Seven tips on CISA certification preparation…for super busy folks

Hey…I had cleared the CISA exam in Sep, and only yesterday received the envelope containing the certificate and the lapel pin! This closes the length process of getting CISA certified and I am glad it’s over now!

CISA certificate snippet

Thought I would write a quick note on what worked for me, and what didn’t, and this may help some folks. This is not aimed at being a full “study guide” for CISA preparation.

1. Get hold of the latest edition of the CISA Review Manual (26th edition) and CISA Review Questions, Answers and Explanations Database (11th edition). Physical copies are best, e-books have some limitations that did not make it friendly to me. E.g. you cannot convert it to work on multiple devices/laptops, and does not work on Kindle devices.

2. I then took the CISA Review Manual (CRM), and tore it off into bunches of about 10 pages each (that is, 20 pages of written text, on both sides of the 10 sheets). Where possible, without impacting the page count too much, I bunched the pages to be logically complete. Of course stapled these bunches together. This way, I got 18 bunches of light weight mini-books to carry.

3. I carried one such bunch every day (often over several days) to my office, and tried to read through it on my commute, to office and back. Generally, I would be able to get about 60-70% through one such bunch in a day. Next day, I would finish the reading and do a quick recap too. No reading of this stuff in office!

4. At home, for about 15 mins in the morning, before I shoot out for a run, I would grab a pen and underline/comment/circle any important stuff that I had noticed in my reading the previous day. This would come in handy later when revising the book (if you have any time left)!

5. Having gone through the CRM once completely, I started the Q&A database. Most of the reading was done in a strict time-boxed slot of 45 mins in the morning before work on the days when there was no running workout. Most pages had only 2 questions per page, and I used a folded blank sheet to cover the answers. Going through the Q&A database is an eye-opener and challenges much of your assumptions and what you can recollect from the CRM. Hence, it is a must to go through for any aspirant. ALL the questions in the Q&A database were application oriented and challenging!

6. A day before the exam, I carved out a 4 hour window in the evening to go through the entire CRM again – a cursory eyeball on each page with highlights/notes to jog the memory. And the day of the exam, due to panic, I continued to go through the Q&A database (my exam was slotted at 9 am)

7. During the exam, I noticed the following:

a. The questions in the exam were easier than the ones in the Q&A database (what a relief!)

b. Four hours is ample time for the 150 questions question paper, however, you need to plan properly. I had, on a blank sheet marked actual times by when I should have these many questions. It looked something like this:

0930 – 20

1000 – 40

1030 – 60

1100 – 80

1300 – 150 + revision

As the time was reached I struck off the line. From the beginning itself I was ahead of these planned milestones, and I took the opportunity, twice during the 4 hour window, to come out of the testing room, drink-up water, use the facilities and stretch my limbs (toe-touching, shoulder stretches, etc.) to maintain focus and relieve stiffness in neck and back (the chairs are not the best).

If you have any questions regarding the above write-up, I am happy to share my personal experiences.

Good luck!

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