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If i were to take the course http://www.sans.org/course/advanced-web-app-penetration-testing-ethical-hacking# as a self study course over 4 months, how is it eventually graded? Is it an exam at the end? I've been reading around the SANS site and can't really find what I'm looking for.

"Students in the SelfStudy Program receive:

  • SANS printed course books and CD (CD not applicable to certain courses)
  • Two GIAC Practice Tests for each exam required for certification (GIAC Certification students only)
  • Four-month online access to MP3 files of the course taught by the world's best instructors"

Is the GIAC test the actual certification? How does this differ to attending the live video lectures over the course of a week? My immediate thought is that I'd prefer the self taught version but I'm not totally clear what the differences are.

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    You're probably better off emailing SANS with this kind of question. – Polynomial Mar 19 '15 at 15:54
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Is the GIAC test the actual certification?

Yes, GIAC is the certifying body for SANS training.

The GIAC test is a timed, computer-based, open-paper-book test that you take at a testing center (e.g., Pearson Vue). The test and the testing process is the same, whether you attended a week-long class in person or used the self-study books and MP3s over the course of several months.

How does this differ to attending the live video lectures over the course of a week?

Going to a class is more immersive and it's easier to have give-and-take conversations with the instructor and your classmates.

Taking the class online or self-study is less expensive and less disruptive to your schedule.

My immediate thought is that I'd prefer the self taught version but I'm not totally clear what the differences are.

If you learn better from a teacher than from self taught, going to class is much better, but that's very dependent on what your learning style is.

Going to class is more expensive, both directly and for hotel/food/travel in most cases. Obviously that impacts you depending on your situation (are you paying? does your employer cover training?)


More subjectively:

I've held 5 GIAC certs over the years (2.5 current), and have certified or re-certified twice in the last year (and am scheduled to re-certify one of those next week). You can definitely pass the exams if you have the books and read and understand them before the test - re-certifying is essentially the Self-Study option. But the classes and conferences can be a really good experience that you won't regret if you can spend the money and time to do it.

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