Length of exam: 3 hours
Number of questions: 100–150 questions
Question format: Multiple Choice and advanced innovative questions
Passing grade: 700 points out of 1000 points
This exam uses “Computerized Adaptive Testing” which means that whenever you answer a question, the exam adapts to either become more difficult in areas you are struggling in and ensure that they can assess you as precisely as possible.
One of the pieces of feedback I got back from other people who passed this exam before me was that this is primarily an English exam, and I felt that a LOT during this exam.
When teaching security classes, I tend to mention that courses are split up into three concepts:
Definitions: How to describe a concept/item
Application: How to use the concept/item
Integration: How the concept/item affects other areas of business/technology
While the course material and practice exams feel like there’s a lot of definitions and concepts to learn — this exam assumes you know concepts and may ‘reference them without referencing them’.
For example — the course material may cover the Capability Maturity Model — but the exam won’t use that exact phrase but will give you a scenario and expect you to know how to apply a phase of CMM based on the context of the question.
CISSP is an exam that appears to test you on “which is the better decision” rather than “which is the best technology”. It may also ask “what should you do next” rather than “what is a proposed solution that could fix the problem immediately” which I believe is designed to trap technical people when the goal is to understand risk and perform a ‘risk advisory’ role.
This leads to a fun situation where some questions feel like you’re looking at four answers and all of them look like they’re correct.
In one of the below videos, Larry states that lawyers he teach tend to pass the exam — because they’ll read the question and go “I don’t know what any of these technologies are, but the question was asking for process and assurance and there are three answers that are technologies and only one that’s a process”
In order to drill down to the correct answer, considering the following thoughts:
Skim the question. Skim the answers and then go back and read the question CAREFULLY. Now that you have the context of the answers, you can read the question carefully to understand what it’s asking.
This is an obvious one, but eliminate answers you are confident are wrong. Re-read the remaining answers and the question with fewer choices.
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This is not a technical-only exam. This is an exam for a ‘risk-advisor’ role.
When answering exam questions, pretend you’re a lawyer or a CISO and not a technical administrator. Choosing the best solution that costs the most money or takes up significant resources will likely be the wrong choice since we need to weigh up multiple options as security professionals.
Do any of the answers encompass other answers. For example if you had a question such as
“What would be the best way to capture falling water?”:
- a) Cup,
c) Wide-brim storage device — the answer would be C, because it encompasses both a and b and is also correct.
Is the question asking “What would you do next”, because the question is typically asking you if you know the process, rather than if you know a potential solution.
For example, (this one is from Larry, resource below):
“A firewall administrator has noticed that an IP address on the inside appears to be attempting to open ports to an unknown host in a foreign country. What is the most appropriate next step to take?”
a) Block the port until the host can be authenticated
b) Document and analyze the situation
c) Run a virus scan on the machine that is attempting the connection as it may be infected
d) Disconnect the workstation and interview the user of the machine to determine their intention
The answer is the choice that follows the next stage after there has been a potential event — document and analyze. Many technical people will jump to a solution that may ‘fix the problem’, like blocking a port, disconnecting the workstation — but those options are an overreaction until it’s been analysed and understood. You’ve immediately decreased productivity 100% on only a little bit of information that might not be a threat. Also, what if that system is mission critical — you can’t just unplug it.
Look for the answer that actually answers the question. There can be more than one right statement, but you want the statement that actually answers the question.
* Answers can be accurate, but wrong for the questions.
* Answers can be have a lot of detail, but the details are either wrong.
* Answers can be have a lot of detail, but the details wrong for the question
You want an answer that is accurate and precise, not just precise.
Which of the following best defines a Business Impact Analysis?
a) It is the process of analyzing all business functions to determine the impact of an outage
b) It is the process of analyzing corporate functions, such as accounting, personnel, and legal to determine which functions must be operational immediately following an outage
Answer b) certainly looks like a more precise answer, but the answer is a), because a BIA analyzes ‘all business functions’, and it focuses on the ‘impact’.
Answer b) mentions examples of corporate functions and only mentions ‘which functions must be operational’ — this is a component of BIA, but it is not the best definition of one.