How Long to Study for the CISSP?

The CISSP is one of the most popular and valuable security certifications you can earn.  It’s valued for its scope, challenge, and content.  

It’s by no means an easy certification to study for and will challenge even the most knowledgeable security professionals.  Anyone looking to add the CISSP to their list of accolades will need to invest a substantial amount of time into studying. 

Which brings us to the question, how long will you need to study for the CISSP? I would estimate between 60 and 150 hours of study will need to be invested in studying before you can comfortably pass the CISSP.  With plenty of prior experience across multiple domains of the CISSP will reduce your study requirements towards the lower end of 60 hours.  While those with little experience or prior knowledge will need to study for longer.  

If you’re able to commit to 2 hours of study every night, 7 days a week, you’ll be looking at between 1 and 2.5 months of study time.  Of course, other commitments, as well as potential burnout, need to be factored in, which can easily increase the study time by a factor of 3.  Turning it into 3 months to 7.5 months. 

How to Reduce the Time Needed to Study For the CISSP

There are no shortcuts to the CISSP, you either know the content enough to be able to pass or you don’t.  You can’t use a brain dump and your exam experience is likely to be quite different to everyone else.

However, working smartly can and will help you retain information faster and allow you to pass the CISSP in a smaller time frame.

One of the best resources for passing the CISSP is your own experiences.  Having exposure to two of the eight domains will give you a working knowledge of many of the topics covered in the CISSP. This can give you a massive headstart when studying.  Which is exactly why it’s one of the prerequisites for attaining the CISSP. 

In addition to relying on prior experiences, knowing what sort of studying works best for you is beneficial.  I can’t read a CISSP study guide from front cover to back without losing interest very quickly, so I adjusted my study schedule to meet my needs. 

How I studied for the CISSP:

  • Scheduled the exam for 3 months in the future before starting to study.  This gave me a goal to work towards and an incentive to study.
  • Commit to 90 minutes of study every single night.  Anything beyond that and I found my attention span drifting. 
  • Downloaded the audio version of the CISSP course.  I listened to these multiple times while on my commute, while at the gym, or any other time I had a few minutes spare. 
  • I took another official practice test and compared my results to the first attempt.  
  • I worked my way through each chapter of the official practice tests (each chapter focuses on a specific domain), reading the explanations for any questions I got wrong. 
  • Looked through flashcards I downloaded from the Google play store.
  • Finally, I took another official practice test and made sure I received over 80%.  

This worked for me, but you might work better by reading study guides and taking notes as you go.  I can’t do that, but I know that from my experiences doing other tests and certifications.  

If you know the study method that works best for you then you can spend less time messing around and concentrate on the methods that will deliver results for you.

Whatever you decide to do, I would recommend spending a decent amount of time looking at the practice tests.  Much of what makes the CISSP challenging is the way questions are phrased, which takes some effort to understand.  The official practice question will help you get into the correct mindset.  

What If I Take Longer to Study for the CISSP

There is not the correct or wrong amount of time you should spend studying for the CISSP. If you spend, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or even 2 years for the CISSP, then that’s totally fine. 

I personally wanted to get it out of the way with as I didn’t want to have it hanging over me for months.  It’s a certification I put off completing several times over, but now I’ve done it, I’m glad I have.  

Just make sure you’re comfortably able to hit 80% in any practice tests you take, and you know why you got the questions wrong that you did. 

As soon as you’re getting at least 80% on a practice test and you’re feeling confident, then you’re ready to sit the exam.  

Final Thoughts

I’m confident that any security professionals can pass the CISSP if they put the effort into studying and if they study in a way that plays to their strengths. 

Unfortunately, there are no real shortcuts and you will have to spend time reading and practicing until you get to a point where you’re dreaming about the eight domains of the CISSP.

Let me know in the comments below how long you took to study for the CISSP and what methods you used to help you pass and what if anything you would have done differently.  

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes is a writer for HKS Siblab, an education and business blog. He has a MSc in Cyber Security & Digital Forensics from the University of Hertfordshire and has been working in the cyber security industry since 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing guitar and spending time with his family.

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