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Last Updated On: April 11, 2024

Beginning your journey towards earning the CISSP certification marks a significant step forward in your cybersecurity career. However, it's not uncommon for even the most dedicated professionals to face hurdles along the way, including the need for a retake. If you find yourself in this position, know it's far from the end of your journey. It's simply a detour towards achieving your goal.

The CISSP exam, renowned for its rigor, is designed to test your knowledge across various domains in cybersecurity. Failing to pass on your first attempt doesn't define your capabilities; it highlights an opportunity for growth. This guide is crafted to navigate you through the CISSP retake policy, help you assess and learn from your initial attempt, and prepare you strategically for success in your next attempt.

With the right approach, your CISSP certification is well within reach. Let's dive into the essential strategies to secure your certification.

Understand the CISSP Retake Policy

The first essential step after discovering you didn't pass the CISSP exam is to familiarize yourself with the retake policy. This foundational knowledge not only equips you for the next steps but also lays the groundwork for a well-structured retake strategy.

After your first attempt, a waiting period of 30 test-free days is required before you can retake the exam. This interval is an excellent opportunity to reassess your preparation and fortify your understanding.

Should you need a second retake, the policy stipulates a 60 test-free day waiting period from your most recent attempt, offering even more time to identify and address areas needing improvement.

For the third and any subsequent retakes, a 90 test-free day period must be observed, providing ample time for a thorough review and a strategic study approach. Additionally, within a 12-month period, you're allowed up to four exam attempts for each certification program.

Grasping these policies is crucial as it aids in planning your study schedule, setting realistic goals, and understanding the strategic importance of each attempt toward achieving CISSP certification. With this in mind, you can tailor your study plan to meet and leverage the guidelines set forth by the retake policy, enhancing your readiness for a successful exam retake.

Assess Your Initial Exam Attempt

While you won't get a detailed score report for your CISSP exam, the feedback provided by ISC2 after a failed attempt is still a valuable resource for guiding your retake strategy. Candidates are given a ranking of the CISSP domains from their strongest to weakest performance.

This feedback categorizes domain performance into three proficiency levels: below proficiency, near proficiency, and above proficiency, rather than specifying the number of questions answered correctly.

To make the most of this information:

  • Prioritize Your Weakest Domains: Direct your initial focus to areas where you are below proficiency, as improvements here could significantly affect your overall score.
  • Consider Domain Weight: Pay attention to domains where you are near proficiency, especially those with a higher weight in the exam structure. Elevating your performance in these areas could help balance out weaker domains.
  • Maintain Strengths: Keep up with domains where you are above proficiency to ensure you remain strong in these areas while you work on improving others.

Given the compensatory nature of ISC2 exams, excelling in heavily weighted domains can offset lower performance in others. Nonetheless, striving for above-proficiency performance across all domains is the best strategy for a comprehensive understanding and a successful retake.

Develop a Study Plan for the Retake

Recognizing the need for a retake signals that your initial approach might have missed the mark due to various factors, such as constrained time, reliance on unreliable resources, or a mismatch between the training course and your learning style. Addressing these issues head-on is pivotal in crafting a retake strategy that aligns with your needs.

Here are some tips for creating a successful study plan:

Identify Your Learning Style

The first crucial step in this process is to assess how you learn best. Reflect on aspects of your study routine that were either tedious or challenging. Determine whether you're a visual learner, prefer reading, or benefit from interactive sessions. Understanding your learning preferences allows you to tailor your study plan in a way that resonates with your style, making the learning process more effective and engaging.

Choose Suitable Resources

It is vital to select reliable resources that cater to your learning style. For a more personalized learning experience, consider a dynamic CISSP training course over a traditional linear one. Dynamic courses adjust to your existing knowledge base, focusing intensively on areas where you need the most improvement. This approach ensures you spend time reinforcing your understanding where needed most rather than reviewing familiar material.

Optimize Study Material

Instead of spreading your efforts across multiple CISSP books, focus on a single, comprehensive guide that consolidates essential concepts without overwhelming detail. For example, the Destination CISSP guidebook is designed to enhance your understanding of CISSP domains through concise and pertinent information. It focuses on reinforcing key concepts, making it an ideal resource for cementing your knowledge base in preparation for the exam.

By reassessing your learning style and selecting resources that support personalized learning, you can develop a study plan for your CISSP retake that is both efficient and effective. This targeted approach ensures a deeper, well-rounded understanding of the material, setting a solid foundation for your success on the exam.

Leverage Support Systems

While self-studying for the CISSP exam is a valid approach, embracing the wealth of support systems available online can significantly enhance your preparation. Communities like the CISSP subreddit are invaluable resources where you can engage in detailed discussions, seek answers to specific questions, or find encouragement from peers who are familiar with the unique challenges and rewards of pursuing CISSP certification.

These platforms offer a sense of camaraderie and a pool of collective knowledge, providing diverse insights and strategies that might be the key to overcoming hurdles in your study process. Utilizing these support systems effectively can broaden your understanding and offer new perspectives, making your journey toward CISSP certification a more informed and supported experience.

Take Care of Yourself

Failing the CISSP exam can be a blow to your confidence, but it's crucial to remember that it's a part of the learning process. This setback does not define your abilities or your future success. During this time, prioritizing self-care is paramount. Ensure you get enough rest, engage in physical activity, and maintain a balanced diet. These aspects of self-care can significantly impact your mental and physical readiness for studying and retaking the exam. Additionally, consider mindfulness or stress management techniques to keep anxiety at bay and maintain a positive outlook.

Remember, preparing for a retake is not just about cramming more information; it's also about being in the right state of mind to absorb and apply that knowledge effectively. Taking care of yourself ensures you're at your best, mentally and physically, as you approach your CISSP exam retake.


Can You Retake the CISSP?

Yes, you can retake the CISSP exam. If you don't pass on your first attempt, you can retake it following ISC2's retake policy, which requires waiting 30 days after your first attempt, 60 days after your second attempt, and 90 days after your third and any subsequent attempts.

How Many Times Can You Fail CISSP?

You can attempt the CISSP exam up to four times within a 12-month period, according to ISC2's exam retake policy.

How Many People Pass the CISSP Exam on the First Try?

ISC2 does not publicly disclose the exact pass rate for the CISSP exam on the first try. However, it is widely recognized as a challenging exam, with various sources suggesting a pass rate of around 50-70%.

Prepare for Your CISSP Exam Retake With Destination Certification

With a better understanding of the CISSP retake policy, a tailored study plan, support systems at your back, and a commitment to self-care, the final step is to prepare for the retake with confidence and precision. This preparation phase involves synthesizing everything you've learned and fine-tuning your approach.

Focus on honing your knowledge in weaker domains and practicing under exam conditions to close any knowledge gaps. Setting clear, achievable goals will help track your progress effectively. Ensure you're fully prepared for the logistics of exam day to minimize stress. Ultimately, your retake preparation is about applying a smarter, more focused approach based on your previous experience, positioning you well for success on your CISSP journey.

If you're ready to retake your CISSP exam, let Destination Certification guide you. Our CISSP MasterClass is meticulously tailored to your knowledge level, ensuring you focus your efforts on the domains that need the most attention. With access to expert-led courses and one-on-one mentoring, we're committed to keeping you on the right track toward achieving your certification.

Join us at Destination Certification and take a significant step towards your success in the CISSP journey.

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John Berti

John is a major force behind the Destination Certification CISSP program's success, with over 25 years of global cybersecurity experience. He simplifies complex topics, and he utilizes innovative teaching methods that contribute to the program's industry-high exam success rates. As a leading Information Security professional in Canada, John co-authored a bestselling CISSP exam preparation guide and helped develop official CISSP curriculum materials. You can reach out to John on LinkedIn.

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