The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is a globally recognized ethical hacking certification provided by the EC-Council. Earning your CEH credential validates your cyber security skills and expertise in identifying vulnerabilities in an organization’s network and systems and taking the necessary steps to mitigate those risks.
The CEH exam covers a broad range of topics, from networking and social engineering to cryptography and web application security.
To help you prepare for the exam, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to getting the CEH certification. When you decide you want to go for it, follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a CEH certified ethical hacker!
Step 1: Check your CEH exam eligibility
Before any studying or exam-applying takes place, you first have to decide which eligibility route you want to take.
What does this mean?
Namely, the CEH certification exam has a couple of requirements you need to either have or fulfill to be eligible to take it.
The CEH candidate must be of legal age in their country of origin or residence. If they are under the legal age, they must provide written consent from their legal guardian and a supporting letter from a nationally accredited institution of higher learning they are attending to apply for the exam.
A CEH candidate must have at least two years of experience working in the information technology (IT) industry, specifically the information security (InfoSec) domain.
However, there are exceptions to this requirement.
- If you have previously earned a CEH certification by passing any version from CEH v1 to CEH v7, you are automatically eligible to take the most recent ANSI accredited version of the CEH exam (CEH v11 at the moment of writing this blog post). Versions 1 to 7 were not ANSI accredited.
- If you opt to go through the official EC-Council training program, you can take the CEH exam without meeting the experience requirement.
Checking your eligibility
Here are the two eligibility routes we mentioned above:
- If you attend the official EC-Council training program, the EC-Council will automatically verify your eligibility.
- If you’re not attending the official training and want to apply for the CEH exam without it, you need to submit an Exam Eligibility Application Form that must be approved by the EC Council. The application fee for the Exam Eligibility Application Form is $100. If you are not eligible to take the exam, this money will not be refunded. If approved, you will have three months to purchase an exam voucher. More on that later in this article.
Our advice would be to do this eligibility check first to make sure everything is in order and that you are, in fact, eligible for the CEH exam.
Step 2: Prepare for the CEH exam
Now that we know all about eligibility criteria, it’s time to move on to the next step – preparing for the exam. This process could last anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the kind of student you are and how much time you can dedicate to studying.
Here are some options regarding exam preparation methods:
- Instructor-led training
The most traditional and effective way to prepare for an exam is by attending an instructor-led training course. We already mentioned that EC-Council provides an official training course you can attend. However, this course can be quite pricey for some candidates.
Fortunately, other training courses are available that are just as effective but don’t come with such a hefty price tag.
The clear advantage of instructor-led courses is that they provide you with structure and guidance throughout your preparation process. You will have a set schedule, materials, and support from an experienced instructor to help you every step of the way.
The downside is that these courses can be quite expensive compared to the alternative, which is…
…studying on your own.
The advantage of self-study is that you can study at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home (though you could also achieve this by attending online instructor-led classes), and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it.
The downside is that without proper guidance, it can be quite easy to get lost in the vast sea of information and resources available online. You may think that there is a lot of free material and resources online, but that is not always the case. In fact, most of the good stuff comes with a price tag.
So, if you opt for self-study, we advise you to be very careful about what study material you use and make sure they are from reliable sources. Creating a study guide that doesn’t lose sight of each exam objective (as defined in this exam blueprint) can be a good place to start.
Fortunately, whichever study method you choose, you can find trusted and detailed CEH resources and information on The i4 Group website.
Make sure that you take as much time as you need to study for this EC-Council certification exam. It is a difficult test, and you want to make sure that you are fully prepared before you take it. Assess your knowledge through example questions and practice exam sessions to ensure you are ready.
Step 3: Purchase a CEH exam voucher
You should purchase your exam voucher within three months of getting approved by EC-Council.
The exam voucher is valid for one year from the date of purchase, meaning you have one year to schedule and take your exam.
You can choose between two different types of vouchers:
- CEH VUE exam voucher – This voucher type is for those interested in taking the exam in person at a Pearson VUE testing center. If you have one of their testing centers nearby, it might not be a bad idea to take your exam in person, in an environment that is quiet and free of distractions.
- CEH ECC center exam voucher – If you don’t have a Pearson VUE testing center nearby or prefer to take your exam online, this voucher type is for you. With this voucher, you can take the exam anywhere and anytime, as long as you have a stable internet connection. (In this case, however, you will be subject to an equipment test before the exam, to ensure that everything is working properly.)
If you purchase one type of voucher but wish to take the exam using the other type (for example, you buy a CEH ECC voucher but decide to take the exam at a Pearson VUE testing center), you will be charged an additional fee.
Step 4: Schedule your exam
After purchasing a voucher, you have one year to schedule and take your exam.
You can schedule your exam by following the registration guide sent to you along with your voucher.
Step 5: Take the exam
The exam day has finally arrived!
Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast on the day of your exam. You want to be well-rested and have enough energy to focus.
Arrive at the testing center or log in to the exam platform at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. The exam lasts for 4 hours, during which you will have to answer 125 multiple-choice questions.
Remember to stay calm and collected during the exam. If you don’t know an answer, move on and come back to it later.
After completing the exam, you will find out immediately (within a few minutes) whether you have passed or not.
Step 6.1: Maintain your CEH certification
If you’ve passed the exam, congratulations! You are now a certified ethical hacker.
But the work doesn’t stop here. In order to maintain your Certified Ethical Hacker certification, you will need to collect 120 credits during the next three-year period. You can collect these credits by performing any (or multiple) of the following activities:
- Attending CEH-approved training courses
- Teaching an InfoSec course
- Writing an industry-relevant white paper, article, or impactful blog post
- Speaking at an InfoSec industry conference
- Organizing an InfoSec event
- Participating in workshops or workgroups and more
You can find out more about recertification (collecting the credits) by clicking here.
Step 6.2: What if you don’t pass the exam?
If you don’t pass the exam, don’t worry. You can retake the exam the second time without going through a waiting period.
If you don’t pass the exam the second time, you will have to wait for a minimum of 14 days before taking it again.
And if you don’t pass the exam the fifth time, you will have to wait for a minimum of 12 months before taking it again. The maximum number of times one individual can attempt this cybersecurity exam is five in a year.
It’s no secret that the road to the CEH certification is paved with limited documentation on the official process. However, we hope that this guide has helped to clear up some of the confusion and give you a better idea of what to expect on your journey to becoming a certified ethical hacker.
While the process may seem daunting at first, remember that thousands of others have made it through to the other side. And if they can do it, so can you.
For more information on how you can prepare for taking the latest CEH exam, don’t hesitate to contact us at The i4 Group.