My top eight CISA exam anxieties

Next week I take the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) exam**. A lot of people have told me I have nothing to worry about, that I should have no problem passing the exam. When I told some coworkers that I’ve started doing 100 practice questions a night they said I’d “definitely be fine.” I didn’t tell them that those 100 questions don’t include the ones I do on my phone while I’m commuting plus others I do whenever I have a few minutes of free time.

I’m kind of freaking out about this exam.

Based on my professional and academic backgrounds people are probably right that I should be able to pass this exam. I know that, but there are a few thoughts I can’t shake that keep my anxious about this whole thing:

1. WHAT IF I CAN’T CONCENTRATE?!

The CISA exam is 200 questions long. Many people have told me it took them close to the total four hours allotted. This is scary because I very rarely do anything for four hours straight. I get bored and my mind wanders. Tonight’s practice questions took longer than they should have because I started thinking about this blog post. What if I can’t concentrate during the actual test?

2. WHAT IF I’M TOO LATE?!

The CISA exam is a live, proctored exam. People who arrive late are not allowed to take the test. What if I sleep in? What if I can’t find the exam location? Or, what if like happened to one of my coworkers the location was changed, and she didn’t realize it until she had arrived at the original location and had to take an emergency cab ride across town? What if I can’t park? What if I’m late?

3. WHAT IF ALL MY PENCILS BREAK?!

Despite being an exam about information technology, the CISA exam is administered on paper. Security guidelines significantly limit what you can bring in the room. What if I don’t bring enough pencils, and they all break?

4. WHAT IF EVERYONE ELSE TAKING THE CISA EXAM THAT DAY IS A SUPER GENIUS?!

The CISA exam uses a scaled scoring system. That means there is no set score that guarantees passing. The passing score is defined based on the range of all the scores. This means that I could do fairly well, but if everyone else scores better I won’t pass. What if I am taking the exam with a bunch of super geniuses?

5. WHAT IF I HAVE TO PEE?!

What if I have to pee during the exam? This is a serious question.

6. WHAT IF I AM TOO HUNGRY TO THINK?!

This is a four hour exam for which I have to be in my seat at least 30 minutes early, which means I should probably arrive an hour early. That’s 5 hours without eating. What if I get hungry?

7. WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ON THE TEST?!

I have been studying from a set of 1200 CISA practice questions. I can answer most of the questions correctly, but there are plenty of things I don’t know as well. What if the entire test is made up of the questions I don’t know

8. WHAT IF I FAIL?!

Because this is on my professional development plan, my boss and coworkers know I am taking this exam. Now you do too. This means that if I fail I can’t just keep it as my secret shame while publicly pretending it never happened. What if I fail?

It takes about five weeks to get the results of the CISA exam. That’s a long time to carry around this anxiety. If you see me in the month-and-a-half and I look more frazzled than usual now you now why.

broken pencil
Photo credit: FerPer / Foter / CC BY-NC

**Those of you with outstanding memories may recall that one of my uber list goals was to get my Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, so you may wonder why I’m getting the CISA instead. In March I got a new job. The good news is that they value and pay for certifications. The sort of bad news is that they require either a CISA, a CPA, or a CIA before they will pay for other certifications. Assuming I managing to get my CISA I will try for my CISSP next year. Or perhaps this experience will leave me so frazzled that I won’t want to take another standardized test ever again. We’ll have to see.

RELATED POST: Why an IT auditor is like a playwright

PREVIOUS POST: This is my procrastination post (Fun fact: Although this is a post about procrastinating I wrote it after I had already done my CISA prep questions for the night.

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