• Patrick Jordan

My Quick Tips: How to Pass Cybersecurity Certification Exams

Image Via: Tucson Weekly

The Stress

Getting ready to take a certification exam in the cybersecurity realm - whether it’s an entry level exam like Security+ , a senior level one like CISSP, or another similar blue-chip certification - can be quite stressful. You may have spent $500 or more to register for the test, or your company may have covered the cost, and how awkward would it be to tell your boss you didn’t pass. It may also just be a big moment in itself, this certification may be the one that will open doors and present you with a much bigger range of career opportunities.

My 02 on Prepping and De-stressing

I’d like to mention the one little secret key to success in studying for and taking these certification exams .... Common Sense. There’s no magic bullet, no single best source of study materials - just a much more basic tool that we all have available to us. Here are some of the best ways to apply it in getting ready for that next big exam:

  • Find the prep materials that work best for you - One size doesn’t fit all here - some like a boot camp course with live instructors best, some (myself included) prefer self study. Find the best quality content that suits your learning habits - preferably from the certification body itself wherever possible - live or streamed courses, ebook or printed study guides, practice exams, quiz apps for your phone, and similar resources.

  • Get through *all* the exam content - Don’t skip Domain 4 because it’s only 15% weighted. Getting even a decent number right within the 15% weighted domain might be the difference between a pass or a fail. Don’t skip Chapter 5 because you think you’ve already mastered disaster recovery. You may have a wealth of good hands-on experience, but what you’ve been exposed to may not cover all the bases on a topic - especially in the huge and complex area that is cybersecurity.

  • Take notes, lots of notes - Take notes as you read through exam prep content, or while watching it presented live or streamed on-demand. Take notes especially on details or topics you find difficult to grasp, on areas you know you’re weak in. Do the same when you’re going through practice exams or quizzes - again, especially on items you’re getting wrong.

  • Know the Content Inside Out / Don’t Just Memorize Answers - Two reasons for this - you’ll stand a far better chance of passing, and you’ll be far less of a “paper tiger” and more of a useful fit when you set out to apply the knowledge in a work environment.

These are the basic methods that have worked well for me over the course of 15 years of taking and passing certification exams the first time I took them (except for one pesky Cisco exam I studied for and took while my wife was pregnant). Using this approach I’ve obtained the following cybersecurity certifications: CEH, CRISC, CISSP, CCSP, CASP, and MCSE:Security. More importantly, I’ve been able to retain a good chunk of what I’ve learned in studying for all of those, and have put that knowledge to good use at work for all those years.

What are some of your best tips on prepping for cyber related certification exams?

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I think this is pretty cool to see. A US state - the great (I assume) state of Ohio - is highlighting cybersecurity gigs to encourage people to move there. Like so: Defend the cloud. Own the IoT. Prot