Preparing for GWAPT
Recently, I managed to clear my GWAPT (GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester) exam. Thus, thought of detailing down my experience for those who are also in the process or thinking of taking it.
I took the affiliated training which is SEC542: Web App Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking. Even, though it is technically possible to take the certification without the course, I feel it will be difficult as the exams follows the training material closely. Or of course you can skip the training if you are super experienced in this area of Cyber Security.
A snapshot of what is covered in the training is below:
You can visit the SANS course page for the full details. I took up the On-Demand option. Thus I had access to the training materials (lectures recordings etc) for 4 months. And of course, SANS also sends the hard copy of the materials to you. As usual, you can expect SANS training to be through and detailed.
After registering for the certification you have 4 months (120 days) within which you have to book for your exams. 2 practice tests are also made available to you.
- 1 proctored exam
- 82–115 questions
- Time limit of 3 hours
- Minimum Passing Score of 71%
It is open-book exam but no electronic devices or exam questions allowed (thus don’t print out the practice questions!).
Take note, unlike previous times there are hands-on questions in the exam. You will be given access to a VM to do the hands-on during the exam.
Register for your exams as soon as you have completed the training as then, it will be still fresh in your mind. I made the mistake of delaying for up to 6 months before registering thus have to revisit the training materials and listen to the mp3s to refresh my memory in certain areas.
Index the books. Unlike older SANS books, the current ones actually has an index. For SEC 542, there was a total of 6 books (5 theory + 1 workbooks). Book 5’s last few pages are the index. There is no index for the workbook. For me, it greatly simplified my work of indexing. I just indexed book 5’s last few pages as index and few other important pages in the workbook for hands-on and it is done. Indexing is greatly useful, especially when the question asks for specifics like definitions. It is a fixed answer, so referring to the correct page using index will sped up things.
Hands-on portion in the exams are the least tricky ones from my experience. Thus go through the workbook and practice the hands-on using the VM given during the training. SANS did a great job for the workbook, detailing the methods step by step with screenshots if you are lost during the hands-on. If you have gone through the workbook and have tried the examples, you will be able to get the answers in the exams.
Practice tests are the most important preparation tool. There are 2 practice tests so you need to allocate 6 hours for them in total. You will get the idea of the type of questions asked and the time involved. You will also improve on the indexing by doing the practice tests (e.g. I indexed the workbook after trying the practice tests). I did the 1st practice test before starting any of the preparation and I failed it. But I understood my weak areas and how hands-on works. Then after studying and practicing, I took the 2nd practice test 2 days before my actual exam and managed to clear it. It gave me the confidence and on the actual exam I also breezed through the exam.
In summary, I allocated 2 weeks for the revision.
- Register without delaying after taking the training,
- Index appropriately,
- Hands-on are important, so practice the workbook with the VMs and
- Practice tests are the most important preparation tool.
And most importantly before I conclude, due to the Covid situation, do check out any restrictions in the test centers in your area when you book for your exams. There is no movement restrictions in my area except for temperature check, health-declaration and entry check-in before entering the premises, so I have to go earlier to cater to these checks. And wearing the mask at all times during the exams. SANS also allows for remote proctored exam, so do check the technical requirements when registering if you going to take up that option.
All the best!!