How To Build a SANS GIAC Index

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One of the keys to passing SANS GIAC exams is to build a comprehensive index to quickly find information during the exam.  Building an index will also help you study as it forces you to thoroughly review the material.  The steps below detail how to build an index that will help you pass your SANS GIAC exam.

  1. Create a spreadsheet with tabs labeled for each book in the course.  For example, “503.1”, “503.2 + 503.3”, etc.
  2. Label the first four columns with: “Page”, “Keyword 1”, “Keyword 2”, and “Keyword 3”.
  3. Read through each course book and summarize each page into three keywords or phrases (e.g. “tcpdump output overview”, “nibble definition”, etc) and note these in your spreadsheet.  Skip this for any pages with no notable information.
  4. For each tab in the spreadsheet, insert a new column before column A and title it “Book”.  For each existing row of pages, populate the book number.
  5. Copy columns A (“Book”) and B (“Page”) and insert both of them before the columns for “Keyword 2” and “Keyword 3”.
  6. Cut the “Book”, “Page”, and “Keyword 3” block and paste them below their respective columns in A, B, and C.  Repeat this for the “Book”, “Page”, and “Keyword 2” block and place these under the “Keyword 3” block you just pasted.
  7. Repeat steps 4 – 6 for each tab in your spreadsheet and remember to save your work. 🙂
  8. Create a new tab in the spreadsheet titled, “Complete”.  This will contain all the data from the previous tabs.
  9. Copy and paste columns A, B, and C from each of the previous tabs into columns A, B, and C of the “Complete” tab.  Paste each new tab’s data below the previous.
  10. In the “Complete” tab, move column C (“Keyword 1”) before column A (“Book”).
  11. Sort the new column A (“Keyword”) alphabetically and perform any edits and formatting cleanup (e.g. remove rows with column headers due to pasting and any blank rows).  
  12. Congratulations, you have an index! You will not be permitted to bring your laptop, so don’t forget to print the index out and bring it and your books with you! 

Hope this helps and best of luck on the exam!  You’ll do great. 🙂

One final note.  Please don’t ask for the indexes I created, as I will not be sharing them.  The whole point in building your own index is so you’ll learn and retain the material.  Asking for mine or taking someone else’s is a shortcut that will likely lead to your own disappointment come exam time. 😛

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7 thoughts on “How To Build a SANS GIAC Index”

  • Hello,
    this is a different approach to other “build a SANS index” pages I have read. Most recommend highlighting a definition, command or point of interest then indexing them into your spreadsheet. Has your 3-keywords per page method caused you any difficulties in passing the exams? Did you consider doing it the other way as described in some sites? Do you also high light the applicable pages w/more info? I am down to a week to go on my GCIH and i have been reluctant to complete an index so i was considering this method in order to save some time.


    • Hi Jay,

      Nope, no problems for me. For reference, I passed both of my GIAC exams with scores of 90+. I’m not familiar with the other methods you mentioned, so I can’t speak to how well they work. Yes, I do also highlight as needed.

      Hope that helps!

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