Thursday, 6 June 2013

Last minute tips for passing your ISACA CISA or CISM exam


Updated on 16/07/2015
ISACA's CISA and CISM are must-have certifications for any IT security professional working with information security systems. 

These high prestige certifications are difficult to attain, but if you follow these tips, you'll be better prepared to achieve them:

  • Read through the ISACA Exam Candidate Information Guide 2015, which you can find here.
  • By now you've probably read or re-read ISACA’s CISA or CISM review manual which provides you with the content, structure and other topics of the exam. Highlight key areas and devote extra attention and time to them. Don't leave anything to chance.
  • Join the discussions in ISACA’s Study Communities – click here for the CISA group and here for the CISM group. 
  • In case you haven’t got the CISA/CISM Practice Questions Database v15 resource, ISACA also offers free CISA and CISM Self-Assessment tests which will help identify gaps in your knowledge that are in need of further study. Here are the links - CISM Self-Assessment and CISA Self-Assessment.
  • Stay old school. Take notes and read things out loud. Both will help you memorise concepts more easily.
  • Once you're confident, and can explain most if not all the basic concepts of CISA or CISM, then read review questions, answers and explanations.
  • This is not a university or high school exam. Think like an IT Auditor and not like a student. You have to manage tasks the best way by making the best decisions.
  • Many students find that the hardest part is visualizing the concepts, which you’ll need to do in the exam. So try to prepare some of your own before hand.
  • As you’re probably aware, you can’t take the CISA or CISM review manuals into the exam, so try to skim through the key areas 30 min before the exam.

CISA ISACA logoOne thing to note is that the markers don’t want to know if you are the strongest in IT related systems, they just want to be sure you’re competent enough and can make the best decisions, evaluate and review IT security and audit related issues.

Here are some more general revision tips to ensure your exam success:
  • Frequent breaks are essential. Don’t expect your brain to focus for hours, if you don’t give it some rest. Take a 5-10 minute break for every hour spent with studying
  • Drink plenty of water as it helps you to think and most importantly it hydrates you.
  • Avoid caffeine. Coffee, Coke or Red Bull, they will only make you feel more anxious, so cut them out of your “exam diet”.
  • Before the test, do some exercise. It gets your blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
And one last thing, try to relax! Visualise your goal: your name on this certification (or your slightly different CISM certification).

CISA certification template

Do you need more information/inspiration? Check out these great CISM & CISA resources:
Or watch these two videos of CISA and CISM certified professionals.

Good luck.

About the Author:
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.