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CISA exam - my experience and how I studied

Tags: book review study
I took the CISSP exam back in 2011 and thought I would never seek getting another cert., but here I am.

My job pays for continuing education and requires us to outline our career goals annually. So 2 years ago I took the IAPP exam because I'm really interested in Privacy issues - not so much memorizing laws, but the technical means to enforce privacy requirements. I wouldn't say the CIPT cert. has given me a leg up in the job market, but the CISSP certainly has. So, in looking for what cert. to go for next, I wanted something respected in my field and CISA fit the bill.

I bought the ISACA CISA review manual in Feb. when I registered for the May/June window, and my co-worker loaned me his ISACA Question/Answer printed book. I didn't opt for the online database of questions since I had his printed (hard copy book) already.

I'm also not a fan of bootcamps because I don't want to just cram to pass a test. So, March 1st, I began reading. And oh Lort, that book was a long, hard, slog. I'd only gotten 2/3rd of the way through the first chapter (of five total chapters) by April 1st. So I started going through the Q/A book questions, and was only getting about 50% correct. It was frustrating for me, the way the questions were many clauses with seemingly insignificant info., which actually pivoted the inherent meaning and so changed what I initially considered the answer to be.

An answer may seem to be right, but I wouldn't pick it because I didn't recognize the specific term and worried it was "made up". Hint: I remember the CISSP used that tactic, but the CISP didn't. Perhaps a different approach used by ISC(2) vs. ISACA.

It was now June 1st and I'd scheduled my test for mid June. Seeing the gulf between the amount of material I had get to get through in the study manual, and my by-now consistent pattern of scoring 65% on the Q/A's, I was starting to sweat. I did some online searching and learned the CISA only had about a 50% pass rate. And most folks on this forum were advising to just hammer on the Q/A online database.

But I'm a stubborn cuss, so Frank Sinatra and I did it our way. I began to study every day (1-2 hours), giving priority to the review manual rather than the questions/answers. I lugged that book with me to work so I could study at lunch (but rarely got that chance b/c my job is insanely busy), and ensconced myself away from my family after dinner and got in at least 8-hours per weekend - still just trying to just get through the study manual. I started skimming when I knew a topic, and used up at least 3 highlighter pens. But by golly, I made it to the end of the review book!

I took off work starting Tuesday (exam was 1:00pm Thursday) so I could review my highlighting and notes. The night before the exam, I'd only made it through the first, second, and 1/2-way of the third chapter (of five) of sample question chapters in the Q/A book, but didn't have any gas left to feel bad about it. My brain was fried, it was 114 degrees outside, I was unshowered and talking in tongues. So I stepped away, had a glass of wine and a shower.

The morning of the exam, I took my first stab at a sample test of *all* chapters. I took it in 20- question increments to check my wrong answers immediately. I was getting about 8/20 wrong. It would be because a question included a tricky, pivot word like "management assumes implementation went well," and I didn't know how an assumption should change the expected auditor action. Or the word "monitor" changing the BEST answer from what it would be if the word "assess" was used. So I resigned myself to failing.

*Note, I took the CBT version of the exam via. a PSI testing center. You have to check in 30 minutes before exam time. If you are late, too bad. I think they lock the door, so don't expect to sit in your car cramming until 5-minutes till!

I started the exam, and was shocked. The questions were straight-forward, the format of the multiple-choice answers were mostly phrases or sentence fragments. No 3-line, multiple dependent clause questions leaving you scratching your head over what is the key phrase or trick word! I associate the Q/A sample questions to "college-level" of difficulty, and the test itself to middle-grade to high-school level. I sped through the test, not flagging anything for review, confident of my answers, and finishing in 2.5 hours (150 questions).

My co-worker took the last paper-based test, and said he found the exam questions similar in nature to the examples in the Q/A book in terms of complexity. Folks on this forum have said that as well. So, I am left wondering if the difference was because my test was CBT?

The ISACA website says no, there's no difference. Maybe I psyched myself out. Maybe it was the heat. But, I passed the exam. My score breakdown email is coming next week.

That was my experience. I don't want to tell anyone not to worry, that the test is easier than the sample questions - but I will say don't get inside your own head. Take your time, study hard, do your best. And shower! :lol:

This post first appeared on Recent Blogs Posts - IT Certificatio, please read the originial post: here

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CISA exam - my experience and how I studied


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