. Everyone around me kept saying stop being a baby and just schedule an exam date. I fear failure so I kept psyching myself out. So I scheduled my exam date, literally 2 days after the price went up $100 so that was a bummer. My original test date was December 27th which means it would be with the new CAT format which scared me even more. I have been studying for the current linear exam and all of the practice tests I took were based on the current linear exam. Not sure if that will matter, but I liked the idea of having the option to flag stuff and review the test after you finish. So I paid 50 bucks and rescheduled the exam for today 12/13 so I could at least give the current format a shot and if I failed then I would take the new one. I paid for insurance as I called it through skillset.com. They have a 100% pass guarantee so I figured why not get a free retake and a refund if I suck at the first test. Skillset's questions are kinda weird sometimes because they are community written. I suggest getting to 100% ready and then go pro 2 weeks before you take you exam. You have to be pro status and 100% ready status in order to ensure your retest voucher and refund for the pro status. It's a nice just in case type thing or at least a little piece of mind knowing you wont have to drop another 700 bucks on this bad boy. Enough with the life story and on to my method. I self studied and didn't go through any sort of any boot camp. The boot camps are ridiculously priced and I couldn't justify spending $3,500+ for a weeks worth of information shoved down my throat. It would have been like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. I am terrible at taking tests and have A.D.D so focusing is a real bummer when you have to answer 250 questions in one sitting. I didn't take any adderall because it makes my mouth dry and I didn't want to get up for water every 5 minutes during the exam. Dang it... Side tracked. Now for what I used for studying materials. The "(ISC)2 Official Study Guide Seventh Edition" - That book is about as dry as my mouth after taking adderall. Insane amount of information but a solid reference dictionary. I read it cover to cover 1 time because focusing on the super detailed overly explained stuff was brutal. It's a great book to go to when you need to really dial in on a topic you don't quit grasp at least 75%. I rate this book a 7/10 I used the "Eric Conrad 11th hour" book like everyone else. The one I purchased was the 10 domain version because the current version wasn't available at the time of purchase. I read this cover to cover 1 time and then for the 2 days before my exam I read the chapters I wasn't super sharp on. I rate this book 10/10 due to the simple read and how condensed the information was. He just gives you the nitty gritty details and the fly by info you need to touch up on. I used the Kelly Handerhan videos on cybrary.it. She is super awesome at giving you a solid amount of information on each domain and really digs in on the areas that may be testable. She doesn't go all Shon Harris on you with too much info. Don't get me wrong the Shon Harris MP3's were solid as well, but I found myself losing focus when I listened to her. The Kelly Handerhan videos were great and the MP3 version of the videos were awesome. Only complaint about the Kelly Handerhan videos is that it doesn't auto play to the next video so you cant just let them play through. The MP3's bummed me out a bit because there is a dude after each track of each domain that says stuff. It gets redundant if you listen for an hour long drive to and from work. But I shouldn't even complain a little bit because they are free and awesome. I rate them 10/10 due the simple meat and potatoes information. Good stuff. I used the Official practice test book only to get the access to the test engine. To me the questions in this specific test engine were worded the closest to the actual exam. The actual exam asks more specific details in the questions but the wording and style of the questions in the test engine are the closest. The answers in the test engine are closest to the wording of the actual exam. I know some folks say they are nothing like the exam so your results may vary. I took every questions in that book at least 2 times. Then took a break from that test engine because I started to memorize the answers. I then switched over to the Transcender test engine (more on that in a minute) to get a different flavor of questions. I rate the official (ISC)2 test book a solid 8/10 only because some of the answer options are too easy to tell what the answer is. But it gets your brain use to the wording on the actual test. I used the Transcender test engine for a bit and found these questions confusing too. My least favorite part of the test engine was the colors... Good god the colors hurt my eyes and were distracting. Would be nice is they chilled out on the ferocity of the blue and green and just went with a nice grey tone. I found these questions too wordy sometimes and some were confusing. As far as the layout of the test engine it is very similar to the actual exam layout so that was cool. I used that test engine to get in the habit of reading the answers first and breaking the answers down into what I thought were the 2 best answers before reading the actual question. That method is quite interesting and takes a bit of getting used to, but it was pretty helpful to see what the two closest related answers could be. The actual exam tries to play some tricks on you by having two answers that could be absolutely correct, but then there is one word in there that makes one answer more correct than the other. Makes you go a bit cross-eyed. I rate Transcender a 7/10 because the colors and words. Overall questions made you actually really think about the information and whether or not you knew the information. I used a few iPhone apps just to study while spending some alone time on the throne. You know that rare personal quiet time you get when you have a wife and kids. I perused through the sunflower pdf... Cool information for a quick glance at terms. 9/10 because it's a good reference and it's free and people spent their time on it and gave it away. The thing that absolutely helped me the most was the "Simple CISSP" audio book on audible by Phil Martin. This guy really did keep it simple at broke down the terms just enough to not make them too vague. The breakdowns were perfect. The audio book is him reading his own book titled "Simple CISSP". It's 18 hours long I think. I listened to it once at normal speed and then re-listened to it a couple more times at 1.25 speed and then 1.5 speed just so I can hear the trigger words and breakdowns and the insane amount of acronym's that the CISSP has. The acronym's in the CISSP is bananas (que the Gwen Stefani song, sorry it happens every time I spell bananas) that was probably the most intimidating part of studying for it. Phil Martin talks a bit slow which is great on the first listen through, but speeding it up was pretty awesome. I listened on the way to work, when i worked around the house, on my way home from work and listened to it while I fell asleep at night. Talk about some crazy dreams about acronyms and CISSP adventures. I rate this audio book 1000/10 seriously I can't say enough about it. I really think it's what helped kick me over the fence with confidence. If you sign up for a trial on audible you get the audio book for free, but its worth every penny it's sold for. Now on to the actual exam. Sorry for the really long post, but I'm still processing and brain dumping information to free up some space in my brain. My exam was quite interesting. Unfortunately I only got about 4.5 hrs of sleep the night before my exam due to the time I get off of work and the stuff that I have to do when i get home. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY suggest against 4.5 hrs of sleep before a gnarly exam like the CISSP. Really slows you down. When i sat down at my testing desk I read the NDA, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't forget to click the yes I agree button within 5 minutes or you auto fail and don't get a refund or re-test date. You essentially just burned $700 in 5 minutes. I've read some horror stories from folks that did their brain dump during the NDA time period and didn't agree in time thus causing them to burn said $700. Your timer doesn't start until you click next to get to the 1st question so that is a perfect time to create your brain dump sheet. I spent a solid 15 minutes recreating the brain dump sheet I practiced making during my test prep time. I literally got 2 questions that allowed me the ability to reference said beautiful brain dump sheet. Sadly the first 50 questions seriously took me over 2 hrs to process in my brain. WAY WAY WAY too long to finish only 50 questions. My brain was still trying to process why I was awake and sitting in front of 250 questions next to someone who typed like they were angry at their keyboard or life in general (remember the testing center has other people taking different exams). When i was taking practice tests I was averaging 2.5 hrs finishing 250 questions so I knew it was time to take a break. I raised my hand like I was back in the first grade all over again asking the teacher if I could go potty. I then got palm scanned out to drink my 5 hour energy drink, eat my protein bar and wash it down with some delicious over priced Dasani bottled water and then take my potty break. My initial plan was to take 50 questions at a time and at least stand up and stretch and give my eyes a break. That went right out the window after I realized how slow my brain was thinking. Like I said before I didn't take my adderral so that wake up and alert and focused stuff wasn't happening in my brain so that was a bummer. I'm sure I annoyed the folks sitting next to me because of my tapping and moving and stretching and standing up and yawning, but hey they should have put the headphones on or the earplugs in like I did to tune out all of the ambient noises. I can't stress enough how key the earplugs were, seriously a life saver after hearing the keyboard monster next to me. Seriously sounded like she was going to smash the keys through the desk. Dang it side tracked again.... Last time I promise. The first 50 questions had me like whoa, is this really happening, I actual know the answers (I thought) or am I playing some hopeful trickery on myself. The questions were on what I focused on the most. But then came the next 75 questions and then my brain was like what the heck are you doing here this test is above your brain computing powers just raise your hand and go to the bathroom and leave like a ninja and never return to this beast of an exam. Then I tricked myself into treating it like a practice test to help reduce the stress, because at that moment I thought I was practicing for my retake of the test to then only stress myself out again because I then remembered the retake would be the new CAT exam format. I wanted to punch myself in the face a few times. But I pushed on and plugged through the next 125 questions. Some of the questions I got were not in any of the books or note-cards or anything I read or remember reading so that bummed me out because it made me think I didn't prepare in depth. The questions on my particular exam were random. I would suggest focusing A LOT of time on the SDLC, BCP/DRP, the ISO stuff, and CC stuff. I had a few OSI model questions a few crypto questions (speaking of crypto, how about that Bitcoin thing). I probably had more SDLC questions than anything. Remember you will most likely see 2 answers that would fit the question perfectly, but there will be a random word or 2 that make one answer better than the other. But in general just make sure you have a solid foundation of all of the domains, you may get a test that hammers hard on OSI or Cryptography or other stuffs. You know how some of the posts you've read say that some of the successful folks only got a couple drag and drop questions, well I'm not one of those lucky folks. I no joke got 15 drag and drop questions and felt like the unluckiest dude at that very moment. I think my least favorite part of the exam is that stupid count down clock on the top right corner of the test screen. In my head it made a tick-tock sound like an old analog clock. It made me do math for how many questions I had left VS how much time I had left. I couldn't do any of the math I studied for, no ARO or SLE or EF just plain ol' math. I had to convert the minutes into hours and then I thought wait why do that. I looked at how many questions I had left and saw that I was gong to run out of time before I answered all of my questions (yes I know that is a bit sad given you have 6 hours to take the test). So I had to change my method to catch up to the clock. I had to refocus and spend less than a minute to answer each question to at least finish all of the questions and then starting answering them in less than 45 seconds to try to give myself a 20 minute buffer to go through my flagged stuff. I was able to achieve my 20 minute buffer until I hit the last 10 questions and then my buffer disappeared and panic again set in. I finished my 250th question with 5 minutes left to check out my flagged questions. I flagged about 15 questions and was only able to look at 5 of them. I changed 2 answers and had to hit submit. After you click the button saying you are done reviewing your questions you have to answer the are you positive you want to leave this screen at least 2 more times before you get to the submit button. I ended up finishing the test with a whopping 5 whole seconds left on the clock. I highly advise against baby sitting the clock, but at least keep an eye on your pace of answering questions. Before I hit the submit button the exam proctor was standing behind me because I had take then entire 6 hours to finish the test. He then stated that I was the only person left from the group of folks that scheduled 8 am exam times. I was like thanks big guy. He was a super nice guy, ex marine who runs a dog rescue for pit bulls. He loves his pit bulls. After getting palm scanned out for the second to last time, the nice pit bull loving marine escorted me down what felt like a mile long and inch wide hallway to the front lobby and check out desk where I would receive my results. As I walked down the hallway I saw that there was only 1 sheet of paper and then proceeded to pre-celebrate in my head but then blurted out a Woo-Hoo. The proctor asked me why I was excited, so I explained to him if you get one sheet of paper after this test that means you passed and if you get two sheets of paper, then that means you failed and one paper will tell you that you didn't do awesome and the other sheet will let you know what you didn't do awesome at. He said I guess that's a good way of explaining it. I grabbed my sheet that said "Congratulation's you provisionally passed the CISSP exam and we will inform you in 2-5 business days after a possible further psychometric and forensic evaluation". I have no idea what that means, but I received one sheet of paper that said Congratulations on it so that's a solid feeling. Now if you read this far, I'm sorry if you feel like I wasted your time. I am trying to brain dump my day. And I might have dumped all over the fantastic sub-reddit so I am sorry for that. This sub-reddit was extremely helpful and encouraging reading all of the success stories and tips and excitement of passing this exam. Only we can understand what this is like and what it takes to study for and sit through the test. My final thoughts and tips would be: First and foremost get an amazing nights sleep the night before On your test date eat a great breakfast or solid lunch or you will start to get hangry at the test. I didn't have time to eat breakfast because of traffic. Now speaking of traffic, if you know there is a possibility for traffic on the way to your testing center leave earlier than you planned on leaving. I made it to the testing center 5 minutes before 8am. Took me an hour to go 20 miles (thank you lovely San Diego traffic) Take as many practice questions as possible and figure out your flow and just get use to answering 250 questions in one sitting Grab some snacks to eat when you take a break. I brought a 5 hour energy drink, tigers milk protein chocolate goodness thing and some delightful Dasani water. Schedule your exam date as soon as possible to give you a solid fire under your butt focus mantality PLEASE REMEMBER CLICK THE STINKING ACCEPT BUTTON ON THE NDA WITHIN 5 MINUTES Brain dump onto the dry erase thingy they give you. It will help free up some much needed and required thinking space Figure out a pace that helps you feel confident you will finish in time. I have yet to read anyone not finish the test, but have read people consuming the entire 6 hours like I did. I thought for sure I would finish with enough time left to go back home to take a little snoozer before having to go to work at 3pm. I was actually 30 minutes late to work because I took so long. What to expect at the Pearson Vue Test Centers: Bring 2 forms of ID, if you're using a credit card or ATM card for the second form of ID make sure you sign the back or they will tell you its not a valid form of ID until you sign it. Be prepared to palm scan each palm twice so be sure you have clean hands or that sucks for the person that scans in after you. You will also have to take a picture, so if you're having a bad hair day or that freshly rolled out of bed look or that random embarrassing gnarly zit on your face that will be in the picture. If you don't care what you look like in the picture then you do you. I didn't care. I threw up the DMV picture smile and then sat down and waited my turn to sit in that special chair before you have to prove you're not a cheater. After you get out of that special chair you will have to empty your pockets, pat your shirt and body from neck to waste (don't lift up your shift, it makes the proctors uncomfortable). Then they make you pat your legs from waste to foot. My proctor dude made me lift my pant leg up so he could see if I was stashing any stuff in the top of my socks. If you wear glasses they make you take them off and set them on a sheet of paper that says "Place your glasses here" so they can inspect them. I think they are checking to see if you have that failed google glasses project stuffed in your glasses. If you look up after you sit down at your exam station you will notice a PTZ camera above you watching your every move. All joking aside I do appreciate the thoroughness that Pearson Vue takes in ensuring that the security profession is protected by not allowing cheating. If you've read this far, I apologize again for the lengthy story. Today was an adderall free day so A.D.D is on point. My work experience is a NOC Engineer for the past 7 years. Focusing on being a data custodian, Access control stuff, Data Center baby sitter (or physical access control stuffs thrown in there). I do a lot of powershell scripting and python. Honestly if I can pass this exam then any one can pass this exam. If you read all the way to the bottom of this post you can for sure pass this exam. I hope you enjoyed my lengthy story and the advice or study material info thrown in there. Hopefully this lengthy story was slightly entertaining and a nice metal break from studying or at the very least give your more confidence because someone like me passed this exam. This subreddit is a great place for tips and encouragement from reading the success stories of the folks who pass this exam. This exam is an accomplishment for sure Remember think like a manager and not a fix everything person. Good luck to all you fine folks out there.... -Nick- Almost CISSP
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