My 5 Tips for Passing the New ISC2 Electronic Based CISSP Exam

Did you know that ISC2 is planning a big change to the CISSP exam?  Anyone studying for or planning for the CISSP exam needs to be aware of the upcoming change. Starting September 1, 2012, ISC2 will offer the CISSP exam in an electronic format.  This will be a big change for those attempting this certification exam.  Previously, exam candidates had to search for exam locations and then schedule training that mapped up to available exam dates. The change to an electronic format will make it much easier to schedule the exam.
Tip 1 – You still need to plan for the exam.  In my experience, students that plan for the exam well in advance and prepare a written study schedule typically place higher passing scores and lower failure rates. One of the big changes with computer based testing is that there will be a rapid turn around of exam results. With the paper-based exam, test candidates had to wait weeks to be notified of their exam results.   With computer based testing, exam candidates will be able to find out immediately if they have passed or failed.  Those that do not pass can quickly turn their attention to areas where they tested poorly.
Tip 2 – Don’t wait until the test day to find out the areas where you are weak.  Download a copy of the ISC2 CBK and use it as a checklist.  Review each item to determine what areas you need to study and then focus on these areas before you attempt the exam. While ISC2 may be moving to an electronic test, exam scoring remains the same. The exam is pass/fail and you must still answer 250 questions. Candidates typically complete computerized tests faster than paper-based exams as there is no need to transfer answers to a scantron. So, the real difference with computer based testing is the test delivery system.
Tip 3 – Six hours offers plenty of time to complete the exam; however, after 100 to 150 questions, you may start to get a little fatigued.  Prepare for the exam in the same way you would prepare for a race; when using practice exams, get used to attempting 200 to 250 questions at a time. One item exam candidates need to be aware of is the CISSP retest policy. It will change once ISC2 migrates to electronic testing.  From the date of the candidate’s first exam attempt, candidates cannot reattempt the exam for 30 days.  If for some reason the candidate failed on the second attempt, candidates cannot retake the exam for 90 days.  If anyone had to attempt the exam a fourth time, a 180-day waiting period is required.
Tip 4 – Take your time and think about test logic.  Each question will have four possible answers and only one will be correct.  Read each question carefully and even if you don’t know the answer, try to eliminate wrong answers.   Don’t make the mistake of clicking through questions too quickly.  Look for key words such as least, most, best, worst, or not. One word can make all the difference between a right and wrong answer.  No one wants to fail by one or two points and be forced to retake the exam. There are some big advantages to ISC2 moving to an electronic exam.  Exam candidates will find it much easier to schedule the test.  Rescheduling will also be easier as candidates will be able to do so online 48 hours before the scheduled date/time or by phone 24 hours before.  Also, most candidates will be able to find a testing center close by so they will not have to travel to attempt the exam or spend money on a hotel.
Tip 5 – Don’t equate easy access with an easy test.  Some  individuals preparing for the exam may feel compelled to rush and schedule the test before being fully prepared.  Most rate the CISSP exam as a moderately difficult exam and as the exam costs more than $500.00, it would be wise to insure you are fully prepared before scheduling the test date.  A study plan of 30 to 90 days is not unreasonable. I hope these five tips for passing the new CISSP electronic based exam offer you some insight into the test and offer some ideas on how to best adapt to this changing test environment.  Planning and preparation is the key to success. 
Good luck on the exam!

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