The CAT Is Out Of The Bag

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The CAT Is Out of the Bag

If you, like the readers of, come to CyberVista for your CISSP CAT news, here’s the update you’ve been waiting for. (ISC)² has officially announced that on December 18, 2017, the CISSP exam will transition into a CAT.

We knew this day was coming, but now we know the day. If your exam date falls on or after December 18,  then you’re likely feeling anxious, especially if you have been preparing for the traditional exam format. As I mentioned in my first CAT-related post, I have plenty of experience preparing students for CAT exams. I want to share the top CAT-specific test day strategies to help you conquer the CISSP exam.

Top 5 CAT Test Day Strategies

1. Treat the Exam Like a Three-Section Exam. And Plan your Time Accordingly

(ISC)² announced that the exam will be up to three hours long and be 100-150 non-reviewable questions. Knowing this, we recommend you split your exam into three sections. To be clear upfront, ALL sections impact your chance of passing.  

  • Questions 1-30
  • Questions 31-100
  • Questions 101-150

The first part is especially important. Your chance of passing is shaped significantly by early questions. If you don’t do well in the early questions, then your chances will go below the passing level and it will be hard to recover. That’s why you want to do well, and do well early. If you’re the type of test taker who needs a few questions to settle into an exam and calm your nerves, then you need to change your approach and practice getting comfortable early in the exam. We recommend you spend 45 minutes on your first 30 questions (1.5 minutes per question).
Then you should take a mental break at your desk (if you don’t need to use the bathroom or leave the testing room). This break will have you ready for Part II., questions 31-100. The next 70 questions are also important. Approach these questions like a “normal” test where your pace is about one question per minute.
If you have reached question 101, take a break. A real break where you leave the testing room and eat some FancyFeast in the lobby. By reaching this section, you know two things:

  • The exam needs more data to determine if you have passed the exam or not. The exam will gather this data by asking you up to 50 more questions to determine if you will pass or not. Do not be surprised if the exam ends at any point after question 101. 
  • The other thing you know about questions 101 and beyond is that they are all real questions that count for or against your score. There are 25 experimental questions on the CISSP CAT exam that do not impact your score. You will not be able to distinguish between the experimental and “real” questions. But what you do know is that the 25 experimental questions will appear only in questions 1-100. This means questions 101-150 are ALL real questions. This is why we recommend you have about an hour to approach the final (up to) 50 questions.


2. 55% and Pass

The science of a CAT works out in a way that the test taker is supposed to get every other question wrong. That means a passing CAT score could be slightly over 55%. This is a strange feeling; this is likely the first exam you’ve taken that a score of 55-60% will be a passing score. Just know that feeling like a failure doesn’t mean you actually failed. Before you walk into the Pearson testing center, prepare yourself for this disconcerting feeling.

3. Concede Nothing 

On a traditional, linear 250-question exam, test takers can expect to concede questions– meaning taking a best guess and not getting too caught up on one question. You don’t have that luxury on a CAT. Every question matters because every question impacts your threshold. On a CAT, it’s worth the extra time and effort to try and crack a difficult question. Eliminate answer choices to better your chances.

4. Don’t Try to Out-Fox the CAT

Even though we spent the last few tips encouraging you to get to know your challenge, on exam day you should spend most of your mental energy on the content. Leave the analyzing to the test engine and focus on the content.

5. Have Confidence

You’ve prepared so it’s time to show them what you’ve got. Don’t forget how hard you’ve worked and how much you know. We’ve shown you how to learn and apply the content. We’ve told you to get a good night’s sleep, dress in layers, and bring a snack. You’re ready, and you can do this.

CATs Don’t Bite

Even though we’ve tried to give you plenty of warning, this announcement still feels sudden. While it’s a swift transition, it’s not unprecedented. Tests change. I’ve seen this all before and guided lots of students to success on other exams. We’re happy to help you earn your CISSP before or after the transition to CAT. Visit this page for more information on the test change and some answers to FAQs and take the CISSP Practice CAT Quiz. If you’re ready to start training with us, learn more about our Live Online CISSP training program here.
Through December 31, 2017, we will be providing a a free CISSP exam voucher ($699 value) with every Live Online CISSP training course registration through CyberVista. To show our support and confidence in the upcoming CISSP format change, we will also provide a second CISSP exam voucher for free (additional $699) if you don’t pass on the first try! Simply use promo code CAT at checkout – You will immediately see the deduction at the time of registration if you have added the CISSP exam voucher to your purchase.