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The GIAC GSEC Exam, Instructors Take It Too

It was my third time taking the GIAC GSEC exam. The first time I scored high enough that SANS recruited me to start teaching the GSEC class and I have ever since. The second time was 4 years later to renew my GIAC GSEC certification. This time was going to be different as SANS now requires proctored exams. I was going to go to a Kryterion Testing center, instead of taking the exam online in my office.

The GIAC Web site showed the only testing center within 50 miles was the New Horizons Computer Learning Center in Nashua New Hampshire. Every interaction I've ever had with a New Horizons has left a bad taste in my mouth – has been a horrible experience – but I've heard the man who runs Nashua is a good guy, plus they were the only close testing center. There was nothing on their Web site about Kryterion testing, so I sent them an email via their Web contact form, and they never got back to be. Now they should pick up this mention of them, perhaps via a Google alert, and contact me, but I'm not assuming competence at this point.

Digging though the GIAC Web site I found I'm supposed to sign up through a link on their Web site. OK, still no excuse for Nashua New Horizons not to get back to me, and worse, they showed no available dates for testing at all! The GIAC directions stated that should this be the case to contact them via a special email. Now, 3 weeks out they still haven't contacted me. I guess with any new system, the proctored exams, some things will fall through the cracks.

I picked the next closest testing center, Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown Mass. Certainly not as convenient, but I wanted to get this over with at this point! They had testing next Friday, so I signed up.

I arrived for the test early and parked where the policewoman indicated as the visitors lot was full. It was a brisk 20 minute walk to "Room E-222" where I was asked to leave any food and cellphone in a locker, and then allowed to start my exam 20 minutes early.

My 2 sets of ID were checked first, and then I was led to a small room with approximately 10 computers separated by small dividers. My spot had earplugs and scrap paper as well as a computer. I followed the directions on the first few screens (yes, my address was correct, yes, I promise to always be good, yes, . . .) and then the test began.

Since I've taught the GSEC class, the one to prepare for this test, dozens of times I wasn't concerned about passing. It's also open book, and I know the books pretty well as I teach from from them frequently. However my score would be public record; anyone, for example one of my students, could look up my score. Merely passing with 70% correct,  the minimum, wasn't an option for me. I had to do well.

Overall I though the test was good and fair. You needed to know the material to pass. There simply wasn't enough time to look everything up, plus where to look it up in the six voluminous GSEC books wasn't always clear.

Halfway though the test I considered taking a break to go to the restroom. I thought I'd answer a few more questions, perhaps 120 out of the 180, before my break. Well, suddenly I found myself at the 158 question point, close to done, and really needing to go to the restroom. Perhaps foolishly I decided to race through the remaining 22 questions and finish the test, before going to the restroom and then home.

Do as I say, not as I as do: take your time on the exam!

I DID get the last 22 questions correct! Overall I had gotten only 7 questions wrong, including 2 simple ones on DNS. I should have taken my time - most of my incorrect answers were due to stupid mistakes. Most people take the entire allotted 5 hours or very close to it.

I finished in slightly under 2 hours, which did shock the proctor. "Hey, I teach the class for this," I said as I left to race to the restroom, happy I had scored 96.11% on my GIAC GSEC exam.

-Ted Demopoulos, GIAC GSEC, 1 May 2009

Ted Demopoulos at Caesars Palace
Ted Demopoulos,  Caesars Palace