Best CISSP Certification Study Guides: How to Pass the First Time

The Certified Information Systems Security Professionals or CISSP exam is very tough to pass. It’s almost six hours long and comes with about 250 MCQs. 

While there are multiple free online resources to help you study, none are more reliable than CISSP study guides. 

Unlike online resources, CISSP study guides cover all eight CISSP domains concisely. Consequently, you have all the knowledge you need at your fingertips. 

If you’re looking for the best CISSP study guides, you’re in luck. This article includes our picks for the six best CISSP study guides. 

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Each study guide in this list is written by an experienced security professional, looking to help you pass the CISSP exam the first time. 

Best CISSP Study Guides: the Top Six

Everyone uses different types of learning styles and exam strategies. Consequently, study guides should include multiple strategies for people with different learning curves. 

When looking for the right study guide, check for:

  • Topic coverage
  • Coherence of explanation
  • Different types of visual organizers (graphs, imaging, infographics)
  • Number of exam tips and sample questions

Keeping these qualities in mind, we picked the following:

Austin Songer’s Easy Guide: CISSP

Published independently in 2015, this is a relatively new study guide for CISSP students. Austin Vern Songer is a systems security practitioner and has published multiple exam guides since then. 

The Easy Guide: CISSP is approximately 100 pages long, one of the shortest books out there. 

Therefore, you can quickly go through this guide alongside your CISSP textbooks. 

While it doesn’t cover the 2015 CISSP version, it’s an excellent choice for a quick overview. 

The book covers all the essential topics, including asset security, security and risk management, and security architecture and engineering. 

Moreover, the guide also includes several sample questions and answers. In this way, you get more practice. 

Walker Schmidt’s CISSP: A Comprehensive Beginners Guide

Walker Schmidt’s CISSP study guide has become one of the most sought-after in the market since its publication in 2019. It’s available in Kindle, audiobook, and paperback.

This study guide focuses on the Security and Risk Management domain, one of the critical components of the CISSP exam. 

Through this guide, you get to improve your:

  • Risk analysis skills
  • Risk mitigation skills
  • Understanding of security organizational structures

The book itself is 168 pages long. Moreover, while the focus is on security and risk management, the book does cover all other domains. 

Also, it’s ideal for beginners because it’s well-organized, taking you through every topic step-by-step. 

Additionally, the book explains the meaning of every word in its comprehensive glossary. Therefore, you can merely look-up a term any time you don’t understand something.

Shon Harris & Fernando Maymi’s CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, Eighth Edition

This is perhaps one of the best CISSP study guides in terms of the topics covered. From risk management to communication and network security, all eight domains are covered in detail.

The eighth edition is the latest in the series. The exam guide now also includes the new 2018 CISSP Common Body of Knowledge. Also, since the guide is updated yearly, it consists of the latest practice exams.

All in all, with the CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, you get:

  • Clear, concise learning objectives
  • Detailed exam tips (the dos and don’ts)
  • Over 1400 practice questions
  • Comprehensive yet easy-to-understand explanations

If you buy the kindle version, you even flashcards, additional notes, and new drag-and-drop exam questions.

Leading experts in CISSP certification and training have worked on each section. If you’re interested in an up-to-date study guide, the CISSP All-in-One is a perfect choice.

CISSP For Dummies

Everyone knows about the For Dummies series. It’s one of the most famous self-help book series in the market. Accordingly, CISSP For Dummies is a highly-valued CISSP exam guide, having gained much traction for CISSP aspirants.

CISSP For Dummies was initially compiled by information security experts Lawrence Miller and Peter Gregory. The fourth edition of this guide was published in 2012. 

Consequently, the book includes all the updates the CISSP curriculum went through in 2012. 

While it doesn’t have the most recent updates from 2015 and 2018, CISSP For Dummies is still very well-versed in the CISSP Body of Knowledge. 

In essence, this study guide includes:

  • Multiple self-assessment tools like prep tests, sample exams, random MCQs, and Quick Assessment tests (before every chapter)
  • Access to the Dummies Test Engine (for more practice questions)
  • Various exam tips, including time management and organizational tips
  • Further resources for extra study

The Dummies Test Engine, in particular, is a useful tool as it gives you access to hundreds of exam questions. While the book isn’t up-to-date, the Test Engine includes sample questions from all annual exams. 

Nichel James’ CISSP In Three Weeks: The CISSP DIY Manual

Nichel James is a security engineer and multi-industry security expert. He has over ten years of experience in cybersecurity risk management and program development, among other things.

His guide, CISSP in Three Weeks, is ideal for security professionals. As the name mentions, this book is more of a DIY manual than a study guide. The guide includes many helpful tips and warnings.

At 28 pages, this book is the shortest on this list. 

Accordingly, the book doesn’t have detailed explanations of each topic. Instead, the book focuses on giving you exam advice. 

Therefore, it’s a better choice for professionals with at least four years of IT experience. In other words, it’s for those who already have a solid understanding of the topics. 

Those with lesser experience may need more guidance and information. 

Adam Gordon’s Official (ISC)² Guide to the CISSP CBK, Fourth Edition

First published in April 2015, the Official (ISC)2 Guide to CISSP CBK has advanced technical content for CISSP aspirants. Adam Gordon, the author, is a highly respected industry expert with a specialization in CISSP education.

Similar to the CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, this book extensively covers all eight domains in the CISSP Body of Knowledge. Each area is divided into 20 chapters. 

However, the book structure is a bit different, aligning certain domains with one another. 

For instance, Security Assessment and Testing and Security Operations are aligned together due to the similarities in their respective topics. 

In this way, the book flows more smoothly and is easier to understand.

Instead of focusing on the exam, this guide focuses on building core concepts. While the book includes some practice questions, most of the content aims to enhance understanding of information security. 

Therefore, if you’re more focused on building knowledge than exam strategies, choose this book. 

CISSP Exam Tips: Thing to Consider While Preparing

If you’ve gone through our list, you know most study guides include general exam tips and strategies. 

Of course, you should follow exam tips while preparing for any test, let alone one as tough as the CISSP. By following these tips, you increase your chances of passing.

What are some of these exam tips? Let’s give you a basic overview:

Organize Your Notes

As mentioned, everyone has different learning strategies. However, your notes are more effective study resources if they’re well-organized. 

You don’t need to do much to organize your notes more precisely. There are many useful methods for organized note-taking.

For example, you can use the:

  • Cornell Method (summarizing each topic)
  • Outline Method (outlining main points from each topic)
  • Charting Method (categorizing each topic into columns)

Also, make sure to use visual cues such as highlighting, underlining, and making bullet pointers to emphasize main points. You can use multi-colored highlighters, page markers, and pens to do this. 

All in all, these little tweaks will vastly improve your organizational skills. Through this, you can also improve time management and memorization. 

Use Multiple Learning Strategies

Reading and making notes isn’t the only way to learn. The CISSP exam is multiple choice. Therefore, you need to focus on memorizing terminologies and concepts. 

Memorization works better if you’re using multiple learning strategies. 

For example, you can use:

  • Mind maps
  • Brain Dumps
  • Flashcards
  • Graphs 
  • Acronyms and mnemonics
  • The chaining technique

Simply put, find out what works best for you, and apply those strategies to make your study sessions more productive. 

Practice Time Management

As you know, the CISSP exam is almost six hours long. This may seem like ample time to complete each question. 

However, each MCQ requires a lot of thinking. Sometimes one question can take about 10 minutes.

Therefore, practicing time management is important, as it helps you stay focused and finish the exam on time. 

Make sure to start preparing for the exam at least 80 hours before. However, prep time depends on your level of experience and background. 

If you’re a risk management expert, 60 to 70 hours is ideal for you.

Similarly, IT experts find 40 to 50 hours of studying enough for the exam. However, to practice time management adequately, at least 80 hours of study time is a necessity. 

Don’t Forget About the Letter of Recommendation 

Lastly, every CISSP aspirant must submit a letter of recommendation (signed by a workplace superior) to prove professional experience.

This is a crucial step, so don’t forget about it. Remember to get one written and signed before you apply for the exam. 


To conclude, these were our picks for the six best CISSP study guides. With these guides and our exam tips, you can enhance your understanding of the CISSP exam and increase your chances of passing the first time. 

If you’re looking for a final recommendation, the best overall CISSP study guide is undoubtedly the CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide. It has the highest topic coverage, most number of exam tips and questions, and best explanations.