1. Begin at the NCMS, ISP Certification information website @ http://www.ncms-isp.org/ISP_Certification/index.asp. There you can find ISP Certification testimonials, brochures, application and other information about the certification. When you review the qualification, study and application information, begin with the end in mind. If your goal is to become ISP Certified in 2015, gather all the data needed and determine the possibility. If the application, approval and study timeline is too timely, consider changing your goal to “Prepare for ISP Certification in 2016” or “Study for ISP Certification”. The goal is to study the requirements and build a realistic plan to achieve your goal. Let preparation set the way and not a calendar date. Once you determine how long it will take to get prepared (6 months, 1 year, etc.) build a plan based on the date and work backward.
2. Understand the application process. There are minimum experience requirements that applicants must meet as well as administrative tasks built into the process. If an applicant does not meet minimum requirements, they can begin study, but will have to wait to meet those requirements before applying. This should be built into the timeline. Applicants who meet the minimum, should build in the administrative tasks into the timeline. This includes filling out applications, payment, getting approval to take the exam and setting up a test date.
3. Understand the testable topics. Gather the relevant test information from the website. Understand the requirements and get a feel of where you are professionally and any gaps you need to breach to bring your knowledge of NISPOM and ISP Certification categories to where it needs to be. It’s not necessary to be an expert in all areas or to be able to quote regulations and requirements. What’s important is a knowledge of where to find information in source documents and apply that knowledge to question based scenarios. In other words, understand where the information can be found and applied to the situation in a quick manner. For example, a person appointed as FSO may have substantial experience with personnel and contract security after working those areas exclusively for many years. However, they are still responsible for understanding information security as outlined in the NISPOM. This means that they will need to spend some time understanding where to find topic related information and answer questions in context.
4. The following are some things that you can do to prepare to fill those knowledge gaps:
a. Study the NISPOM and other reference document structure and understand where to find topic related information. Also, become familiar with key industry standard words found in the source documents. Some of these words are original classification authority, government contracting agency, DSS, security clearance, cognizant security agency, and etc. The NISPOM and source documents are available in print and electrons and can be used in the exam. Understand where certain information can be found or how to search an electronic copy is a very good technique for real life and test based scenarios.
b. Join the NCMS study group. There you can study their material, ask questions and get feedback.
c. Find an ISP certified professional mentor. They understand the stress of working full time and studying for a professional level exam. Mentors can calm fears, answer questions, put rumors to rest, and put the right perspective on stress, studying and life in general.
5. Set a date. Just like getting married, sometimes you just have to put a date down. Once that date is set and approved, you have a certain amount of to take the test before having to reapply. Setting the date will keep you motivated to study and stay focused.
Dreaming is one this, but achieving is another. The best way to ensure success is to build a plan and follow it. Begin with the end in mind, understand the limitations, meet those limitation, set a date and stay focused. Let 2015 be the start of a new professional achievement.
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".