Monday, February 24, 2014

How to study for the ISP Certification using the Self-Inspection Handbook for NISP Contractors.

In our security community, I see a lot of questions about studying for the ISP Certification. Some ask for additional ideas to augment good study groups formed in NCMS (Society of Industrial Security Professionals). These questions facilitate great response from ISPs to help the student prepare for their certification exam.

Of the many reasons candidate testers might have for requesting additional study is to gain more experience and practice what they already know. It’s true that one of the testing pre-requisites is five years of experience protecting classified information or otherwise working in the national industrial security program (NISP) environment. However the five years of experience doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate is executing all National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) tasks. The tester is responsible for answering questions from the entire NISPOM though they may only personally touch small portions of NISPOM in all of those five years.

Additional study, test practice and rehearsal help build confidence. Some ideas I have already recommended is to broaden the scope of security tasks by taking on additional jobs, developing study questions based on NISPOM, or for mentors to get permission to allow outside NISP contractors to train in their facility (for example, an FSO of a non-possessing facility training with an FSO in their possessing facility).

Another idea I would like to recommend is to use Defense Security Services (DSS) produced Self-Inspection Handbook for NISP Contractors as a training guide.  The handbook requires demonstration of tasks involving the entire NISPOM. Where DSS recommends FSOs to inspect only items appropriate for their own facilities, I recommend just the opposite.  FSOs can now focus study efforts to areas of the NISPOM outside of their scope. 

The following exercise will help candidates research NISPOM and provide examples of demonstrated performance:

1. Download Self-Inspection Handbook for NISP Contractors

2. Save the PDF file as a word document

3. Delete all NISPOM reference

4. Review all tasks appropriate to your facility. Research NISPOM and validate whether or not your facility is compliant. This exercise will help enforce what you already know.

5. Study tasks listed outside of your focus. For a non-possessing FSO, this might mean all chapters other than 1-

6. Read the task, attempt to find the reference in NISPOM and document the NISPOM requirements. Next, write down your ideas of how you would interpret the requirements. This exercise helps you learn which NISPOM chapters are associated with certain NISP tasks. With enough practice, you can quickly find NISPOM references and answer questions with the speed required on test day.

Use the Self-Inspection Handbook for NISP Contractors help guide additional study to augment the great training you are already getting. For more helpful hints and study resources, see Red Bike Publishing’s Unofficial Guide to ISP Certification, DoD Security Clearance and Contracts Guidebook, and NISPOM Training topics.

Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing Red Bike Publishing . He regularly consults, presents security training, and recommends export compliance and intellectual property protection countermeasures. He is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook", "ISP Certification-The Industrial Security Professional Exam Manual", and NISPOM/FSO Training".

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