Before starting the post, I would like to thank two very important persons personally.
My Special Thanks to Manager Raghu SV
My gratitude towards Clement Dupuis for his dedication in helping CISSP aspirants and managing this website and practice questions
I took the exam on 24th Feb 2017 in India, Hyderabad Center (Pearson Vue, EduKinect, Madhapur, Hitech City) and received notification immediately after the end of the exam, that I have passed the exam: My experience of the exam follows:
· CISSP CBK Official Guide 4th Edition + questions from each domain. Cover to Cover 3 times and my main reference
· Eric Conrad 3rd Edition, Cover to Cover 2 times
· Shon Harris 7th Edition + CD Question Bank (Total Tester - 1000+ questions). Cover to Cover one-time reading and one-time questions practice
· Kelly Henderhen Videos one time, Except Cryptography and Security Engineering, watched three weeks before the exam
· Sybex CISSP 7th Edition, Used only for reference and not read it completely.
· cccure Paid version practice questions 1800+ Questions, One time for each domain and four times 250 questions, 2 in the week off before the exam and 2 Just before the day of the exam.
· Sybex Practice question around 1300 Question from Safari online, One time, good questions
I started preparing for the exam in Nov first week 2016, as I initially targeted to take it in Jan and booked the exam in Jan. I am currently working, so I put aside some time in the morning and the evening, roughly 2 hours each.
Honestly, for the first two months (Nov & Dec) I was very regular during the weekdays (2 hours minimum) and also leveraged my weekends to the fullest - putting in roughly 10 hours (Sat and Sunday).
I have booked my exam on 24th of Feb, but before this date, I have rescheduled it twice once because of my cousin's marriage and once because of self-realizing of incomplete coverage of all domains and practice questions.
So from an overall perspective, the first 2 Months (Nov and Dec) reading was the focus whereas (Jan and Feb) was a revision and test taking.
I took a week’s leave before my Exam i.e. 17th Feb till 23rd Feb and by this time (Feb16th) I had completed reading all eight domains three times from my books and self-prepared notes. I was constantly doing practice questions every day since Dec 20th, say around 30 – 60 during weekdays and 100 during weekends.
The day before the exam:
I woke up at around 7 AM, went through some notes, mnemonics of security engineering (EAL Values, TCSEC, Orange Book A to D design models, other security models). I got off from it by 9 AM and went to freshen up.
From 10 till evening 6 I took 2 test sets of 250 questions each, Of course, I had few breaks in between, just to simulate the real exam. After this, I took a break of 2 hours, went out had a chai tea and went for a small ride on my bullet. I came back at my home by 7:30 thinking of having a dinner and good night sleep. But could not do so and did very opposite of this.
Having many of my colleagues, friends, and members in various forums saying that you need a tight sleep a night before the exam, I could not get myself out of reading until last moment.
I was confident in all domains except N/w Security, perhaps a bit more of brushing is required. I had my dinner at around 8 PM and started referring to N/W security domain till 12 in the night and went to sleep. I roughly slept for 4 hours, but I can remember that all topics and concepts are running in my brain during that sleep disorder.
The exam day 24th Feb 2015:
We had a team outing on the next day 25th Feb, but we had to start by 5 PM from Hyderabad and was an overnight drive. I wanted to go and enjoy the outing with light mind and thus re-scheduled just a day before, i.e., 24th Feb 10 AM.
On the day of the exam, I woke up at around 5 AM and quickly went through some mnemonics within 30 min, then took a look at the N/W Security till 7:30 AM and closed all notes, books, and laptop. After getting freshen up, I had four idlis and sambar (regular and famous South Indian-lite dish), for breakfast. Honestly speaking was not at all feeling hungry because of the exam pressure. There were mixed feelings (what if I flunk or if I pass then? Wowwww !! And so on but I was keeping calm and just thinking of the exam)
I started from my house at 8:30 and reached to the examination center exactly at 9:15 AM, sat on the big lounge they had there. Around at 9:45, the test center guys asked me to put all my belongings (bag, notes, watch, purse, and mobile) in a locker. I asked them that I have some snacks with me and might require during the breaks. They asked me to remove it out of the bag and keep it outside the reach of the bag. After that, center guys started with formalities (Palm Scan both hands, Digital photograph and some agreement paper). From 9:15 till 9:45, that 30 min I was just looking here and there and plenty of things going in my mind.
After completing all the formalities, the test started at 10 AM sharp and my heart beat was increasing, there were a camera and a fan right above my head looks like they are spying on me. I immediately started attempting questions. The first 30 Question were the easy knock for me and had completed in 20 min or so. Then the challenge started (not the easy ones) and had marked around 75 question in the first 1.5 hours. Here, I thought of taking a break but 75 question in 1.5 hours seems a tortoise run for me and hence stretched till 100 questions in 2 hours. (Again not the easy questions, required patience and focus which I did not lose).
So, well in 2 hours I could mark 100 questions only, my pace was slow compared to completing 250 questions in 3 hours during my practice tests. Anyways, I took a break for 10 min, washed my face and got back again to attempt rest of 150 questions. During the break session, I was almost confident of choosing the right answers for the first 100 questions (booster and some motivation for me)
Now ready for remaining 150 questions now, and seriously I did not even understand where these questions are coming from even the easiest one seems to be difficult, I could not relate it to my study books or notes, and most of them are conceptual, scenario based, match the following and graphical. I answered 75 questions in the next 1.5 hours (Total time now 2 + 1.5 = 3.5 hours). I could not bear the constant headache at the back and went for a break again. I asked the proctor to unlock my locker for a quick snack. I ate two bananas slowly, drank a stomach full of water, washed my face again for a refreshment and went back to attempt rest of the questions.
By the second break, in 3.5 hours I had completed 175 questions including some 15 later to reviewed questions. I completed rest of the questions by 5 hours and still had 30 min for the last min review questions, which I managed to complete it by 5.55 hours. By this time I was totally lost to know that there were none of the questions from Cryptography (this was my strong domain).
So by 5.55 Hours around at 4 PM, I ended my exam and submitted all the questions. Later I called the proctor telling him that I have submitted all answers, he then asked me to walk towards the reception. I knew that he is going for the print out status of my results, the print out came, and the proctor was looking at the status at one moment and another moment at me. I was scared now because the Proctor seems neutral, and I can’t notice any expressions on his face, after few seconds he smiled and said congratulations. pheewwwwwwwwwwwww. Exhaling!! Thank you, I said to the proctor and quickly took my bag and rushed out of the exam center to switch on my phone and tell the good news to my family, friends, and colleagues. (to name the list, although not in order Parents, Wife, Anjum, Raghu, Durga P A, Parveen, Shalem, Krishna, Raja, Kaushal, Alankar, Ganesh, Anoop, Vikram, Ninja, Bharat, Akshay, Piyush, MD Kaleem, Kushang)
I took the pass print status and just saw a word Congratulations and nothing more, and rushed to Shalem and Krishna (My Colleagues in office) for a team outing to Dandeli (India, Karnataka). Both were waiting in a car for my phone call.
Then while driving towards Dandeli around 5:30 PM, I opened the printout and started reading it. I felt very relaxed and happy inside that all my efforts lately paid off. Now the endorsement process!!!
Post Result Analysis:
I felt I over studied, the exam was more on concepts, and there is a lot of difference between the practice questions which I took and the real ones appearing in the exam. Well, facing over more than 2500+ questions, I knew my weak areas and worked on them to achieve my confidence level. But I still felt I had over studied the domains which I was sure of.
I thought I could study more on N/W security as there were questions which I remember getting hammered over them and the last moment revision of my notes of N/w Security helped me a lot
I felt good that I kept some 30 min for the later to review questions. It is also noted that this exam is not only testing your conceptual skills but on latest topics also (can’t say more as because of the NDA)
The Do's for CISSP Exam:
· Give ample time for preparation - at least 4 to 6 months. This becomes especially important when you are working and not every day is the same! Dedicate more time on weekends, tell your family and friends the importance of the exam is.
· Refer to at least to two of the latest version of study books
· Test your preparation as much as possible for all domains individually
· If you are working and if possible, try and take leave at least one week just before the exam and go into a totally focused mode.
· Take at least a full-length mock test before the final one! Honestly, I did around 4 (250) of them from CCCure.org and total tester.
The Don'ts for CISSP Exam:
· Never underestimate this exam. It’s a test of physical, mental, English and information security.
· Hunt for "exam-like" questions (believe me you will not find it anywhere no matter what people on the internet claim) - it’s a futile endeavor, better spend that time reading/revising the book and grasping good knowledge on latest technologies.
· Go into the exam without the covering the entire material, better to delay the exam than to flunk it for the lack of preparation. I have delayed and rescheduled it twice (read earlier section why?)
· Read Shon Harris only if you are new to the world of information security and have six months to 1 year of time. This is purely my feeling not to offend any of my colleagues and forum members. I too had, referred Shon Harris for few topics, but this was not my primary reference.
Thank for spending your time and reading the post!!!
Content and post disclaimer:
Above experience and opinions shared are personnel and may differ person to person. But I strongly feel that people going for this exam will be able to leverage some of my experience and find it worthwhile.
Thank you & Best Regards!
Rajesh Shiva, India, Hyderabad