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Try Harder! Earn Your GIAC GSEC Certification

The GSEC certification is an intermediate-level qualification in information security that the Department of Defense has approved for Level II IAT security technicians. If you have experience in networking, you may already be familiar with some of the topics covered in the GSEC. This certification covers numerous definitions and incident handling techniques, and it can be misleading since it allows the use of reference materials during the exam.

GIAC GSEC exam is an open-book exam. Even though the exam for this certification allows you to use reference materials, you should not underestimate its difficulty. It is essential to have a strong understanding of security-related concepts and other areas of knowledge. Although the certification includes the term “security essentials” in its name, it covers many topics. It is crucial to be prepared for anything when pursuing a security certification.

The GSEC exam is a 5-hour, 106-180-question, open-book exam. The exam is proctored, and candidates pass with a 73 percent or better grade. The GSEC exam tests the candidate’s understanding and problem-solving skills with scenario-based questions.

The GSEC is valid for four years and can be renewed with 36 Continuing Professional Experience (CPE) credits.

Who Should Consider Pursuing a GSEC Certification?

If you are new to the field of IT and seeking a foundational knowledge of cybersecurity principles and their practical application, then GSEC is an ideal starting point.

Though GSEC is designed for IT security professionals who are at an entry level and have at least one year of security-related experience, individuals without such experience can still attempt the exam.

Achieving a GSEC Certification can make you eligible for cybersecurity positions that are at the entry-level, such as:

  • Junior Forensic Analyst
  • Junior Penetration Tester
  • Junior Information Security Analyst
  • Junior Network Administrator
  • Junior System Administrator
  • Help Desk Specialist
  • Junior Cyber Security Analyst
  • Junior IT Auditor
  • Junior Security Engineer

GSEC Certification Salary

According to PayScale, GSEC-certified professionals can average $94k annually.

ZipRecruiter also lists $94k as the average salary of GSEC-certified professionals.

Remember, these are averages; your salary depends heavily on your position and responsibilities. You should not expect a Junior Cybersecurity Analyst to make the same as a Senior Cybersecurity Engineer, even with the same certifications.

Top 10 Tips for GIAC GSEC Certification Exam Preparation

GSEC exam preparation can be daunting, but there are various ways to help you ace it easily. So, let’s dive right in!

1. Understanding the GSEC Certification Exam Format

The GIAC GSEC exam is an open-book exam that contains 180 multiple-choice questions. You will have three hours to complete the exam. Before you begin your exam preparations, it’s essential to understand the exam format to ensure you can prepare effectively.

2. Create an Effective Study Plan

Creating an effective study plan is essential for your exam preparation. Start by identifying your weak areas and dedicating more time to studying them. Allocate enough time to cover all the exam topics and ensure you have enough time to review your study materials before the exam day.

3. Know Your Resources

Since the GIAC GSEC exam is open-book, you can bring in any resource you need. However, knowing your resources can help you save time and access information faster during the exam. Some recommended resources for the GIAC GSEC exam include the SANS index, NIST publications, and the CIS Critical Security Controls.

4. Use the SANS Index

The SANS index is valuable for preparing for the GIAC GSEC exam. The index contains a comprehensive list of topics covered in the exam, making navigating your study materials easier. The SANS index can also help you find specific information faster during the exam.

5. Utilize the Open Books Exam Tips

The GIAC GSEC exam is an open-book exam, which means you have access to any resource you need during the exam. However, using the open-book exam tips is essential to access information quickly and efficiently. Some open-book exam tips include using sticky notes, creating a table of contents, and highlighting critical information.

Related Read: Is GIAC GSEC Certification Worth It?

6. Practice Time Management

Time management is crucial during the GIAC GSEC exam. You only have three hours to complete the exam and 180 questions to answer. Practice time management while studying to ensure you can answer all the questions within the given time frame.

7. Take GSEC Practice Exam

Practice tests can help you evaluate your exam readiness and identify areas that need more attention. Additionally, practice tests can help you familiarize yourself with the exam format and build confidence before the exam.

8. Understand the GSEC Certification Question Format

Understanding the GSEC exam question format is essential for answering questions correctly during the GIAC GSEC exam. Each question has four answer options, and only one answer is correct. Some questions may have more than one right answer, and you will be required to select all the correct answers.

9. Use the Process of Elimination

The process of elimination is a valuable strategy for answering questions during the GIAC GSEC exam. Start by eliminating the incorrect answers and narrow your options to the most likely explanation. This strategy can help you increase your chances of answering the question correctly.

10. Manage Exam Stress

Exam stress is expected during the GIAC GSEC exam; however, managing stress is essential to ensure you can focus on the exam. Start by taking deep breaths, focusing on the task, and taking breaks when necessary. Exam stress can affect your performance, so managing it effectively can help you ace the exam.


In conclusion, preparing for the GIAC GSEC exam requires careful planning, dedication, and practical strategies. By creating an effective study plan, understanding the exam format, knowing your resources, utilizing the open book exam tips, practicing time management, taking practice tests, understanding the question format, using the process of elimination, and managing exam stress, you can increase your chances of acing the exam.

Remember, the GIAC GSEC exam is a test of your knowledge of information security and a valuable credential in the industry. Preparing for the exam can help you validate your skills, enhance your career prospects, and increase your value as a cybersecurity professional.

So, consider these tips, and prepare well for your GIAC GSEC exam. You can ace the exam and take your career to new heights with dedication and hard work. Good luck!