Cracking The Code: Effective Prep Strategies For Cybersecurity Certification Exams A Cyber Phoenix Limited Blog Series: Distributed Practice & The CISSP Exam Prep

Cramming for an exam is ineffective at best, and a recipe for total failure at worst. We hinted at a handful of effective test prep strategies in our first Cracking The Code blog post and today we will dive into Distributed Practice. A powerful study strategy, Distributed Practice combines short study bursts distributed time and is far more effective for retaining new information than those marathon study sessions from your college days. With shorter test prep sessions, your brain can commit the studied material to memory because there is less information to store and because your brain and body are more likely to be well-rested. 

Let’s explore the CISSP exam and how you might use distributed practice as a test prep strategy for the Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) exam. 

CISSP – The World’s Premier Cybersecurity Certification

(ISC)² describes the CISSP certification as follows:

“Earning the CISSP proves you have what it takes to effectively design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program. With a CISSP, you validate your expertise and become an (ISC)² member, unlocking a broad array of exclusive resources, educational tools, and peer-to-peer networking opportunities. Prove your skills, advance your career, help earn the salary you want and gain the support of a community of cybersecurity leaders here to support you throughout your career.

The CISSP is ideal for experienced security practitioners, managers, and executives interested in proving their knowledge across a wide array of security practices and principles, including those in the following positions:

Chief Information Security Officer

Chief Information Officer

Director of Security

IT Director/Manager

Security Systems Engineer

Security Analyst

Security Manager

Security Auditor

Security Architect

Security Consultant

Network Architect”

What to Expect on the CISSP Exam

Eight domains covered by The CISSP examination:

Domain 1. Security and Risk Management

Domain 2. Asset Security

Domain 3. Security Architecture and Engineering

Domain 4. Communication and Network Security

Domain 5. Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Domain 6. Security Assessment and Testing

Domain 7. Security Operations

Domain 8. Software Development Security

One highly effective study technique that can help you prepare for the CISSP exam is distributed practice. In this article, we’ll explain what distributed practice is, why it works, and how you can incorporate it into your exam preparation.

What is Distributed Practice & Why It Works

Distributed practice is a learning technique that involves spacing out study sessions over time rather than cramming everything into one long, marathon study session. For example, instead of studying for eight hours straight the night before the CISSP exam, you might study for an hour or two a day for four days leading up to the exam. 

How Does Distributed Practice Work?

When you study using distributed practice, you give your brain time to process and store information. Each time you study, your brain strengthens the connections between neurons that are responsible for retaining and recalling information. The more you repeat this process, the stronger those connections become.

Distributed practice is a highly effective study technique in that it allows for better:

  • Retention: Studies have shown that distributed practice is far more effective than cramming. Your brain can retain information over the long term.
  • Recall: Distributed practice strengthens the connections between neurons responsible for recall so that you can access previously learned information when you need it.
  • Engagement: Spreading out study sessions over several days can more effectively keep you engaged and motivated, making it easier to stick with your exam preparation plan.
  • Time management: Breaking up your study sessions into shorter periods can help you manage your time more effectively and avoid burnout. It also ensures that you will not be pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam so that you can go into your test well-rested and focused. 

How To Incorporate Distributed Practice into Your CISSP Exam Prep

Start early: We can’t say this enough. Don’t wait until the week before the exam. Register for a training course or boot camp well in advance of taking the exam to learn all the material that will be covered on the exam. 

Create a study schedule: Look over the eight domains the CISSP exam covers to determine which areas you’ll need to focus on most. Use the 80/20 rule for each study session. Give yourself a good headstart in advance of the exam date so that you have adequate time to space out your study sessions. Give yourself space to allow for breaks and interruptions. Build a study schedule based on all of this. Study sessions should be long enough to cover the material you need to learn but short enough to avoid burnout. Aim for study sessions of 30-45 minutes with a break in between.

Mix it up: Vary your study materials and methods to keep your brain engaged and avoid boredom. Each study session should be different: review notes, summarize notes, create visual study guides and concept maps, and self-test. 

Take breaks: Give yourself time to rest and recharge between study sessions.

Test yourself: Use practice tests and quizzes to test your knowledge and reinforce what you’ve learned. Sign up for a CISSP test prep course to boost your confidence and your test score.

Cyber Phoenix has several test prep courses as part of our Premium collection of courses. This package is perfect for professionals and teams looking to take their skills to the next level.