I am planning to take the CSSLP exam in the next few months. I am currently in the beginning stages of studying. Phase I is to read the All-in-One CSSLP Exam Guide. It will take me 30 days to get through it using the following reading plan:

Chapter Pages # Pages
Day 1 1 3-14 11
Day 2 1 15-26 11
 Day 3 2 31-39 8
Day 4 2 39-47 8
Day 5 3 53-63 10
Day 6 3 63-78 9
Day 6 4 83-88 5
Day 7 4 89-99 10
Day 8 5 105-112 7
Day 9 6 117-124 7
Day 10 7 129-137 8
Day 11 8 145-155 10
Day 12 9 161-171 10
Day 13 10 175-186 11
Day 14 11 191-201 12
Day 15 11 201-210 9
Day 16 12 217-226 9
Day 17 12 226-236 10
Day 18 13 241-247 6
Day 19 14 251-257 6
Day 20 15 263-272 9
Day 21 16 277-284 7
Day 23 17 291-298 7
Day 24 17 299-308 9
Day 25 18 315-322 7
Day 26 18 322-330 8
Day 27 19 335-342 7
Day 28 19 342-354 12
Day 29 20 359-371 12
Day 30 21 371-383 12

While studying for Security+, I learned that breaking my studying up into small chunks and chipping away at it consistently every day helped tremendously with retention. I have gotten behind in my reading here and there, but having a plan allows me to see exactly what I need to do to get back on track. Without it, I could see myself getting overwhelmed by a nebulous sense of being behind and getting pulled away from my goal completely.

After I am done reading the book, I will go back and re-read each chapter, with a highlighter for the second pass. I may write out an outline of each chapter depending on how well I feel I’m retaining the information. I will complete all of the chapter review questions, review incorrect answers, read the glossary, and take the practice exams on the included CD.

I am fortunate in that my job will provide a five day exam prep boot camp. At the same time, based on my experience with Security+, I believe self study with lots of repetition and opportunities to test recall is the best way to prepare for the exam.

I am using the All-in-One book to prepare my mind to absorb the information during the course. Otherwise, it’s in one ear and out the other for me. I have learned over the years that I am not an auditory learner by any means. Hopefully, familiarizing myself with the content prior to the course will help things stick.

After I finish the boot camp course, I will likely read the Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CSSLP Exam, as I’ve always read that it’s important to use multiple sources to prepare for IT certifications. I feel like I should take a look at the official book, although it has horrible reviews on Amazon. Upon close reading, some reviewers refer to a different book title, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. I will use the same process of reading through, then going back with a highlighter, then writing notes, etc, with this book.

You may notice, as I did, that these books are a few years old and the CSSLP exam was just updated this year. My job contacted (ISC)2 about this, and they confirmed that the 2013/2014 materials are still useful in preparing for the current exam.

The techniques I have outlined here worked well for me in passing the Security+ exam with little to no background in “IT.” Although I am a web developer, I am mostly self taught, never studied networking and dislike system administration. Cryptography was mostly foreign to me.

Amazingly, as I made several passes through multiple books, watched dozens of videos and wrote over 100 pages of notes, I started to get into it. I ended up passing the exam with plenty of room to spare. Hopefully, in a few months I will be telling the same story about the CSSLP exam.

Are you preparing for or have you completed any IT certifications? What is or isn’t working for you?