Short version:

  • Fail as quickly as you can
  • Setting a date is key for innovation

Detailed version:

In January I started working for a new employer who has a high priority on training for its employees. In spring of 2015 I successfully passed the CISSP exam (First Try!) and holding this internationally recognized certification was very welcome during hiring process. Having a bunch of new colleagues I was asked several times during the last weeks about how I prepared for the CISSP exam, so I decided to write an article about my approach for preparation.

My motivation to get certified as a security professional (there are currently (Jan.2017) approx. 212.000 in the world from which are approx. 1700 in Germany):

  • to show a broad understanding of the security domain
  • get an internationally accepted certification as I am oriented internationally with my career
  • get an independently recognized certification
  • it is also still the most sought-after personal certification in the security domain.

And this is how I prepared myself for the exam:


When I decided to get certified in 2014 I didnt have any pressure so I decided not to take a one-week prep class with one of the ISC2-certified training providers. I heard about a 30-40% failure rate and so I took half a year time to prepare myself in self study which had the advantage of really diving into the topics so it was not just to get certified but also to really learn something about the different domains.

Before I really started to get into details I set a date for my exam half a year later. „Setting a date is key for innovation“ is a life lesson I learned once from my coworkers at University of Technology Ilmenau which I follow since then.

After a short validation of different types of material I got to know the video tutorial from CareerAcademy[] After watching a first free chapter of the tutorial I decided to go with Shon Harris as it very easy to follow her explanations. Shon was an experienced instructor with CareerAcademy, founded her own security consulting company Logical Security (she passed in 2014).

As I am a visual and auditory oriented learner following the videos was much easier for me than reading the 1000s of pages of the CISSP book. The video tutorial can be found here:

It is necessary to get a membership to access the full content with a monthly membership (29 Dollar), annual aembership (99 Dollar) or team membership (495 Dollar).

While listening to Shons explanations in the video I started to prepare a written content paper for myself with the most important outtakes from the lessons. As soon as I finished one chapter I immediatly tested my knowledge with the tests provided by CareerAcademy (it is included in the membership). Whenever I have to pass multiple choice exams, my motto for preparation is „Fail as quickly as you can“ because just from failures you learn.

So whenever I found out that I didnt really understand the content of a questions I reviewed the text in the CISSP Book from Shon Harris: Of course I also used my papers to check again on the Topics. Before I passed the exam at Pearson Center Zurich I took one week of holidays to concentrate on doing more Practice Exams which I took from this book:


On exam day I prepared with a good and relaxed breakfast and made sure that I am at site early to have a relaxed start. Take into consideration that check-in time at the pearson center will take while as well. Iwas provided with a container where I had to place my bag and stuff. The water and food I was not allowed to take into the exam room. I had to place it on top of the container. During the six hours I was allowed to make a break whenever I need one, I had to give a signal to the person in charge for control behind the camera. This is a standard to make sure you will not cheat. They do not stop exam time during the break. After three hours I took about 20 minutes for a longer break to use bathroom and eat and drink. I thought it might be good to stay concentraded for the second half.

My strategy for the questions: I first answered the ones that I was sure about the answers and marked the ones that I was not sure and came back to them later. For those of you who are not native speakers I really recommend to pass the exam in English because the translations to german language are horrible and sometimes even wrong. You are allowed to take a dictionary.

After the full six hours it took about 15 minutes until i received my result: SUCCESSFULLY PASSED!!! :-)

They dont tell you your score but the only thing that mattered to me after all this was just the happy feeling, the smile and satisfaction. Yeah.

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