Passed CISSP on 1/18/14 after my first attempt

brianc350brianc350 Registered Users Posts: 4 ■□□□□□□□□□
I’m proud to say that I passed the CISSP exam Saturday, 1/18/14 after my first attempt. My journey took a little over year and a half to complete. This was partly due to my employers requirement that I be employed for a year to be eligible for reimbursement. So this gave me plenty of time to prepare. I started out reading the Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CISSP CBK. In reality this was a waste of time that I could have skipped and still been successful. This book was insightful but not practical in terms of preparing for the exam. I then read Shon Harris’s, CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, Fifth Edition. Like many others have commented on this forum this was a really good book but it was tough to get though, very wordy. I read it once cover to cover then would refer back to it. I then took a break in reading and spent two weeks watching videos. First, I started with some Shon Harris videos and finished with some crypto videos I had access to by signing up for a free ‘Intro to crypto’ online class provided by These videos were informative by I could have skipped them and been ok. At this point I had found some older Shon Harris MP3s (I don’t remember where I found them). I burnt them to CDs and copied them to my MP3 player. I would listen to them while in the car and in the gym. This audio book was really helpful during my preparation and I kept listening to them over and over again up and till the morning of my exam. The next book was Eric Conrad’s CISSP Study Guide, Second Edition. This book was really good, short informative chapters but I don’t think it went in depth enough on some areas (for me). After I read Eric’s book, I started taking practice exams from CCCure (free and paid) and other places to see where my weakest domains were. For me it was networking, crypto and security arch. At this point, I was scheduled to take my exam for Dec. 23, 2013; mainly to have date to work towards. Then I went back to the AIO and Conrad books and started taking down relevant notes. I focused on the domain that gave me the most trouble. I copied material out of the two books into a format that I found easier to relate to and remember; this was really helpful. As Dec. 23 approached, I just didn’t feel prepared enough based on the practice test scores. I then pushed the exam back to Jan 18, 2014. After the holidays, my main focus in life was work and preparing for this exam. Nearly every night from Jan 2 – 16, from 6 to 9, I was in the library. This was really mentally and physically draining but it was for the greater good (at least I kept telling myself that). I spent each night, reading chapters from all the books and took more notes. By this point, I had nearly filled a 250 page notebook with material. It started to get really frustrating when I took a practice tests though. I would score great in the domain I had just reviewed but do terrible on the domains. My test scores would range from 60% to a high 70% (based on 50 or 75 question, all inclusive tests). Not once did I ever get an 80% and this really worried me. I would do well on the Total Tester practice questions and Ok on the CCCure questions. At this point I decided to forge ahead and just take the exam regardless of my practice test scores. The week before my exam, I read the Conrad’s 11th hour book and listened to the Eric Conrad webcast. The book was good, but couldn’t compare to my notebook and the webcast was Ok. I think I picked up one or two little things. The night before the exam, I left work and went home and locked myself in my office and read. At 9 that night I closed the books and was prepared to face the inevitable.

The testing facility was about 45 mins away and I was scheduled to take the exam at 8. I left my house around 630 with the goal of sitting in the parking lot cramming. The facility opened at 730 and people started piling in at 731. I had originally planned to make one full pass then take a break but around question 125 I needed to stretch my legs. So I stepped out and took a 5 min break. Went back in and finished answering all the questions. I had probably left 3 questions blank because I had no idea what the question was asking. The remaining questions, I just answered the best I could but flagged for later review. Once I had answered all my questions I took another 5 min break and ate a protein bar. Returned to the test and was prepared to review all the questions. At this point I still had about 2 ½ hours left. I started by reviewing the flagged questions first. After I answered and un-flagged everything, I went back to review all the questions. I probably had about 90 mins left at this point. I was very conscious not to change a question unless I had a really good reason, like I missed a keyword or I just didn’t comprehend the intent of the question the first time. I went through all the questions again and changed a few. At this point I still had about 30 mins left but decided to finish the exam. I’m not sure at this point if I starting to show signs of a mental break down or what but I was really content with my performance and felt like I passed. So I hit the submit button and prepared for judgment. I went back to gather my results, originally I had planned to go home and see my results but when the Procter handed me a single sheet of paper, I knew I had passed! At this point a wave of relief overcame me. I thought once I passed I’d want to go out and celebrate but I ended up going home and doing nothing. I was so stressed up until this point and that stress was finally gone, it’s an unexplainable feeling.

A few thoughts and reviews:
I don’t think I could have used just one book to pass this exam. I needed to use both the AIO and Conrad books together.

The practice tests, both the Total Tester and CCCure are helpful but nothing can prepare you for the real exam.

I didn’t understand what people meant when they said the CISSP is a management exam and not a technical exam. Haven taken the PMP, that what my basis for a management exam. I just couldn’t grasp this not being a technical exam as I was reading books about asynchronous vs synchronous keys, CBC cyphers and XOR tables.

There are some good reference materials on reddit/cissp.

I never felt completely prepared for this exam.

The CISSP was a fair exam.

Thank you to all the poster and admins who maintain this site. It was really informative and motivational and it was a great resource to use in preparation for this exam.

Now onto the endorsement process!


  • chanakyajupudichanakyajupudi Member Posts: 712
    Congrats and thanks for the great review and the process that you followed to be successful.
    Work In Progress - RHCA [ ] Certified Cloud Security Professional [ ] GMON/GWAPT if Work Study is accepted [ ]

  • netstatnetstat Member Posts: 65 ■■□□□□□□□□
    A very big well done and congrats to brianc350. I have scheduled my exam for the 17th Feb and reading your post helped. Out of curiousity, what is your experience in the info sec world? I have to admit your study plan is very similar to mine and sometimes i feel some questions make me feel i do not have the neccessary experience to pass the exam although i have been working in info sec for 5 years more or less.
  • sojournsojourn Member Posts: 61 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for the really useful feedback on your study method and how you found the whole process. I am booked for May 1st and am going through the study process now. Congratulations!

    I am currently only using the Eric Conrad book, I think I may need to get the AIO also. Thankfully having a Kindle makes this an easy task as opposed to lugging around 1000-page books everywhere.
  • cyberguyprcyberguypr Senior Member Mod Posts: 6,885 Mod
    Congrats, welcome, and thanks for a great write-up.
  • _nessie__nessie_ Member Posts: 39 ■■■□□□□□□□
    congrats brian, I know the feeling: I didn't do anything either afterwards, oh, hang on, I played a game of WoT icon_rolleyes.gif
    This morning, however - the day after - I actually started doing stuff that was lingering around for a couple of weeks, due to my studying attempts :)
    It kept my wife happy as well icon_twisted.gif
  • joebannyjoebanny Member Posts: 84 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Congrats! Great review of your study plan and experience with the exam as well! Now you can take a deserved rest' hopefully your endorsement process is smooth as well.
  • impelseimpelse Member Posts: 1,237 ■■■■□□□□□□
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  • brianc350brianc350 Registered Users Posts: 4 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Received my email notification today that (ISC)2 has my endorsement paperwork. I was fortunate that one of my co-workers was already a CISSP so he was able to sponsor me. Now the waiting begins.
  • no!all!no!all! Member Posts: 245 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats! I see you're in MD. I live in Baltimore and I drive all the way to Cecil to take my exams. I like having a nice drive before my exam where I can just mentally prepare myself.
    A+, N+, S+, CCNA:RS, CCNA:Sec

    "In high society TCP is more welcome than UDP. At least it knows a proper handshake" - Ben Franklin

    2019 Goals: CCNP:RS & relocate to St. Pete, FL!
  • brianc350brianc350 Registered Users Posts: 4 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Received the email confirming that ISC has approved my application. I am now a fully endorsed CISSP! This process only took me 15 days between the email confirming ISC received my application to the congratulations email. I was lucky that I had a coworker who was able to sponsor me for this process so that helped tremendously.

    Again, thanks to all the poster who’s contributions helped me greatly during this journey.

    Best of luck to all of those who are working towards this certification.
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