Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Viewer III

How does the adaptive test compare to paper format?

Has anyone taken an adaptive test that can compare it to the old paper format? 

6 Replies
ISC2 Former Staff

Hello @RobbieLuna


I just wanted to point out the following two post that may be of interest to you and are based on the topic of the CAT test. 


I've also moved your post to the certifications board, where it has a better chance of getting a relevant reply. 

Samantha O'Connor
(ISC)² Online Community Manager
Newcomer I

I only took the CAT format and found it pretty challenging. I took a prepaid course plus studied for an additional two weeks prior to passing the exam. One of the people in the class with me had let their original CISSP expire (keep up those CPEs) and after they tested they stated the new format was much harder. It seems that the pass for sure programs really had a lot of information for the paper exam where with the new exam if you really don't know the material, then the cheat programs will not get you anywhere.

Community Champion

Hi I took the CAT exam, and I know people who have taken the paper-based exam:


  • CAT is 3 hours / Paper is 6 hours
  • CAT has 100 (or so) weighted questions, is dynamic, and adaptive to the answers provided; likely it would be more easily analyzable to provide business intelligence information to (ISC)2 and easier to adapt to changing security landscapes (i.e., more cloud-based questions, more security-breach implications, more legal and administrative issues, more easily "internationalizeable", etc.)
  • CAT is "touch piece" rule - once you commit the move you cannot take it back -- paper-based is more forgiving - in fact, as a seasoned test taker, I would suggest that those who must write should plan revision time.
  • Both are excruciating, but the benefit with CAT is you get (usually) immediate results, whereas the paper test must be graded by an official grader.

With respect, I feel it is discourteous to all parties to cast doubt or aspersions on anyone who writes the new one versus the old one. Both have advantages and both have disadvantages, (ISC)2 does due diligence and takes due care with whomever is granted the CISSP or any other credential.


That is merely my opinion; would anyone else care to chime in?


Best regards.

Community Champion

When I took the non-CAT version (now termed "linear"), I did so using a computer at a Person Vue testing center.  I was given my results in the lobby of the testing center as I was leaving.  There was no "paper" involved, although the computer did know all the questions I would be answering before I answered the first one.  Even in the days of the linear exam, questions had various weights.  It was required to get 700 of 1000 points, which was not the same thing as answering 70% of the questions properly.


I suspect the only fundamental difference is that CAT does not bother asking you questions it knows you would have gotten right or wrong, based on your previous answers.  In addition to reducing your question count and test duration, it also reduces risk of question pool disclosure.  Check out this post for more insight into how CAT exams work.


(ISC)² does have a rigorous and periodic process for test question development. They are also known to regularly update the question pool and to remove "non-predictive" answers. This was true long before CAT and as far as I know remains true today.




Advocate II

The old paper format was quite straightforward.  Read the questions, shade in the answers, check your answers and leave the exam.  It took me 3 hour  15 mins of the allowed 6 hours.  I could have left earlier if I'd wanted to.  I really don't like online testing of any type.

Community Champion

Hi Steve,


Some people prefer paper-based, some prefer CAT. Why don't you like online testing?