CISSP Computerized Adaptive Testing
ISC2 has introduced Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) for all English CISSP exams worldwide. Based on the same exam content outline as the linear, fixed-form exam, CISSP CAT is a more precise and efficient evaluation of your competency. CISSP CAT enables you to prove your knowledge by answering fewer items and completing the exam in half the time.
How Does it Work?
Each candidate taking the CISSP CAT exam will start with an item that is well below the passing standard. Following a candidate's response to an item, the scoring algorithm re-estimates the candidate's ability based on the difficulty of all items presented and answers provided. With each additional item answered, the computer's estimate of the candidate's ability becomes more precise – gathering as much information as possible about a candidate's true ability level more efficiently than traditional, linear exams.
This more precise evaluation enables us to reduce the maximum exam administration time from 6 hours to 4 hours, and it reduces the items necessary to accurately assess a candidate’s ability from 250 items on a linear, fixed-form exam to as little as 125 items on the CISSP CAT exam.
The exam content outline and passing standard for both versions of the examination are exactly the same. Each candidate will be assessed on the same content and must demonstrate the same level of competency regardless of the exam format.
CISSP exams in all other languages, as well as all CISSP concentration exams are delivered as linear, fixed-form exams.
CISSP CAT Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)?
A: CAT is the computerized delivery of exam items uniquely tailored to the ability of an individual candidate. Unlike fixed-form, linear exams, adaptive testing delivers items based on the demonstrated ability of a candidate during the exam. For all CISSP certification exams, each candidate is tested in accordance with exam content requirements as described in the certification exam outline. The difficulty of each item a candidate receives is optimized to measure his/her ability with the greatest degree of efficiency possible. More resources about how adaptive tests perform, in general, can be found at http://www.iacat.org/what-is-cat.
Q: How does Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) work?
A: A candidate should expect to find each item challenging throughout the exam. Depending on the ability of a candidate, the number of items each candidate receives on the exam will vary. Each candidate who takes a CAT exam will start with an item that is well below the passing standard. Following a candidate's response to an item, the scoring algorithm will re-estimate the candidate's ability based on the difficulty of all items presented and all the previous answers provided for those items. After each item is answered, the item selection algorithm determines the next item to present to the candidate with the expectation that a candidate should have approximately a 50% chance of answering that item correctly. With each additional item answered, the computer's estimate of the candidate's ability becomes more precise. Through this iterative process, the intent is to gather as much information as possible about a candidate's true ability level more efficiently than traditional, linear exams.
Q: Why is ISC2 changing from fixed-form linear testing to variable-length, Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) for CISSP English?
A: ISC2's transition of CISSP to CAT is an important investment in the future of its certification program. The implementation of CAT strengthens ISC2's commitment to meet the critical demand for cybersecurity professionals worldwide by providing a fair, valid, reliable, and efficient exam administration process. CAT provides numerous benefits to candidates including:
- A more precise and efficient evaluation of a candidate's competency
- More opportunities for examination administration
- Shorter test administration sessions
- Enhanced exam security
Q: Which ISC2 exams are available via Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)?
A: Only the CISSP exam in English is available in CAT format. CISSP exams administered in languages other than English, and all other ISC2 certification exams, will continue to be available as fixed-form, linear examinations.
Q: Can a candidate still take the English CISSP exam in a linear format?
A: No. The CISSP exam is only available in English in the CAT format. The CISSP linear exam is only available in non-English languages. ISC2 exam language availability can be found here.
Q: How much does it cost to register for a CISSP CAT exam?
A: Pricing for all ISC2 certification exams can be found here. There is no difference in price for CISSP CAT (English) and CISSP Linear (all other languages) exams.
Q: How much time will a candidate have to take the CISSP CAT exam?
A: Maximum administration time for CISSP CAT is four hours. Exceptions will be provided only to candidates with medical accommodations that are pre-approved by ISC2. There is no minimum administration time limit. Candidates may proceed through the exam at a pace to which they are comfortable. Additional details about accommodations are available here.
Q: What is the break policy for the CISSP CAT exam?
A: ISC2 does not limit the number or duration of candidate breaks; however, maximum administration time for CISSP CAT is four hours and all breaks will be included in the maximum administration time.
Q: How many items will a candidate receive on the CISSP CAT exam?
A: CISSP CAT is a variable-length computerized adaptive examination. Each candidate will be presented with a minimum of 125 items and a maximum of 175 items. To receive a pass or fail result, a candidate must answer a minimum of 75 operational, or scored, items and may not answer more than 125 operational items. Each exam will contain 50 pre-test, or unscored items, as part of the minimum length examination. Pre-test items are items being evaluated for inclusion in future exams. A candidate will not be able to distinguish between operational and pre-test items; consequently, a candidate should consider each item carefully and provide the best possible response based on the information presented.
The CISSP exam has eight weighted domains, as mentioned in the exam outline. As an adaptive exam, exam items adjust to the candidate to allow for demonstration of minimal level level of mastery of concepts within each domain.
Candidates who pass the exam at 125 items have mastered enough concepts throughout all domains to prove proficiency. Candidates who do not pass the exam at 125 items have not shown the proficiency required throughout enough domains to achieve the minimal passing score. Candidates who exceed 125 items could be proficient in some domains, however, the presentation of additional items allows the candidate the opportunity to continue to prove proficiency in other domains so that they may achieve the minimal passing score.
Q: Is content on the CISSP CAT exam delivered in sections?
A: No. Content is not presented in sections or any predetermined order; exam items are chosen randomly by the CAT item selection algorithm to comply with the CISSP exam content outline. The content for each CISSP CAT exam is constructed in compliance with the domain weights stated in the CISSP exam content outline regardless of exam length.
Q: Will item review be permissible on the CISSP CAT Exam?
A: Because the CISSP CAT exam is a variable-length computerized adaptive examination and the difficulty of items presented to a candidate is based on previous responses, item review is not permitted. Once a candidate finalizes an answer, it may not be reviewed or changed.
Q: Is CISSP CAT a more difficult exam than CISSP in the linear format?
A: No. The exam content outline and passing standard for both versions of the examination are exactly the same. Each candidate will be assessed on the same content and must demonstrate the same level of competency regardless of the exam format. Because CISSP CAT is a variable-length computerized adaptive examination, each item presented will feel challenging to a candidate. The standard needed to pass the exam, however, remains exactly the same regardless of format.
Q: How is CISSP CAT a different exam than CISSP in the linear format?
A: Both exam formats use the same exam content outline, the same domain weights, the same passing standard and the same exam items. With CAT, however, the number of items administered is far fewer, there is less time available to take the exam, and candidates cannot review an item without answering it or revisit a previous item to change an answer.
Q: What is the current CISSP CAT exam content outline?
A: The current CISSP exam content outline, which represents the knowledge, skills, and abilities upon which candidates will be tested, may be found here.
Q: How does the computer determine whether a candidate will pass or fail the CISSP CAT exam?
A: The probability of success on a CISSP CAT exam is based solely on a candidate's estimated ability in relation to the standard necessary to pass the exam. The scoring algorithm determines whether a candidate passes or fails the CISSP exam using one of three rules, in the following order of application:
- Confidence Interval Rule - Once the minimum exam length (125 items) is satisfied, an exam will end when a candidate's ability estimate excludes the pass point with 95% statistical confidence. For candidates with ability estimates that statistically exceed the passing standard, the exam will result in a pass. For candidates that have ability estimates that are statistically below the standard, the exam will result in a fail.
- Maximum-Length Exam Rule – If the Confidence Interval Rule has not been invoked prior to a maximum length examination (175 items), the candidate's ability estimate will be evaluated against the passing standard. If, for the last seventy-five (75) operational items answered, the candidate's ability estimate is consistently above the passing standard, for each and every item, then the exam result is a pass. If, at any point over those last seventy-five (75) operational items, the candidate's ability estimate falls below the passing standard, the result is a fail. The evaluation of the ability estimate in relation to the passing standard does not take the confidence interval into account.
- Run-out-of-time (R.O.O.T.) Rule – If the Confidence Interval Rule has not been invoked prior to a maximum time of the examination (4 hours), the candidate's ability estimate will be evaluated against the passing standard. If, for the last seventy-five (75) operational items answered, the candidate's ability estimate is consistently above the passing standard, then the exam result is a pass. If, at any point over those seventy-five (75) items the candidate's ability estimate falls below the passing standard, the result is a fail. The evaluation of the ability estimate in relation to the passing standard does not take the confidence interval into account. If a candidate does not answer seventy-five (75) operational items within the maximum time of the examination (4 hours), the candidate will automatically fail the exam.
Q: Can a CISSP CAT exam be taken with an Authorized Training Provider at an event or mobile testing facility?
A: No. ISC2 exams are available exclusively through Pearson Professional Centers (PPCs) and ISC2-authorized Pearson VUE Select Test Centers (PVTC Selects). Current ISC2-authorized test centers can be found at: http://www.pearsonvue.com/isc2/locate
Q: When does a candidate receive their results for CISSP CAT?
A: A candidate will receive their results immediately after he/she has completed the exam. For a candidate who does not pass and who has taken the minimum number of required items, they will also be provided diagnostic feedback to share domains in which a candidate struggled so they may focus on preparation for future attempts. Candidates do not receive any numerical scores on their pass/fail report.
Q: Will a candidate receive a score with his/her exam pass/fail report?
A: No. Candidates do not receive numerical scaled scores on their pass/fail examinations. Proficiency level for each domain will be provided only to failing candidates.
Q: What is the CISSP CAT exam retake policy?
A: A candidate may sit for ISC2 exams up to three times within a 12-month period. For both the CISSP CAT and linear examinations:
- If a candidate does not pass the exam the first time, they may retest after 30 test-free days.
- If a candidate does not pass the exam the second time, they may retest after an additional 90 test-free days.
- If a candidate does not pass the exam the third time, they may retest after 180 test-free days from their most recent exam attempt.
Q: Is it true that a candidate who receives the minimum number of items and the last item is "easy" will fail the examination?
A: By design with a CAT exam, a candidate cannot reliably identify which items are easy and which are difficult. At the end of an examination, a candidate receives items he/she has approximately a 50% chance of answering correctly. The sentiment regarding which items are ‘easy' and which items are ‘difficult' is relative to a candidate's ability. Because the exam is adaptive, both high and low ability candidates will think the items at the end of the exam are challenging.
Q: What is the passing proficiency level?
A: Proficiency is defined here as candidate performance relative to the "passing standard," and exam performance feedback to failing candidates is provided using the following three levels:
- Below proficiency – below the passing standard
- Near proficiency – close to the passing standard
- Above proficiency – above the passing standard
Q: Does a candidate need to score “Above Proficiency” in all domains in order to pass the exam?
A: No. Candidates must score above proficiency level in order to pass the exam. However, a candidate does not need to score above the proficiency level in each area of the test plan to pass the exam. A single pass/fail result is calculated on the total of all operational items administered for the examination. ISC2 exams are compensatory exams which allow for a higher number of items answered correctly in one domain to compensate for a lower performance in another domain. If a candidate performs very well in a more heavily weighted domain where a high number of items are included on the exam and only performs “near proficiency” or even “below proficiency,” in a lesser weighted domain where a fewer number of items are included, there is a possibility that a candidate may pass the exam, but there is no guarantee.
Q: If a candidate fails with 75 operational items answered, does this mean they did very poorly?
A: Not necessarily; it simply means that it took only the minimum number of items for the scoring algorithm to determine with 95% certainty that the candidate's ability was below the passing standard.
Q: Is any candidate randomly selected to receive maximum length examination?
A: No. Items are administered in accordance with CISSP CAT exam content outline specifications, and the item selection algorithm is based on a candidate's ability. No candidate is selected to receive a predetermined number of items. Items are always selected based on the candidate's response to previous items and fulfilment of the exam content outline. The exam ends when it can be determined with 95% confidence that a candidate's performance is either above or below the passing standard, regardless of the number of items answered or the amount of exam session time elapsed.
Q: How should a candidate prepare to take CISSP CAT?
A: As the CISSP exam content outline and passing standard for the linear and CAT versions of the examination are exactly the same, candidate preparation should not change based on the format of the examination. Regardless of exam format, a candidate should always follow good time management strategies so he/she may provide well-reasoned responses to at least the minimum number of items required.
A candidate can expect to find each item presented challenging. Consequently, many candidates will feel that they did poorly on the exam as all candidates are expected to only get 50% of items they answer correct. This psychological phenomenon is common for CAT exam candidates, as most fixed-forms exams have candidates answer a higher proportion of items correctly due to item targeting inefficiencies. It is important for a candidate to remember it is not the number of items answered correct that is important, everyone will get about 50% correct, it is the difficulty of the items that he/she answer correct which is relevant for passing the exam.
Q: Where can candidates find the most current information on the CISSP?
A: Candidates should always refer to the current exam outline. All information required for candidates to register, schedule and take their examinations is contained there.