Monday, August 2, 2021

CISSP 2021

This is more of a stream of though to primarily document my CISSP study process and events as I remember them while they are fresh in my mind.

So I have been studying for the ISC2 CISSP exam since the end of March 2021. I attended the week long online version of the CISSP Bootcamp. Long slide deck going over the 8 knowledge areas of the exam.

I started doing 10 question tests using Official (ISC)2 CISSP Study app for iOS. As well as through Wiley Efficient Learning practice test builder. I also listened to the audio version of "Eleventh Hour CISSP®: Study Guide, Third Edition", while drive around town and or out walking.

I usually stuck to 10 questions at a time and then grade. Flag the ones I got wrong and review those to reinforce the correct answers. The week before the actual exam I started taking 20 to 50 question sample tests from both sources.

I was averaging scores on the practice tests between 60 to 70 percent most of the time. So I was really starting to get worried that I would not make the cut on the test. The actual exam is a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) format. Which means that the test is tailored to each individual based on how good or bad they are doing on the exam. It is a 180 minute (max) timed exam. With a minimum of 100 questions and max of 150.

I really hit the practice tests hard on Sunday night. About 3 hours worth and 4 hours worth on Monday. I was averaging getting scores between 30 to 80 percent depending on questions presented from different sections. So I was really starting to get worried because my scores seemed to actually be going down the more I tested.

 The night before the test I continued listening to the audio book version of the Eleventh Hour as well as listening to that on the drive down to Pasadena the night before. Staying down in Pasadena the night before was definitely the right choice. No traffic stress the morning of the test. I checked into the Pasadena Hilton around 7pm Monday night (28 June 2021). Went searching for food around 8:30pm that night, walking. The few places that I found open, while on foot, had wait lists and lines. I did find a subway, but it was on the wrong side of the street and I didn't feel like backtracking at that point. Went to find exactly where the Union Bank building was located and where the Pearson Professional Center testing center would be. End up taking a 1.5 mile loop to Union Bank and back to the Hilton. Never did get any food while out on the walk. When I made it back to the Hilton I decided to grab something from the kiosk cafe. A truck stop style Ham-n-cheese with chips and a bottled coke. Not the best thing in the world, but did eliminate the hunger. 

Morning of the test I woke up about 5:45am. Test was scheduled for 9am with recommended check in time of 8:30. I figured I would leave a lot of extra time to shower, grab something to eat and get into the parking structure. After showering and getting dressed I went down to the lobby of the hotel to try to do an actual sit down breakfast. But all they seemed to have was a coffee bar that you would order at and I wasn't real sure what the menu was since there was a line of people. I opted to go back to the kiosk cafe. This time getting a truck-stop style turkey wrap, a yogurt and Starbucks bottled cold coffee. Ate this back up in the room. When finished packed my stuff and headed back down to the car.

Left the Hilton parking lot around 7:45 and drove to the Union Bank parking lot. Sat in the car until 7:59 when I decided I should head in to find the Pearson Professional Center to make sure that I was not late. I beleieve they had me all checked in by 8:15 (not sure of exact time because my phone and watch were off an in a locker by this time). Ids validated. Palms scanned and photo taken. Issued a dry erase tablet and permanent marker. Opted for the optional ear plugs (good call). Looked like about 4 other people had started testing before I did. No idea which certifications they were testing for. Sat down at the computer, read and signed the NDA and started the test.

180 minutes on the clock and counting down. I was still kind of freaking out about actually being here and starting the actual test. Made it through the first 12 questions before I looked at the looked at the question count and or time. The next time I noticed the question count I was at 26 questions down. Then 40 something and still had around 130 minutes or so remaining. I remember starting to feel uncomfortable in the chair around this point. The chair was actually a bit low for me, and I wasn't sure if it was adjustable or not and since I was already headlong into the test I decided to just deal with it. The setup was a little odd because the chair was too low to the table top. And a computer was on the table top with the mouse on the table top. And monitor on top of the actual computer, putting the monitor a bit higher than is normally comfortable for me. More neck popping and back stretching. Mask adjusting, still in the COVID time. Had to wear the face mask throughout the whole test. I had opted for my thicker mask because I couldn't bring in the thinner one if I needed it. With the ear plugs in I was able to focus pretty well. Only distracted a couple of times as people came in and out of the room, since the floor shook a little bit as people walked around. So it was some where around this point that I noticed that I was 94 questions down and still had about 100 minutes (I don't recall the exact amount, but I do believe it was still in the triple digits). I started doubting if I would pass the test. Had to put that out of my mind and focus back on the questions at hand. Answering question after question and then all of a sudden the test stops and states that I have completed the sampling of questions (or something to that affect). It startles me so much I think I must've clicked something wrong. Then I start to think I probably foo-bared it completely. I can no longer see how many questions are answered, nor the time remaining. I complete the exit click. Turn to make sure the monitor acknowledges me to proceed out of the testing room.

A couple more Id verification checks and I am back at the front desk being handed a paper with the print face down. Thoughts of "Oh crap, I rushed it and failed the damn thing" running through my head.

Holding my breath, and getting light headed because I'm already wearing a mask, I slowly turn the paper over expecting the worst and read "Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have provisionally passed". Not sure if I am seeing that correctly yet, I return to the locker to gather my things. I take another look and reread again just to make sure I didn't misinterpret what it said. "Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have provisionally passed" .. HELL YESS!!!! Hallelujah!!! A huge sigh of relief. 

By the time I get back down to the car and turn my phone and watch on I notice that it is exactly 10am. So I believe it took around 1hr and 50 minutes before the exam stopped on me. And i believe I hit the minimum 100 question threshold.

I proceeded to map a route home and start the drive back home. Didn't call or text anyone because I still couldn't believe that I might have passed this on the first try. Especially with as bad as I felt I was doing with the practice tests. But this time I put on a different audio book, The Game: The Game Is Life, Book 1, for more of a relaxing drive back home.

So now I have to wait 2-5 days for the results of the test to be verified and validated. Then if I still have passed I can start the process of officially getting the CISSP certification.

Official Credly CISSP Badge:

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