The (ISC)² SSCP Education Item Writing Event.

azjagazjag Member Posts: 579 ■■■■■■■□□□
The (ISC)² SSCP Education Item Writing Event.

This is a review of my experience at a SSCP Education Item Writing event I attended for (ISC)² in San Diego. After achieving the SSCP certification I opted in to be a volunteer for these events to earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. I was notified on December 17, 2010 by email asking for volunteers to participate in creation of items for the (ISC)² studISCope exam preparation product. I responded to the email stating that I would be willing and interested in participating in this type of event. A few hours later I received a confirmation that my name would be added to a list and if selected I would receive an email with further instructions. On December 27th, 2010 I was notified that I had been selected, along with 11 others, to participate in the item writing event in San Diego. I worked with the (ISC)² Travel Department to arrange travel and lodging,which they covered. By January 10th all the details had been worked out and it was now a waiting game for the event itself.

This is my personal accounting and impressions of the SSCP item writing event.


The SSCP Certification: What is it?

SSCP stands for Systems Security Certified Practitioner. The SSCP certification is a vendor neutral information security certification governed by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)². The certification is geared towards individuals who have the hands-on responsibility to implement policies and plans designed by a CIO, CSO or equivalent.

Although there is quite a bit of overlap in subject matter between the SSCP and CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK), just remember that you will need a more technical understanding of the SSCP CBK topics than what is typically found in CISSP study material. Also, the CISSP domain topics of physical security, application security, and law and ethics are not covered in the SSCP CBK. The SSCP is a technical security certification while the CISSP is more on the managerial side. Like the CISSP, the SSCP is a professional information security certification, but it is easier to qualify for than the CISSP.

The (ISC)² CBK®

(ISC)² develops and maintains the (ISC)² CBK, a compendium of information security topics. The CBK is a critical body of knowledge that defines global industry standards, serving as a common framework of terms and principles that our credentials are based upon and allows professionals worldwide to discuss, debate, and resolve matters pertaining to the field. Subject matter experts continually review and update the CBK. ([url]https://www.isc2.org/aboutus/default.aspx)
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Day 1

I live in Phoenix, Arizona so (ISC)² provided round-trip tickets for me to fly out on Thursday to San Diego, California. They also paid for the hotel stay. The only part I had to pay for travel wise was the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. $15 was not bad and thankfully I didn’t have to deal with any traffic that is common to California. Yes I can submit an expense report, but I forgot to grab a receipt for the cab ride. I made it to the hotel around 1:30pm and got settled in. Since this was a travel day, nothing was scheduled due to the fact that many people were still arriving from across the county and internationally.

I took this opportunity to explore the area around the hotel. We were staying at the OMNI in San Diego and it is situated in the Gas Lamp District. I checked in with the coordinator to make sure nothing had been scheduled. With a clear schedule I spent the next few hours walking through the Gas Lamp District and taking in the sites.

Day 2

Day 2 began with the group meeting for breakfast at 8am. I spent this time getting to know the other participants. The group represented many different industries, including government, healthcare, law enforcement and consulting. Levels of government consisted of city, state and federal. I don’t recall how many others were first timers at this event; a few had been to several events. Some were known by the books they wrote or the classes they instructed for (ISC)².

Around 8:30am we moved to an adjacent conference room to begin. This consisted of tables in a U shape with a projector and a screen. Once situated in the conference room we went through formal introductions. There were 13 of us, including two members from (ISC)² serving as facilitators. David White works in Product Development, Laura Schneider works in Member Services (she handles AMF, CPE and is one of many people who answer the calls from test takers looking for updates). There was a third person from (ISC)² named Pamela Simon who is a manager for the Education Department.

After the introductions we were instructed on the basics of item writing. Definitions of the syntax used, requirements for acceptance and best practices. Once we finished going over the nuances of item writing, we started an Item review session. A question would be displayed on the projector. For each item we looked for relevance, content, context, spelling, and grammar and sentence construction. We also identified if the item met the criteria for a valid question. This lasted for 2-3 hours with all participants having a voice on each item. It was quite an experience to be in the room and discussing the merits of any given question. Differences of opinion were common and thoroughly discussed. We made it through 30 or so questions before breaking for lunch. After lunch we returned to item reviewing. The items we were reviewing could be assigned to somebody to rewrite, clarify, refocus, elaborate, shorten or fill in missing details. Sometimes questions were deleted after a group consensus. This could be for any number of reasons including not related to the exam, being out in left field and just being a bad question. Great lengths were taken to revise or correct a question before deleting.

After the review period, the group broke off to work as individuals on correcting the items they were assigned. The facilitators also sought volunteers to write items in domains that needed more questions. I volunteered for around 10 or so questions, mostly in the wireless domains along with a few other domains that I felt confident in. Probably the most challenging part of creating new questions was finding references. This entailed searching through the Safari Books Online reference library (Safari Books Online) or whatever materials you brought with you. All answers must be verifiable using published works and include a page number. You could easily spend 30-45 minutes searching for a suitable reference(s). This lasted until around 5:30pm when we “left” for the day.

Day 3

Day 3 began just like the previous day. We met at 8a.m. for breakfast and discussed events and activities from the previous night. Around 8:30 we proceeded to the other conference room and continued with the prior days activities. In my own opinion the hardest part of the whole event was coming up with practical questions where the subject had to pick the best answer. Mostly it came down to finding the 2nd, 3rd and 4th plausible but wrong answer. Some of them would be hard to guess if you didn’t know the domain, others had 4 equally good responses but only one was the correct answer. I admit this is where I spent the most time. Sure it was easy to skim through the reference material and find some great material to write questions on. This went on for the rest of the morning. After lunch we went into a review session to “proof read” the questions that had been corrected and to put new questions through the filter. Of the four questions I wrote 2 made it through with little to no correction or clarification. The other 2 came back to me to rewrite or clarify. After another 20-30 questions we went back to individual work for the rest of the day. Around 5:00pm I headed back to my room.

Day 4

Day 4 began exactly like the previous days. We met at 8am for breakfast, discussed previous night’s activities, talked about the activities at our jobs. Around 8:30 we met in the conference room and began things again. The day started out with item review to hash out the questions submitted from the previous day. At the end of the item review we were told about the need to write questions in specific domains to meet our goal. I opted to correct some of the other questions that were up for review to free up time for others who had more experience in those domains write the questions. As the day progressed it changed from individual efforts to group efforts with a lot of revisions happening on the fly and being input on screen. The facilitators were being pulled in multiple directions by everybody when editing the questions. At 3pm we had 1 question left to write to meet our goal. The goal after that had us writing 13 more questions and with most of us flying out and a few hours there was no expectation to take that goal on. At 3:30pm the last question was submitted and scrutinized. After it was accepted by the group, the facilitators thanked all of us for our contribution and hard work. In the end we had created 94 new questions. I made it a point to stop by and speak with several people after and get email addresses to keep in contact with.

These opportunities are open to anybody who holds an (ISC)² credential in good standing regardless of where you are located. There are item writing events for other (ISC)² certifications and these events are held multiple times a year in various locations. If you are interested in participating in one of the Item Writing events please contact David White at [email protected]
Currently Studying:
VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA) (Passed)
VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design (VCAP5-DCD)

Comments

  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,735 ■■■■■■■■■■
    WoW :D

    If I get the SSCP done next year I will be volunteering for this! :)
    Currently working on: Linux and Python
  • azjagazjag Member Posts: 579 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Why wait. If you have done the Sec+ then you are more than half way there. ;)
    Currently Studying:
    VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA) (Passed)
    VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design (VCAP5-DCD)
  • veritas_libertasveritas_libertas CISSP, GIAC x5, CompTIA x5 Greenville, SC USAMember Posts: 5,735 ■■■■■■■■■■
    azjag wrote: »
    Why wait. If you have done the Sec+ then you are more than half way there. ;)

    Well, I want to get my CCNA done so I get into a more networking focused job. I guess I could study for both icon_wink.gif
    Currently working on: Linux and Python
  • azjagazjag Member Posts: 579 ■■■■■■■□□□
    If you are interested in attending one of these Education item writing events be sure to email David at [email protected]. He needs volunteers who have any of the following (ISC)² certifications CAP, SSCP and CISSP including the specializations.
    Currently Studying:
    VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA) (Passed)
    VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design (VCAP5-DCD)
  • azjagazjag Member Posts: 579 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Just got back from another SSCP item writing event. This time it was held in San Antonio next to the Riverwalk. I had been to the riverwalk 14 years ago when I was training in the Army. Ran into the forums own JDMurray while I was there and it was great to put a name to a face. They have another event coming up in a few months in Chicago for CISSP's. If you are interested send me a message and I'll pass it along or you can contact David directly at [email protected].
    Currently Studying:
    VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA) (Passed)
    VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design (VCAP5-DCD)
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