Pass the CISSP Exam – Successful CISSPs explain their approach

The CISSP exam is one of the most difficult information security exams to pass due to the broad base of subject domains tested. Maggie Harper is our second information security professional to be interviewed to lend a hand in this series designed to help you pass the CISSP exam. After all what better way is there to supplement your formal study plan then to hear from those that have been in the trenches and passed the exam themselves?

Maggie, what were your reasons for pursuing the CISSP certification?

I pursued the certification because I feel that the information  security field is an ever growing and expanding field and the CISSP would help me with the transition from technical/engineering PM into a network security type role.

Did your employer at the time encourage you to take the CISSP exam ?

No, I decided to pursue it on my own.

What study method/materials did you use to prepare for the CISSP exam?

A co-worker named Curtis Levinson helped me tremendously in understanding not just the fundamentals contained within the 10 domains, but the origin and evolution of those fundamentals as applicable in both today’s environment and emerging technologies. I also used the Wiley study guide and took the time to quiz other CISSP’s. A million practice tests, scenarios and questions helped too.

It is nice to see that your co-worker played such and important mentoring role. What CISSP subject domains did you need to spend the most studying in detail?

Crypto, still gets me to this day even after passing the exam ; )

How did your CISSP exam approach compare to my published CISSP Exam Strategy?

Great strategy you outline! I’m a one time through and then come back and hit what I felt would take too much time to noodle through. Only had two of those though.

How confident were you that you passed post exam?

Not at all. The exam was hard, no doubt about it. Of those I spoke with that walked out confident they passed, they didn’t.

I guess humility was the order of the day there. I wonder if there is some kind correlation to overconfidence and lack of success rate. Have you found the CISSP CPE requirements tough to meet?

Not really, there are alot of different avenues for CPEs.

Any final tips you have for CISSP candidates that we have not previously discussed?

Talk to as many certified people as you can. But don’t take their experience as your own. There are different versions of the test and you can easily make the mistake of focusing on the wrong areas. Ask a lot of questions! Even if people look at you like you’ve suddenly sprouted another head, ask!

Maggie made effective use of her network and inquisitive nature to conquer the CISSP exam. Thanks again for lending your time to help the CISSPs of tomorrow to pass the exam.

Be sure to check out the first CISSP Exam Interview if you missed it.

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One Response to Pass the CISSP Exam – Successful CISSPs explain their approach

  1. Curtis KS Levinson says:

    Margaret Harper Cook (Maggie) has been without a doubt, the best student I ever had. I have taught infosec to many folks over the years and helped multiple people to pass exams including the CISSP. Maggis has a natural gift for cyber security and the intuitive ability to comprehend what are admittedly difficult concepts the first time. Maggie is also a Project Management Professional PMP and a PMP-CISSP is a very rare combination of certifications. I believe she is a credit to herself and the security profession. My only wish is that there were a dozen more like her. Our profession is not able to scale to the demand and qualified individual are becoming increasingly rare.

    Maggie deserves a world of credit for studying and passing the CISSP on her own and it was my pleasure to help.

    Curtis KS Levinson CISSP 4261

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