How Difficult is the CISM Exam? A Comparison with Other Security Certifications

August 11, 2023
Natalie Thorburn

Security professionals look for certificates to certify their knowledge and experience in this constantly evolving industry as it continues to gain prominence. The Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) credential is highly regarded and widely accepted in cybersecurity. But many would-be candidates are curious about the CISM exam's difficulty level and how it stacks up against other security credentials. To assist applicants in making wise choices,in this blog we will explore the CISM Difficulty and compare it to other security certifications. Let's explore the world of CISM Certification and how challenging it is.

Table of contents

  • Understanding the CISM Certification
  • The Difficulty of the CISM Exam
  • Comparison with Other Security Certifications
  • Tips for CISM Exam Preparation
  • Conclusion

Understanding the CISM Certification

ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association) offers the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification for people in charge of managing, creating, and directing an enterprise's information security programme. A person's proficiency in information security governance, risk management, incident management, and information security programme creation and management is demonstrated by their CISM certification.

The Difficulty of the CISM Exam

Due to its extensive and in-depth treatment of several disciplines connected to information security management, the CISM test is commonly considered difficult. The test comprises 150 multiple-choice questions, and applicants have four hours to do it. Candidates must get a scaled score of 450 or better on the CISM test out of a potential 800 to succeed.

The difficulty of the CISM exam can be attributed to several factors:

  1. Information security governance, risk management, incident response, and security programme creation are all complex topics covered in the CISM test. To score well on the test, candidates need to have a thorough grasp of these subjects.
  2. Each of the four domains that comprise the CISM test has a broad range of subjects. To answer the wide range of questions, candidates must know every facet of information security management.
  3. Candidates for the CISM test must exhibit theoretical understanding and the capacity to apply that understanding to practical situations. The exam is made more challenging by this realistic approach.
  4. Time management is essential because there are 150 questions to answer in four hours. Candidates must manage their time well to successfully read and respond to the questions.
  5. The CISM exam adds further difficulty by testing applicants' comprehension of ethical issues related to information security management.

Comparison with Other Security Certifications

Let's now contrast the CISM exam's complexity with those of other well-known security certifications:

  1. One of the most well-known security certifications is the CISSP exam, provided by (ISC)2. It includes eight information security-related domains: asset security, software development security, and security and risk management. The CISSP test, like the CISM exam, demands that applicants have a comprehensive grasp of many security issues. Due to its wide cover and practical application requirements, the CISSP is sometimes compared to the CISM in terms of its difficulty level.
  2. EC-Council provides the CEH certification and focuses on penetration testing and ethical hacking. It covers a range of hacking tools, methods, and tactics. Although CEH calls for technical expertise and practical hacking abilities, it may be easier because of its more focused nature than CISM.
  3. An entry-level certification that covers fundamental ideas in information security is called CompTIA Security+. Security+ is said to be less challenging than CISM since it caters to professionals with less industry experience.
  4. The CISA certification, which ISACA also offers, is intended for professionals who audit, manage, and monitor IT systems. At the same time, there are certain areas where CISA and CISM overlap. CISM is primarily focused on information security management, which might make it harder for applicants who are less familiar with managerial and strategic security principles.

Tips for CISM Exam Preparation

A systematic and committed strategy is necessary for CISM test preparation. To increase your chances of success, consider the following advice:

  1. The official ISACA CISM Review Manual is a crucial tool for test preparation. It gives thorough explanations of important topics across all disciplines.
  2. Exam practice helps evaluate your knowledge and pinpoint any gaps. Use sample exam questions to familiarise yourself with the test format and boost your confidence.
  3. Participating in study groups or online forums might present chances to discuss complex subjects, exchange viewpoints, and gain knowledge from others' experiences.
  4. Pay close attention to how the concepts relate to actual situations; doing so will help you apply your knowledge in the test.
  5. Practise time management during the practice examinations.


The CISM test is recognised as being challenging because of its comprehensive coverage of information security management theory and practical application requirements. But it is still feasible to pass the CISM exam with the appropriate planning, dedication, and study method. Prospective candidates shouldn't let the test's difficulty dissuade them; instead, they should view it as an opportunity to increase their knowledge and stature in information security management. Earning the CISM Certification can show a high level of expertise in managing and directing an organisation's information security programme, which may open up new job opportunities.


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