CISA exam - my experience and how I studied

DazeByGoneDazeByGone Junior MemberMember Posts: 8 ■■■□□□□□□□
I bought the ISACA CISA review manual in Feb. when I registered for the May/June window, and my co-worker loaned me his ISACA Question/Answer printed book. I didn't opt for the QAE online database of questions since I had his hard copy already.

That book was a long, hard, slog. I'd only gotten 2/3rd of the way through the first chapter (of five total chapters) by April 1st. So I switched to the Q/A book questions, and was only getting about 50% correct. It was frustrating for me, the way the questions were worded...so many clauses with seemingly insignificant info., which actually pivoted the inherent meaning and so changed what I initially considered the answer to be.

An answer may seem to be right, but I wouldn't pick it because I didn't recognize the specific term and worried it was "made up". Hint: I think I remember the ISC(2) CISSP used that tactic, but the ISACA CISA didn't.

By June 1st, seeing the gulf between the amount of material I had to get through in the study manual, and my pattern of scoring 65% on the Q/A's, I was starting to worry. Most folks on this forum were advising to just hammer on the Q/A online database.

But I'm a stubborn cuss, so Frank Sinatra and I did it our way. I began to study every day (1-2 hours), giving priority to the review manual rather than the questions/answers. I ensconced myself away from my family after dinner each night and got in at least 8-hours per weekend - still just trying to just get through the study manual. I skimmed when I knew a topic, and used up at 3 highlighter pens. But by golly, I made it to the end of the review book!

I took off work starting Tuesday (exam was 1:00pm Thursday) to review my highlighting and notes. The night before the exam, I'd only made it through the first, second, and 1/2-way of the third chapter (of five) of sample question chapters in the Q/A book, but didn't have any gas left to feel bad about it. My brain was fried, it was 114 degrees outside, I was unshowered and talking in tongues. So I stepped away, had a glass of wine and a shower.

The morning of the exam, I took my first stab at a sample test of *all* chapter material. I took it in 20- question increments to check my wrong answers immediately. I was still getting about 8/20 wrong. Sample questions included a tricky, pivot word like "management assumes implementation went well," and I didn't know how an assumption should change the expected auditor action. Or the word "monitor" changing the BEST answer from what it would be if the word "assess" was used. So I resigned myself to failing.

I took the CBT version of the exam via. a PSI testing center. You have to check in 30 minutes before exam time. If you are late, too bad. I think they lock the door, so don't expect to sit in your car cramming until the last 5 minutes.

I found the exam questions to actually be relatively straight-forward. No 3-line, multiple dependent-clause questions leaving me scratching my head to find the key phrase or trick word! I'd associate the Q/A sample questions to "college-level" of difficulty, and the test itself to middle-grade to high-school level. I sped through the test, not flagging anything for review b/c I felt confident of my answers, and finishing in 2.5 hours.

My co-worker took the paper-based test, and said he found the exam questions similar in nature to the examples in the Q/A book in terms of complexity. Folks on this forum have said that as well. So I am left wondering if the difference was because my test was CBT? The ISACA website says no, there's no difference. Maybe I psyched myself out. Maybe it was the heat. But, I passed the exam. My score breakdown email is coming next week.

That was my experience. I don't want to tell anyone not to worry, that the test is easier than the sample questions - but I will say don't get inside your own head. Take your time, study hard, do your best. And shower!

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