How to Prepare for the C|PENT Certification: Valuable Guidance From a Cyber Professional
If you’re preparing for EC-Council’s Certified Penetration Testing Professional (C|PENT) certification, it’s normal to feel intimidated by the prospect of learning the program’s technical concepts. However, while mastering the exam is no cakewalk, the challenge will pay off in the end.
My name is Sergey Chubarov, and I’m an instructor. As a C|PENT and Licensed Penetration Tester (Master) certificate holder, I would like to offer some tips and tactics for preparing for the C|PENT exam. However, before I dive in, let me explain what the C|PENT exam is all about.
What is C|PENT Exam?C|PENT is a hands-on exam with multiple challenges, which, in my opinion, can be divided into two parts:
- For the first challenge, you must enumerate your target properly and gather information. For instance, you’ll be asked to find the target’s name or a fully qualified domain name, name of the domain, or protocol version.
- As part of the second challenge, you’ll need to exploit your target, find the root of the user flag, locate the flag, and provide the content of those flags.
Skills You Need to Master
C|PENT candidates must build their enumeration and exploitation skills to master the exam. Another essential skill is using a search engine such as Google because C|PENT is an open-book exam. During the exam, you’re free to explore any sources, and using a search engine is essential to finding relevant information.
C|PENT Preparation Guide
Before taking an official course, I recommend you first sharpen your enumeration, exploitation, and Googling skills, as these will help you think on your feet. The best way to do that is by working on cyber ranges where you can work with machines and try to compromise them. Learning assembly language and debugger (GDB) will also come in handy. You can take a course to learn assembly languages related to buffer overflow and cybersecurity.
By now, you must be wondering if an official course is necessary. Although it’s up to you, my advice is that taking an official EC-Council course gives you a basic idea about the exam, and their hands-on labs offer real-world experience. During the course, you will encounter several unfamiliar topics (Operational Technology, Binary, Network Penetration Testing, etc.). Do not try to become an expert in these concepts. Your goal is to maintain a balance between preparation time and actual preparation.
How to Get an Additional Three Weeks of Preparation TimeMost candidates will first activate their dashboard on the Aspen portal, then complete both exam sessions within 30 days and submit the report. However, sometimes when you go to the proctor portal to schedule the exam, you may not find available slots, and you’ll have to wait an additional week to take the first session. There is a way around this issue. First, you can schedule your exam session with the proctor and then activate your dashboard. Now you have a guaranteed 30 days for your first session. You can then take the second exam session after three weeks. This additional time will help you better prepare and calm any anxiety.
Quick Wrap-upBefore I conclude, I would like to go over my recommendations. Here’s a quick wrap-up of my tried and tested technique for passing the exam:
- Sharpen your enumeration and exploration skills
- Take an assembly course
- Learn more about buffer overflow, binary analysis, and debuggers
- Practice on cyber ranges and do all the labs
Let’s look at what other successful C|PENT students have to say about C|PENT preparation and their tactics for acing the exam
Björn Voitel, CEO, cybersecurity consultant, and external data protection officer, says the C|PENT certification exam was not difficult for him because he divided the exam into two 12-hour sessions. His advice for C|PENT hopefuls is to develop a systematic approach for identifying hosts and services to differentiate vulnerable services from the rabbit holes. In addition, Björn recommends that students set up their virtual machine—either Kali Linux or Parrot—and challenge the practice range environment via open VPN. The most important tip he shares with the students is to take notes during the learning sessions, as these will be instrumental during the exam.
Belly Rachdianto, an IT security consultant with more than 20 years of experience, shares his tips on preparing for the exam. For starters, he says to follow the methodologies and then the process. Do all the labs at least once to improve your outcome. He advises students to broaden their knowledge base and record all their findings. Belly says these practices will be invaluable when working on other challenges.
Learn more: CPENT – Pentesting like No Others!