Preparing for the CISSP Exam

Tips on earning this highly sought-after IT security certification

Young man with laptop studying for CISSP exam
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CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification is the gold standard of professional individual certifications in the field of information security. Earning the CISSP shows potential employers that you can handle the desgin, implementation, and management of a top-notch cybersecurity program for any organization.

There are many lower-level IT certifications, but having an advanced certification such as the CISSP will make you stand out in the crowd and immediately appeal to recruiters looking for top-notch talent.

Having the CISSP is a game-changer in terms of salary. In 2019, CISSP-certified IT professionals earned the third-highest global salary ($116,573) and the 10th highest in North America ($123,815).

The CISSP Exam

The benefits of earning CISSP certification are obvious, but it's not an easy feat. The CISSP exam itself is a six-hour, 250-question mental endurance challenge. It covers a mountain of knowledge divided into eight security topic domains.

If you're going to take the CISSP exam, you'll need a broad base of security knowledge to earn a passing score on the intense and expensive test. Its eight security topic domains include security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management (IAM), security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security. The test is continuously updated to remain relevant.

To take the CSSP, requirements include five years of full-time work in two domains (or four years if you have a degree or approved credential). Second, you must agree to the (ISC)2 Code of Ethics and explain any felony convictions or hacker affiliations.

Tips on Taking the CISSP Exam

Pursuing a CISSP certification means making a substantial time commitment to studying and preparation. Excellent boot camps are available for people with the time and resources, but a self-study route can also prove hugely successful.

Set a Test Date and Pay for the Exam

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

Set Up a Preparation Schedule

Set aside time each day for test preparation. Look at the calendar and create a schedule that covers one specialized domain each week. Designate time for reading and taking practice quizzes.

Use More Than One Preparation Book

There are many books about preparing for the CISSP exam. You should purchase the Official Guide to the CISSP CBK because it is the ISC2's authoritative source on all test material. Other highly rated resources include Shon Harris's CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide and the CISSP Prep Guide from Krutz and Vines.

These guides are updated regularly. Make sure you purchase the latest version of the book so you don't study outdated material.

Take Practice Quizzes

One of the best sites for CISSP study-related material is CCCure.org, which offers CISSP practice tests. 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.

Either a single-user or bulk-user subscription is required for access to the quiz bank and a host of features, including multiple-choice questions, scenario-based questions, unlimited quizzes, tracking, and much more. Subscriptions are available for one month, three months, six months, or 12 months.

The CCCure quiz bank is well maintained to ensure accurate material. Most of the questions provide direct references to where the material is located in many of the common prep guides. The site also provides definitions of terms related to the questions. When you are getting 85 to 90 percent correct in each domain, then you are almost ready for the real thing.

With a subscription, you have access to all of the certifications available on the CCCure website, not just the CISSP.

Prepare Your Body for the Test

This six-hour exam has 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. Prepare your body to sit for an extended period. Your goal should be to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

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 shivering for six hours. Bring a bottle of water and a light snack. Bring earplugs in case the area near the test is noisy.

Final Thoughts

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 be discouraged. Focus on the weak areas identified in your score report and give it another shot. The CISSP certification is respected because not just anyone can successfully achieve it

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