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Passing Any GIAC Certification

I keep getting asked about how to take and pass GIAC tests. My secret is simple but takes work. You are given all the time and tools needed to be successful. While it is possible to take a SANs class then take the corresponding GIAC test then next week, I don't recommend it.

I start off by paying attention in class. I do not work on my index at all, I stay focused on the instructor. I am asking as many questions as I can. Basically I am learning as much as I can while I have an expert in the room. Once the class is over, that is when I read my books and work on my index.

What is an index and what goes in it? You can think of an index as a summarization of your SANs books, at least that is how I treat it. The goal of an index is to either jog your memory or get you to the information in the books to answer the question. Only you know what goes in your index. Knowing that the GIAC tests are created by the information from the SANs books should be the guide that lets you know what needs to go into your index.

I have seen various types of indexes. I have seen some with just a term and page number. I have seen some with a term, page number, and a small description of the term. I tend to put a lot of information in my index. I use spreadsheet software like MS Excel or Google Sheets. The first column is where I put my term that I believe could be the subject of a question. I use the second column to list what book the term was found in. I list it as course and book, ie. 505.2. That is SEC505 book 2. I started to do this when I was studying for the GSE entrance exam. That exam covers three different courses (SEC503, SEC504, and SEC401). I like to tab my books and that is what the third column is for. I have no standard on how I tab my books. Some courses have a natural spot for a tab, but most don't. For those courses, I tend to tab every 50th page. The fourth column is used for the page number I found the term on. The fifth column I put the information about the term that I found in the books. Once I am complete, I sort the index alphabetically by the term column and send it off to get printed and tabbed with alpha tabs.

I recommend taking both of your practice exams. This may not be necessary and most people I talk with only take one. I have had all my success by taking both. I take both of mine a couple of days before the actual exam. I use the practice exams to test my index. I test to make sure it has all the missing information that I cant remember.

Labs. The labs are probably more important now than they used to be. I have not taken a GIAC test with the hands-on portion of the test, other than the GSE entrance exam. After talking with some co-workers who have and comparing it to my own experience, I feel the experiences where about the same. With that being said, re-do the labs multiple times. Do them enough that you can do the labs without the walkthroughs.

If you purchased the on-demand with your conference purchase, I recommend going through the on-demand at your own pace. If you did not purchase the conference and only got the on-demand, I recommend going through the on-demand videos before attempting your index. Then rewatch the videos after you read your books and complete your index. This can be done in conjunction with redoing your labs.

Utilize your MP3s that you get as well. If you have a commute to work, as I do, there is no reason you can't download and listen to them like a podcast. This is one of favorite things because it makes me use my imagination to visualize what is being said on the MP3.

That is my secret to being GIACx9.5 at the time of this writing. I added the .5 to represent me passing the GSE entrance exam. I am trying to get scheduled for the fall of 2020 to take the lab portion of the GSE.

Thanks to Certified SANs instructor Matthew Toussain for creating "Voltaire" ( ). This is a web application he created to help with creating a SANs Index.

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