How to Take a Test 

Here's a blurb that I received from one of my friends. He got it from his CISSP instructors, free of charge. There may be nothing new, but it's a good reminder:


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Test Taking 101

Many of you in my classes have discussed taking the CISSP examination. I provide this set of actions to pass this type of test. Of course, I make no guarantee on these steps, These are the steps that I will be using to hopefully pass this test, and I pass them on to my students as a courtesy. This set of steps was developed jointly by several interns, who had to pass a similar type of test. This happened at a former employer of mine. I can say that I passed the test in question, as did nearly all of the interns in my class.

This assumes a multiple-guess type of test, e.g. four (or more) answers to a particular question, and a reasonably long time to take the test. The CISSP exam is 6 hours, but most people take 4 to 4 1/.2 hours to complete. My suggestion is that you take every bit of the 6 hours. I have heard of people failing the test by one of two questions. Don’t let this be you!!

1. Make several passes at the test. This is the key. Know how many questions you need to have the correct answer on to pass this test.

2. On the first pass, answer only those questions, which you know the answer immediately. Your first answer is more likely to be correct. Do not try to “second-guess” a question. Assume you will have 80-90% of these correct. Add up the number of questions answered and take 80% of that total to find out how many you have right so far.

3. On the second pass, your goal is not to find the correct answer. You goal is to find the wrong answers, and eliminate them. The goal, if there are four answers, is to find the two answers you know cannot be correct and eliminate them. Work only with those questions, where you can make this elimination. You now have a 50-50 chance of getting the right answer. Try to determine the correct answer from the remaining two answers. Your first guess is usually more likely to be correct. If you absolutely cannot choose one of the two, then take either one of these approaches and use it in all cases (1) chose the first answer (or second answer) or (2) choose the longest answer of the two. I usually pick the latter approach. Total the number you answered with this step. Assume you will have 40-50% of these correct and determine the total you have so far.

4. The third pass is important, but you need to be careful. You need to go through the answers from pass one and two. On the third pass, you are not trying to get the right answer, you are looking for errors you may have made, e.g. incorrectly marked the answer or misread the question. You need to be careful with this third pass. Generally, the first answer you arrived at is much more likely to be the correct answer. You need to be careful that you do not “read into” the question or look for “hidden” meanings or subtle issues with the question. Sometimes a “flash” will come to you, and you “know” the answer you put down is wrong. In this case, then you can make the change.

5. The CISSP does not penalize you for incorrect answers. In this case you have no reason not to guess on the remainder of questions. It makes sense to do this methodically. Can you select one of the answers that you know is incorrect? Then you have a chance of one in three of getting the right answer. If you are in doubt, pick an approach, e.g. longest answer, least detailed, specific answer, or specific detail (if one of the answers discusses a technology you are unfamiliar with and the others discuss known technology to you, perhaps you select the unknown but plausible) or some approach for picking answers, e.g. first answer always.