Crunch time, you have put a lot of work into this – most likely you’ve spent months studying hard and searching online ‘how to pass CISSP exam’ in it’s various guises. No doubt you soon found that there aren’t any shortcuts. You have to study hard and smart to be in with a fighting chance. Hopefully you have read the preceding articles (particularly those on revision and my post on how to know when you’re ready). This post is a short one on what to spend your last 24 hours doing up until you step into the exam room. I’ve been (un)fortunate enough to have to take a few exams in the last few years however I understand that for some people it could have been many years since you had to go through this ordeal – if so my sympathies are with you! I’ve also been the position in the past of performing solo classical piano recitals at university so believe me, I know what it feels like to feel under pressure to perform! Remember that this is my advice, if you disagree with it and want to prepare in a different way that’s fine – it’s your exam, not mine.
The day before
The day before any exam I do no study at all. None. Why? Well actually there are a few reasons. Firstly, you already know that the amount of material that you have to study for this exam is vast. Most likely it has taken you months rather than weeks to get through, so if you really think that studying for a few extra hours the day before the exam is going to make a significant difference to your knowledge you’re kidding yourself. At this point preparation is more about preparing yourself rather than preparing the knowledge. Secondly you are likely to keep going over topics that you struggle with. For example if you’ve spent the last few weeks struggling to remember the numerous key lengths of the various cryptographic functions this is likely to be what you will continue to do for the last few hours. If you haven’t got it by now its better to accept that you wont get it. Accept it rather than punishing yourself and making yourself even more anxious than you are already. Finally, it’s important to rest before taking the exam – it is challenging, it’s long and there are a lot of questions to get through which require your concentration. Don’t put yourself in a poor starting position by staying up late studying the night before. The day before exams I make sure my books, flashcards, apps and Facebook groups are out of sight and out of mind. The final stages in how to pass your CISSP exam are: rest, relax and plan.
What do you mean plan? You’ve already said not to study and it’s not as if you know what the questions will be so how can you plan? So this planning is all about putting you in a strong position so that you can give yourself the best chances of passing your CISSP exam. The aim is to reduce your worries and manage the practical aspects of the day to avoid unnecessary stresses. This includes:
- planning your journey (Google maps is our friend) – make sure you know exactly how you’re getting to your CISSP exam
- be generous with time – give yourself a safety margin
- decide what you’re going to wear – comfort is the key
- decide what you’re going to eat before you leave – running out of energy isn’t going to help
- put your ID in a place you can’t forget it – imagine how disappointed you would be to get turned away without even starting
- consider taking earplugs – noise irritates some people (like me), you don’t have to use them but wouldn’t it be nice to have the option?
- take food and drink – you won’t be allowed to take it in but can leave it just outside the door and take a break to eat if you want to
It goes without saying that getting a good night’s sleep is important but then we also know that this isn’t always the easiest thing to control. After all, the more you worry about the importance of sleeping the more unattainable it seems to be. Suffice to say that the better you have planned and prepared the less you will have to worry about when you go to bed. Make sure you give yourself at least the opportunity to get plenty of sleep and whatever you do, don’t stay up all night revising!
Test day! You thought it would never come, wished it would and now, perhaps wish it hadn’t! The most important thing about test day is not to concern yourself about whether you pass or not – by this stage it’s largely out of your control anyway. You’ve done whatever study you’ve done and the rest is down to what questions you get and your test technique (see next article). Make sure you have a decent meal before you take your exam as the CISSP is long – even if you’re quick. Make sure you take your ID with you as well as your snacks, drink and earplugs. Stick to your plan in terms of travel to make sure you arrive in plenty of time. One trick that I’ve adopted is to get to the building with plenty of time to spare so that I know EXACTLY where it is and then go and have a coffee somewhere nearby. That gives me the option of having a nice big safety margin (if I get delayed I just go straight in) and avoids last minute panic of not being able to find the right building. At the same time it avoids sitting around for ages in the exam building waiting with a load of other worried looking people!
You’ll have to lock up your possessions (including phones) in a locker, then will be provided with writing materials in case you need to make any notes as you go along. You’ll be allocated a computer terminal at which you’ll take your test and then it will be time to start. You have to accept the (ISC)2 terms/conditions before starting your test – this times out and if you don’t accept it in time you cannot sit your exam! From then on it’s just you and 250 exam questions. Make sure that you read the following article in which I discuss some tactical tips and options to help you pass your CISSP exam. If you’re still in the study or revision stages be sure to check out the resources section for materials to support your studies.