Preparing for the CISSP Exam

Get ready for one of the toughest exams you'll ever take

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The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is the gold standard of professional individual certifications in the field of information security. A quick search of job boards with the keyword "CISSP" usually reveals hundred of jobs posted by employers looking to hire people with this certification.

The exam itself is a 6-hour, 250-question mental endurance challenge. It covers a mountain of knowledge divided into 10 security topic domains.

Anyone who is planning to take the CISSP exam must master a broad base of security knowledge and learn the material well enough to earn a passing score on the intense, lengthy, and expensive exam.

Unlike some professional IT certifications, the CISSP does not focus on a particular product or technology that might become outdated. The CISSP test bank is continuously updated to remain relevant. Some government and commercial employers require prospective hires obtain the certification as a prerequisite for certain jobs.

If you've decided to pursue this certification, you need to make a substantial time commitment to studying for it.

Everyone learns differently. What works for one person might not work for someone else. There are excellent "boot camps" taught by vendors for people who have the time and resources to attend a program. However, you can be just as successful following a self-study route. Here's a self-study approach to preparing for the CISSP.

Set a Test Date and Pay for the Exam

Until you pay for the test, you may not mentally commit yourself to prepare for the exam. After you pay for the exam and set a test date, you have a vested interest in achieving the goal.

Setup a Preparation Schedule

Set aside a time each day devoted to test preparation, whether it is for reading or taking practice quizzes. Focus on studying a different domain each week if possible.

Obtain More Than One Preparation Book

There are plenty of books on preparing for the CISSP exam. You should purchase the Official Guide to the CISSP CBK because it is ISC2's authoritative source on all test material. Other highly rated resources include the Shon Harris CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide and the CISSP Prep Guide from Krutz and Vines. These guides are usually updated regularly. Make sure you are buying the latest version of the book so that you don't study outdated material.

Take Practice Quizzes

One of the best sites for CISSP study-related material is CCCure.org, which hosts the CCCure Training and Quizzes with practice tests on the CISSP material. You can choose the length of the practice test you want to take as well as which topic domain or domains you want the questions to come from.

Access to the site is free. However, members who use the free option are limited to a 25-question test length, have access to only 25 percent of the quiz bank's questions, and can't save their progress. If you opt for the paid option, you can enjoy the entire quiz bank as well as progress tracking and full-length quizzes.

The CCCure quiz bank is well maintained to ensure that the material is accurate. Most of the questions provide direct references to where the material is located in many of the more common prep guides. They also provide definitions to terms related to the questions. Try the free questions first, and you will likely end up purchasing the full experience.

When you are getting 85 to 90 percent correct in each domain in the "pro" mode, then you are almost ready for the real thing.

Prepare Your Body for the Test

This is a six-hour exam with no scheduled breaks. You can go to the bathroom (one person at a time) and go to the back of the test area to have a snack, but that's it. You need to prepare your body to be sitting for an extended period. Your goal should be to make yourself as comfortable as possible while taking the test.

Eat a good breakfast on the day of the exam. Bring a coat or jacket in case the test area is cold. You can't focus if you're freezing for six hours. Bring a bottle of water and a light snack. Bring earplugs in case the area near the test is noisy.

If you fail the test, don't give up. Many people fail this exam, sometimes two or three times before they pass it. Don't become discouraged. Focus on the weak areas identified in your score report and give it another shot.

To find out the full details on the CISSP exam, visit ISC2's website and check out the CISSP certification information.