In this blog post, you’ll learn about my steadfast desire to champion the ISC2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®) exam, along with the effort and dedication it took to achieve a successful outcome. My journey was not an easy endeavor, but I am hopeful that what I share here can help you during your journey and ease your efforts. Here, I’ll cover:
I’ve spent a large amount of my career in the information security and information technology consulting space. Client organizations have trusted me to identify problems, evaluate security issues, assess risk, and ultimately propose (and often implement) solutions that defend against threats that can cause grave harm and injury to their organizations. Most importantly, I’ve always been seen, recognized, and relied on as a trusted security and technology advisor. But why would I need the CISSP certification when organizations already knew me a seasoned information security professional? Here’s why I decided to get the CISSP certification:
My pool of resources was not large in number. BUT! They were spot on in helping me pass the CISSP exam. Here is what I used and roughly how much time I spent with each:
|Boson Ex-Sim Max
|CISSP Mentor Program
|ISC2 Official Study Guide
Let’s be honest — preparation for the CISSP exam can burden you in many ways. You’ll spend less time with your family. You’ll spend less time doing the things you enjoy. You might get stressed out a lot. You might find yourself short in temperance. All of this happened to me. And it stinks!
After about the first two weeks of being in panic mode and forgetting things I’ve reviewed, I knew I needed a plan for mental peace. I needed an outlet to simply relax and not be so anxious over this exam. Ultimately, I was scared of what failure would look like. Having to tell people I failed. Having to pay more money for an additional attempt. It’s overwhelming. But I had to come to peace with the idea of not passing on my first attempt. I realized that just because I may not pass this exam on the first attempt, it won’t mean I’m any lesser of a person. It won’t mean I have failed knowledge of information technology and information security. It simply means I need to prepare better and learn how to answer questions according to how ISC2 is looking for responses. You’ve got this! You haven’t worked this hard and this long to feel like a failure. We just need to better align with the expectations of this test. I did. And you will.
Talk with your network. One key element to my success was getting input and opinions from those who have already taken and passed this version of the CISSP exam. I asked the same questions to many people:
You’ll come up with a pool of questions for folks, too. Or feel free to use some of the examples above. Don’t be afraid. If you need someone to chat with, reach out to me. My contact details are below.
So how did I do this? And how did I manage my time? For me, this was not easy. I’m married and have four kids (a 7-year-old boy, 5-year-old girl, and a set of 3-year-old twins, also a boy and a girl). I work full-time. I volunteer my time elsewhere. My schedule is jam-packed! How?! How?! How?! Cut some things out and slide this in. Some of my volunteer activities had to be cut down (instead of five times per month, it went down to two times per month). Instead of being idling while parenting, I had the Boson material up on my iPad, tapping through questions. I’d later review why I got some answers wrong, once I had more quiet time without distractions.
Things quickly started falling into place. I had a rhythm but no cadence. I needed time dedicated to preparation. I decided that it was in my best interest to dedicate one hour per day, whether it was early morning or late night, to reading the ISC2 Official Study Guide Book, or going through a bank of questions. I spent the bulk of my weekends immersed in the official study guide and the various (mostly Boson) question banks. For you, you’ll want to adjust your schedule accordingly and find what items you can scale back on. Find where you might be able to fit in extra time for question banks. Perhaps you can wake up half an hour earlier in the morning and target 25 questions. Chip away at it. Before you know it, you’ll begin feeling higher confidence in preparedness.
As previously stated, I relied heavily on the Boson practice exams. The resource has a pool of roughly 700 questions and the questions are organized into banks A through D (four different banks). The user interface of the resource was easy for me to work with, and I had the option to randomize or customize between banks if desired. What I loved about the resource is that you can see which answer is correct and see the wrong answer choices with why each alternative choice is wrong. This was a game-changer for me. Some answer choices are similar and you’ll want to know why choice X is superior to choice Y or choice Z.
Taking practice exams quickly became a drag for me. It’s exhausting. And oftentimes, I only had the capacity to absorb so much. I came up with a plan. I calculated that If I could spend two and a half hours on 120 questions, this would put me in a better position for the time constraints of the exam. Over the recurring weeks of practice, I got better with pace. I used a timer and this helped me get into a steady mental rhythm.
I am an experienced professional and wanted a knowledge verification that is globally recognized. The CISSP was it! I hope that what I’ve shown here will help you with skills and knowledge prep, psychological prep, crowdsourcing efforts, and ultimately championing this exam. Take your time and absorb the information at a pace that you’re comfortable with. Even if it takes a while, you can still do it.
“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal” -Mario Andretti
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If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this topic in more detail, feel free to contact us and we would be happy to schedule some time to chat about how Aquia can help you and your organization.