Inch Deep, Mile Wide

The CISSP Journey

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Practice, Practice, Practice

Posted by -Durk- on December 18, 2009

In my opinion taking practice tests are essential. How do you know if you are processing the info you are studying? How do you know where the CISSP focus is? How can you prepare to read poorly written questions (and there were some terribly worded questions on the real exam)? PRACTICE TESTS! The practice tests help you determine where your weaknesses and strengths are and help you get a feel for what the questions will be like (although the actual exam was much more difficult that any practice questions that I have found so far, by far). Most of the CISSP texts and websites mentioned within this blog have practice questions. My boss also bought 300 of the ISC2 CISSP questions for $300-great idea, but again, not on the same difficulty level as the real exam. It wasn’t a waste of money, but it is not a fair representation of questions that will be on the real exam.

Read a section, take a short test. Read a chapter, take a longer test. Watch a video take a test. Listen to a lecture, take a test! Repeat tests for domains you studied a couple of weeks ago.

It is also important to identify questions you are getting consistently wrong and unlearn why you are picking the wrong answer.

Here are my http://freepracticetests.org tips:

  • Purchase the subscription.
  • Time yourself. Get a feel for how long it takes you to take different number and different levels of tests.
  • Work up to 250 questions SLOWLY. Start with 10 rookie questions from a domain or all domains. Then go to 25, then 50, etc. Then go up a level and do the same. The important thing is that you are testing while you are initially learning.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit a test in the middle. Note how many you answered then note how many you got right in the results.
  • Review the questions you got wrong! Read any notes as to why you got it wrong and why the correct answer is correct.  Follow any links, read the corresponding section in a book.
  • Review the questions you got right! Did you guess or did you really know it? If you guessed learn it!
  • Be encouraged with your progress and don’t be discouraged when you fail. NOW YOU KNOW WHERE YOU NEED TO FOCUS!! Focus your study to your problem areas.
  • Don’t take the real exam until you are scoring into the 90 percent range.
  • Remember that you only need 70% for the real exam, but the real exam is much harder than any tests I practiced.

My recommendation is to study through all of the domains and build up to this:

  • Generate 250 (or max) questions on each domain at each level (rookie, easy, medium, hard and Pro). This would be 10 domains times 5 levels or 50 different tests.
  • Generate 250 questions from across all domains at each level (rookie, easy, medium, hard and Pro). This would be 5 tests of 250 questions.
  • Always choose these settings: “closely related”, uncheck “Shuffle answers in questions”, uncheck “Review only incorrect answers”, uncheck “Activate timer”

I also strongly recommend simulating the real test as much as possible. You don’t have to do this in the core of your studying, but after you have gone through the domains a time or two focus on paper tests and a paper “scan tron” answer sheet. After generating a test select all, copy it into notepad, print it out. Submit answers for grading (without answering any) and copy the answers into notepad, print it out. Finally download and print the 250_Answer_Sheet.xls here.

Here are some paper test-taking tips:

  • WRITE ON THE TEST. Write notes. Notate confidence level for an answer. Cross out wrong answers. Circle key words. Write the corresponding letter (answer) ON THE TEST. I went through 3 pencils on the real exam (they provide pencils, no highlighters allowed, no scratch paper allowed, there is a blank page on the inside of the test). Another good reason to write the answer on the test is if you get messed up and off on the answer sheet, you can always refer to the written letter answers on the test to fix.
  • Transfer answers one page at a time to the “scan tron” answer sheet. Pay careful attention when transferring to select the right answer.
  • Review your answers. When you are finished with the test go back and review your answers, look for questions that you identified as unsure. It is rarely good to second guess yourself, so skip over questions that you felt pretty good about and focus on the questions you struggled with.
  • TAKE BREAKS! You can take breaks on the real exam, so practice that too!
  • Pay attention to what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable, posture, breaks, drinks, etc.
  • TAKE YOUR SWEET TIME! The real exam is 6 hours. I used up 5 solid hours, took 3-4 breaks, ate 2-3 chocolate granola bars, went through 2-3 20 oz plastic bottles of Pepsi.
  • Be mindful of the times you take the tests versus results. We took many practice tests at 7 or 8 at night. We usually did a little worse. Thankfully the real exam is at 9 in the morning.
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