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Taking the GIAC GSEC, Paul Meynen

Paul Meynen choose the self-study option for the GIAC GSEC certification, but was shocked when 3000 pages of material arrived. He contacted SANS to make sure they had sent the correct material! He was impressed by the quality (as well as quantity) of materials. He liked the level of detail, and especially how it took a step beyond a typical graduate program, with lots of real world and practical hands on information. He also liked the coverage of platform specific issues, with plenty of Windows and Linux/Unix material.

Paul spent a solid 2 months preparing, and read everything at least once. The SANS material consists of a set of PowerPoint slides with extensive notes; some slides have over 5 pages of supporting material. It is regularly updated, currently three times a year.

Paul also took the two practice tests online as part of his preparation. He found them "very useful and helpful," sentiments I find many people echo. The questions were very representative of the questions on the real test, although none of the questions were exactly the same.

The tests allow you to flag up to ten questions for review, and Paul was impressed and amazed that GIAC actually got back to him within 48 hours. He did find it somewhat frustrating though that when you flag a question, and then go after you've finished the test to send GIAC feedback, that you are only shown the question, not the answers. This makes it harder to remember why you flagged the question and give good feedback. However, GIAC suggested to Paul to make brief notes during the exam in order to provide quality feedback after the exam. Paul used this approach on subsequent practice exams and the real exam, and found it very helpful.

When Paul first tried to take the real test at a testing center, there was an ISP issue and despite the ISP claiming Internet access would be restored in 30 minutes, he sat for 4 1/2 hours and never got to take the exam. GIAC now requires you take a proctored exam, for example at a testing center, whereas in the past you could take it online anywhere that was convenient.

The second day everything worked out, and Paul took almost the full time, 5 hours, to complete the exam. He loved the real time feedback, and found himself watching the number of wrong/right questions on the screen update as he entered each answer.

In Paul's own words, he was "impressed" by the study material, he found the practice tests "very useful and helpful," and he also commented that he liked the real world emphasis including hands on type information and specific platform coverage in the GIAC GSEC certification.

Oh yes, and Paul passed – easily.

Ted Demopoulos at Caesars Palace
Ted Demopoulos,  Caesars Palace

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