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Newcomer I

Failed CISSP - big time disappointment

I read many posts from people who failed the new CISSP adaptive exam. I myself failed it on 3/5/18.  I expected to do 250 questions but I was very shocked that I got knocked out after 99/100 questions.  I asked the proctor whether I was given the wrong exam. The proctor explained to me that because it is an adaptive exam the so it stopped because I didn't answer a certain number of questions correctly; I was absolutely horrified what I experienced.  I could not sleep all night after the exam day, I've been studying for it for over 3 months and I scored between 77% - 85% of dozens of practice tests of over 3,000 questions.  I went beyond by reading front to back cover of the Sybex - 7th Edition book and I completed all the chapter tests as well as all of the online practice tests that Sybex offered me and I did well. In addition I also went through all of Cybrary training videos, figuring that with all that studying I was well prepared to take the exam.  Not to mention that I have a master degree in IT and in Information Assurance field with the company for over 9 years.


I find the adaptive exam questions and answers are so abstract that I feel my English comprehension isn't good enough for it. I have reached out to ISC2 for their support and advice. I am so sad and disappointed that I am not sure if I ever want to take any test in the adaptive format. 


111 Replies
Newcomer II

99. Does this answer your question?
Newcomer II

I have sat for the old (back in 2014) and the new (in May, 2018). The new exam was much more difficult in the sense that most—if not all—questions on the new CAT were the most difficult kind you’d find on the old CISSP. At least on the old format there were some questions that were clear cut questions like, what is 7+11 questions. And I think I scored higher on the old exam vs. the CAT exam.
Advocate I



So the way the CATs I've taken usually work is they start out with the hardest of questions in each of the test categories to see where your strengths/weaknesses are.  Regardless if you answer these questions correctly or wrong, the questions will move on.


In the next phase, the CATs will go back and look at the first round for questions that you got wrong and then hit you with round 2 of the hardest questions to make sure that wasn't a fluke that you got it wrong.  If you get round 2 wrong, it will step back the level of difficulty (and the max score) of the question until it figures out what your minimum proficiency level is.


In the third phase, if you begin getting questions right, it will ramp up the difficulty and score of that section until you get a string of questions right enough to satisfy the system that that "level" is your maximum level of proficiency in that section.  It will then move on to the next section and repeat Phase 2.


In Phase 4, it will hit the sections you got right to make sure those weren't an anomaly.  If you get a second/third round of the hardest questions right, it'll basically give you that score level for those sections.  If you start getting those wrong (and especially if you were flustered from failures in the previous section), it will begin dropping your average "level" and corresponding score in those sections you initially got right, circling you back into Phase 2 for those topics you're normally strong in.  Getting flustered like this could completely kill your score even in a section where you previously answered the hardest question on the test correctly.


My memory is that you have to pass at least two Domains with a very high score, even if the overall test is a 70%.  So if you didn't get that in at least two Domains, I could see the system going back and trying to get you to pass the hardest questions over and over again.  You would effectively never leave Phase 1 until you got questions from at least two domains at the hardest levels right.  Even if you got them right by accident, they would go back and hit you in Phase 3 and find out it was luck, dumping you back to Phase 1 again.


This does not necessarily represent the CAT for the CISSP.  It is merely a reflection of my observations and experiences taking CATs in other exams.  I never sat for the CISSP CAT exam.




Eric B.

Newcomer I

I sat both the CAT and the (older) linear exam.


Unfortunately, I came short on the old 250 questions exam in November 2017, scoring 695/700. I was disappointed and angry, but forced myself to concentrate on the goal. I decided to re-read two different books and concentrate on my weak areas. Before the exam, to test my readiness, I did one single 1300 (or it was more- I don't remember now) practice questions test (took me 2 days to complete) via official Wiley test website and scored 87%. I felt that I could do it. 


In June 2018 I took the CAT and passed it around 110th question (don't remember exactly) having only 20 minutes to go. My strategy paid off - I did not care about the time, but rather spent time reading and understanding the problem at hand.


As a non-native speaker, I do not feel that the old test was easier than the new one. Both were challenging. But based on my first score and successful CAT, I assume that they are aligned well. I am super happy that it didn't take me 6 hours on my second attempt, so I would take CAT over 6 hour exam without hesitation.


I've used CISSP® (ISC)2® Certified Information Systems Security Professional Official Study Guide Seventh Edition book and Sunflower-CISSP notes/flashcards to prep for my exam 


Finally, the key to passing the exam is simple - know the material and take time to understand the question and the answer - frustration is not your friend.

Community Champion

Well I am glad that you have found a method of study that works for you and
that you have passed the exam on your way to becoming a CISSP!
Congratulations on your achievement! Keep up the great work!

Lamont Robertson
Lamont Robertson
Newcomer I

Congrats and thank you for sharing. Since I failed the CISSP and became so discouraged that I did not even want to attempt another try.
Contributor I

You may be knocked down but you're NOT knocked out until you decide to stay down! If you need any assistance let me/us know! You CAN do this and you WILL do this! #yesyoucan
Newcomer I

Thank you for your great encouragement.  I will most certainly reach out to you when I decide to be on CISSP again 🙂

Influencer II

> seaside (Newcomer I) posted a new reply in Customer Support on 08-15-2018 09:44

> Congrats and thank you for sharing. Since I failed the CISSP and became so
> discouraged that I did not even want to attempt another try.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Then quit.

(No sense being a dratted fool about it.)

(I didn't want to give the pr0n filter a chance to trigger on the word normally used
in place of "dratted.")

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
The network is the last ditch attempt to turn powerful
stand-alone computers into dumb terminals.


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Newcomer I

I got 553