We Polled CISSP Takers to Find Out How Long You Should Study Before Test Day

by Ross Heintzkill | Published on August 31, 2023

The skills and knowledge needed to design, engineer and manage an entire organization's security posture aren't just deep and complex, just finding out what those skills are can be a challenge. The (ISC)2 is a professional organization of cybersecurity professionals who write courses, exams, certifications and training materials to help standardize the entire career field. The Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification (CISSP) from (ISC)2 is considered one of the best cybersecurity certifications in the industry, but it's also one of the more challenging. Earning it could set your career up for long-term success, but how long should you plan on it taking? How long will it take you to prepare for the CISSP exam?

The internet has tons of courses and resources that want to help you get ready for the CISSP, but the question isn't where to find training – it's how long will it take you? CBT Nuggets organized a survey of over 300 IT professionals via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. We asked cybersecurity professionals with their CISSP how long it took them to prepare for it so that we could figure out what makes the study time go faster, and what the most successful candidates do. Read on to find out how long it might take you to study for the CISSP.

How long did most people need to study for the CISSP exam?

Our survey of 306 cybersecurity professionals with their CISSP revealed that more than half (55%) needed more than 5 months to prepare for the CISSP. In fact, the vast majority of all cybersecurity professionals (84%) needed 3 months or longer. Of those who needed less than 3 months, the numbers are about evenly split between those who needed less than 6 weeks (19%) and those who needed between 6 weeks and 3 months (21%).

How long to study (ISC)² CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional

The sheer number of people who needed more than 3 months should provide a clear picture of just how sizable the CISSP and the CISSP exam are. If you're interested in preparing for the CISSP in less than a few months, don't be disheartened by how many people needed more than 5 months. Although it's a substantially difficult certification and exam to prepare for, it's possible to prepare for the CISSP in less than 3 months.

How should you prepare ahead of taking CISSP? 

The obvious first step is to find out if the CISSP is the right certification for you. Keep in mind that CISSP isn't the only IT certification that (ISC)2 offers – the (ISC)2 library of certifications is extensive. Check the skills listed on the CISSP landing page and read the exam details. Once you know that the CISSP is right for you, plan on dedicating yourself to an online course.

When undertaking a certification as big as the CISSP, one of the most important factors in finishing fast and early is having a plan and sticking to it. As simple as it sounds, that's often as easy as making a very clear rule about how much you'll study, how often. The most successful CISSP candidates spend at least one hour, every single day, without fail.

Beyond good study habits and the right mindset, the CISSP remains a tour de force of cybersecurity knowledge and skills. You'll need to do more than read about the contents of the exam, or watch videos alone. You'll want to find an online CISSP training course that doesn't just teach you the facts on the CISSP exam, but also teaches you the real-world skills it tests for.

Tips to make sure you’re test-ready before CISSP exam day:

The CISSP covers topics in security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering plus much more. To pass it, you'll need to have a thorough academic understanding of all those topics, but you'll also want to find ways to put what you're learning about into practice. The CISSP exam is largely practical, so you don't want to be in the position of taking only a few weeks to prepare for the CISSP only to find out that you can't actually perform any of the tasks expected of you.

Use virtual labs

Virtual labs are the perfect marriage between understanding cybersecurity theory and actually knowing how to implement cybersecurity measures. Inside a virtual lab, you can configure, modify and manage a computer network that's entirely authentic, it's just simulated. Virtual labs aren't point-and-click adventures – they're simulated, real-world environments where you can put what you're learning to real use.

Test yourself using practice exams

Probably one of the fastest ways to prepare for the CISSP exam is to know what's on it beforehand and test yourself on it. That's exactly what practice exams do: modeled off published materials and previous exams, depending on how you do on the practice exam, you know how you'll do on each section of the real CISSP exam. Once you know how you'll do on one section, you can save time preparing for the CISSP by skipping over the parts you already know.

Learn from the experts

Keith Barker built the CBT Nuggets CISSP training, and he isn't just just a cybersecurity expert, he's taken the CISSP exam multiple times. Keith crafted the course to line up with the learning objectives as they've evolved over time. Don't waste your time preparing for the CISSP with materials that may or may not be on the CISSP exam, learn from experts who know exactly what you're up against.

If you're not sure about Keith, try watching the first video in the online CISSP training for free. You can see what Keith is like and whether the course material is the right way forward. Of course, there are alternatives like Reddit and YouTube. But CBT Nuggets is so certain you'll prefer their material, you can try it out with a free week. And that free week isn't just for the CISSP – you can watch any video from any course CBT Nuggets has made.

The CISSP from (ISC)2 is a hefty cybersecurity certification that will take the vast majority of people more than 3 months to prepare for – and some as much as half a year. If you want to prepare for the CISSP in as short a time as possible, your best shot is with an online course that includes practical, real world ways to practice what you're learning and practice exams that help keep you focused on what you actually need to learn. CBT Nuggets is the best way to shorten how long it takes to prepare for the CISSP, and it won't cost you anything to find out.

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