How to Pass the OSCP Certificate in 2024

Last Updated: January 8, 2024


The Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certificate, offered by Offensive Security (OffSec), is a revered standard in penetration testing certifications, earning global respect. In the age of relentless digital threats, the OSCP symbolizes expertise and dedication to defending the digital realm.

This certification is more than a qualification; it’s a distinction. It signifies a profound grasp of network security, adeptness in exploiting vulnerabilities, and a commitment to outsmarting cyber adversaries. The OSCP examination is extremely challenging, pushing candidates to their limits. However, it’s precisely this challenge that makes attaining the OSCP certification exceptionally rewarding. In this guide, we’ll navigate the path to OSCP success, equipping you with the knowledge and skills to conquer this formidable certification.

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Pros and Cons


  • Practical Hands-On Experience: OSCP is known for its rigorous hands-on exam, which requires candidates to exploit vulnerabilities in a controlled environment. This practical approach helps candidates develop real-world skills.
  • Industry Recognition: OSCP is widely recognized and respected in the cybersecurity community and is often requested by employers looking for skilled penetration testers and ethical hackers.
  • Enhanced Skill Set: The certification equips candidates with in-depth knowledge of penetration testing tools and techniques, making them proficient in identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities.
  • Professional Growth: Holding the OSCP certification can lead to higher-paying job opportunities and career advancement in the field of cybersecurity.
  • Self-Paced Learning: Offensive Security provides a comprehensive course material and lab environment, allowing candidates to learn and practice at their own pace.


  • Challenging Exam: The OSCP exam is notoriously difficult and mentally demanding, with a 24-hour hands-on hacking challenge. Many candidates find it stressful.
  • Time-Consuming: Preparing for the OSCP exam can be time-consuming, as candidates must dedicate a significant amount of time to practice and study.
  • Expensive: The OSCP certification and course can be relatively costly, especially for individuals who are self-funded.
  • Limited Theory: While OSCP focuses heavily on practical skills, it doesn’t cover as much theoretical knowledge compared to other certifications.
  • Need for Self-Motivation: OSCP requires a high level of self-motivation and discipline, as candidates need to independently navigate the course material and labs.

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What are the OSCP Exam Requirements and Costs? 

Obtaining the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification involves both prerequisites and financial considerations. Understanding these requirements is vital to ensure a smooth and successful examination process.


Age Requirement: To embark on the OSCP certification path, candidates must be at least 18 years old.

Identification: A valid form of identification is mandatory for exam registration and verification purposes.

Fundamental Knowledge: It’s essential to possess a foundational understanding of networking and operating systems. It’s also necessary to be proficient in scripting languages like Python or Bash. Familiarity with penetration testing tools and techniques is a prerequisite to navigating the challenges effectively.

Exam Costs

The OSCP exam costs $1,499. This fee encompasses access to the OSCP lab environment and one initial exam attempt. If a candidate fails the exam on their initial attempt, they may retake it for a fee of $249. After the second exam failure, a student may schedule a retake eight weeks after the previous exam date.

Payment Options

Payment for the OSCP exam can be executed through various methods, including credit cards, debit cards, or PayPal. Additionally, candidates can use Offensive Security’s Learn One or Learn Unlimited subscriptions to cover the exam expenses.

Overview of OSCP Domains

In the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification, you’ll encounter core domains crucial to your understanding and success in the examination. These domains, five in total, serve as the foundation of the OSCP certification:

Domain 1: Network Scanning and Enumeration

Your journey begins with Network Scanning and Enumeration. Here, your task is to meticulously identify all devices and services within a network while uncovering potential vulnerabilities. This domain lays the essential groundwork for your OSCP pursuit.

Domain 2: Gaining Access

Once you have a solid foundation, you’ll delve into Gaining Access. This domain explores various methods to breach systems, including vulnerability exploitation, password brute-forcing, and the intricacies of social engineering. It’s where you commence your journey into the art of intrusion.

Domain 3: Maintaining Access

After gaining access, the next critical step is Maintaining access. This domain teaches you the techniques to stay discreet and ensure continued control over the infiltrated system. Concepts like privilege escalation, persistence mechanisms, and covering your digital tracks fall under this domain’s purview.

Domain 4: Escalating Privileges

To enhance your control within a system, you’ll explore the Escalating Privileges domain. Here, you’ll discover different approaches to elevating your access, such as exploiting vulnerabilities and manipulating permissions. This domain equips you to ascend to the highest levels of system control.

Domain 5: Post-Exploitation

This phase involves extracting valuable data, moving laterally through systems, and establishing command and control. It’s where you wield your newfound authority and accomplish your mission.

How to Create an Effective OSCP Study Plan

Preparing for the OSCP exam demands dedication, strategic planning, and a commitment to continuous learning. To increase your chances of success and earn your coveted OSCP certificate, follow these steps to create an effective study plan:

Set Realistic Goals

Understand that the OSCP exam is a rigorous 24-hour challenge. It’s essential to set realistic expectations for yourself. 

Assess Your Knowledge and Skills

Before crafting your study plan, assess your existing knowledge and skills. This self-evaluation will pinpoint the areas that require the most attention and help you tailor your studies accordingly.

Create and Stick to a Schedule

Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, establish a study schedule. Allocate sufficient time to cover each of the domains tested in the exam. Consistency is crucial.

Utilize Diverse Learning Resources

Make use of a variety of learning resources to grasp the material comprehensively. Books, online courses, practice labs, and hands-on exercises all play a vital role. Adapt your approach to what suits your learning style best.

Find a Study Partner or Group

Consider studying with a partner or joining a study group. Collaborative learning can boost motivation, offer diverse perspectives, and foster a dynamic knowledge exchange.

Take Regular Breaks

Remember to consider the importance of breaks during study sessions. Stand up, stretch, and move around every 20-30 minutes to avoid burnout. Short breaks rejuvenate your mind.

Sample Weekly OSCP Study Plan

Now, let’s structure a weekly study plan as an example:


Review the OSCP syllabus

Dive into the networking domain


Practice network scanning and enumeration

Focus on the access control domain


Engage in vulnerability exploitation practice

Study the privilege escalation domain


Continue with maintaining access practice

Delve into the post-exploitation domain


Take a practice exam

Analyze your outcomes and pinpoint areas for enhancement.

Saturday and Sunday

Review your notes and revisit practice labs

Make time for relaxation and rejuvenation

Recommended Books for OSCP Preparation

When preparing for the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification, having the right resources, including books, is essential to help you master the material. Below are some recommended books that can aid in your OSCP preparation:

Practical Malware Analysis by Michael Sikorski and Andrew Honig: Understanding malware analysis is crucial for a comprehensive grasp of security concepts, making this book highly relevant for the OSCP exam.

Gray Hat Hacking: The Ethical Hacker’s Handbook by Allen J. Wright: This thorough guide is aligned with the OSCP exam objectives and covers a wide range of ethical hacking topics. It also serves as a helpful reference for numerous penetration testing aspects.

Hacking: The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson: This book explores the art of exploitation and provides in-depth information on buffer overflows, shellcode development, and other OSCP-testable skills.

The Hacker Playbook 3 by Peter Kim: This book focuses on practical penetration testing techniques and methodologies and provides real-world scenarios and hands-on exercises corresponding to OSCP exam requirements.

Kali Linux Revealed by Raphaël Hertzog: As Kali Linux is the recommended OS for OSCP exam preparation, this guide provides essential insights into Kali Linux tools and usage, making it a valuable resource.

Violent Python by TJ O’Connor: Python scripting is indispensable for automating tasks and exploiting vulnerabilities in the OSCP exam. This book equips you with practical Python scripts tailored for security-related tasks.

Recommended OSCP Training and Boot Camps

Choosing the proper training and boot camp is pivotal for the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification. Here are some highly acclaimed options:

PEN-200: Penetration Testing with Kali Linux:  PEN-200 is an immersive training program to equip individuals with the essential skills for effective penetration testing using the Kali Linux operating system. This course provides a hands-on learning experience, covering a broad spectrum of penetration testing techniques and methodologies.

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) Bootcamp by Offensive Security: Delivered by the creators of the OSCP certification, this boot camp offers an intensive training experience covering all OSCP exam domains. Seasoned penetration testers lead the course, enriched with practical hands-on labs simulating real-world scenarios.

Pentester Academy OSCP Training by Pentester Academy: Pentester Academy’s OSCP training is a comprehensive online program that readies you for the OSCP exam. The course comprises video lectures, hands-on labs, and live Q&A sessions, creating a structured and interactive learning environment.

TryHackMe OSCP Preparation Course by TryHackMe: TryHackMe’s self-paced online course equips you with the skills to conquer the OSCP exam. It offers video lectures, hands-on labs, and practice exams, allowing you to progress at your own pace while mastering essential concepts.

SANS Institute SEC560: Network Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking: SANS SEC560 is a comprehensive training course covering network penetration testing and ethical hacking. Although not exclusively tailored for the OSCP, it provides a strong foundation in the requisite skills. Experienced penetration testers guide you through the program, which includes hands-on labs.

Additional Resources for OSCP Exam Preparation

In addition to formal training courses and boot camps, various supplementary resources can enhance your readiness for the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) exam. Here are some valuable options:

Practice Test Resources

OSCP Practice Exam by Offensive Security: Offered by the creators of the OSCP certification, this practice exam serves as an excellent gauge of your preparedness for the actual exam. It allows you to assess your skills and readiness in a controlled environment.

HackTheBox: HackTheBox is a renowned online platform offering various penetration testing challenges. It’s an ideal space to hone your skills, explore new techniques, and engage with an active community of cybersecurity enthusiasts.

VulnHub: VulnHub is another prominent online platform providing a variety of vulnerable machines for exploitation. It offers a practical environment to refine your skills, experiment with exploits, and gain hands-on experience.

Last-minute Resources

OSCP Exam Checklist by Offensive Security: This checklist condenses all the key topics the OSCP exam covers into a handy summary. It’s a valuable tool for last-minute review, ensuring you’re well-prepared across all exam areas.

Essential Tips for Passing the OSCP Exam

Adopting a strategic approach to obtain the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) credential is essential. Here are some critical tips to maximize your chances of success:

Approaching the Exam with the Right Mindset

Confidence in Your Skills: Belief in your training and preparation. Trust in your abilities will keep anxiety at bay during the exam.

Problem-Solving Attitude: Embrace a problem-solving mindset. Approach each challenge methodically and remain persistent in the face of obstacles.

Enumeration is Key: Enumeration is your best friend. Enumeration techniques are invaluable for uncovering vulnerabilities and low-hanging fruits.

Documentation: Maintain meticulous notes and documentation. Clear, organized notes will save you time and effort, especially during post-exploitation.

Stay Calm Under Pressure: The exam is designed to be challenging. Even if you encounter obstacles, maintain composure and focus. To solve problems, you will require more than just panic.

Time Management during the Exam

Plan Your Time:

  • Allocate time wisely.
  • Consider the point value of each machine or challenge and distribute your time accordingly.
  • Take your time with a single task.

Enumeration Phase: Dedicate a significant portion of your exam time to thorough enumeration. A comprehensive understanding of the target is essential for successful exploitation.

Buffer for Reporting: Reserve time for reporting. Document your findings and write the report as you progress to save time.

Flag Key Milestones: Identify key milestones or objectives for each machine or challenge. It helps you gauge your progress and stay on track.

Breaks: Take short breaks to recharge. A brief pause can enhance your focus and problem-solving abilities.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

Stay Updated: The world of cybersecurity is ever-evolving. Continue learning and staying up-to-date on the most recent exploits and vulnerabilities.

Adapt to New Challenges: Be prepared to adapt to unforeseen challenges. The OSCP exam tests your adaptability and creativity in the face of the unknown.

Learn from Failures: Don’t get discouraged if you encounter a roadblock or fail to exploit a system. Analyze your failures, learn from them, and apply those lessons to future attempts.

Active Lab Practice

Regular Practice: Maintain an active presence in the OSCP lab environment. Consistent practice is essential for honing your skills.

Variety of Machines: Work on a variety of machines in the lab. Diverse challenges prepare you for the unpredictable nature of the exam.

Community Support

Online Forums: Engage with the OSCP community on online forums and platforms like the Offensive Security forum. Sharing experiences and seeking advice can be immensely beneficial.

Study Groups: Consider joining or forming study groups. Collaborative learning can provide fresh insights and motivation.

The Role of OSCP in Cybersecurity Careers

The OSCP certification significantly influences cybersecurity careers, offering access to various roles:

Penetration Tester: Experts uncovering system and network vulnerabilities simulating cyberattacks to strengthen security.

Ethical Hacker: Authorized to infiltrate systems, OSCP-certified professionals find and secure vulnerabilities.

Security Analyst: They analyze data for threats and vulnerabilities, delivering practical solutions.

Information Security Consultant: Trusted advisors who improve security using penetration testing expertise.

Cybersecurity Engineer: Design, implement, and maintain robust security solutions.

Incident Responder: Investigate and mitigate cybersecurity breaches, leveraging OSCP insights.

Security Architect: Plan comprehensive security strategies for systems, networks, and applications.

Red Team Operator: Simulate attacks to evaluate an organization’s defenses and enhance security.

Preparing for the OSCP Exam Day

As the day of your Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) exam approaches, it’s essential to get ready for the challenge ahead. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:

Exam Locations

The OSCP exam is accessible online from anywhere with a stable internet connection. It’s proctored remotely through webcam and screen monitoring to maintain exam integrity. Candidates connect to an Offensive Security-provided virtual lab for real-world penetration testing during the exam.

What to Expect on the Day of the Exam

  • The OSCP exam is a 24-hour challenge where you will face a series of machines and challenges in a simulated penetration testing environment.
  • Expect to encounter machines with varying levels of difficulty, each with specific point values. You must exploit these machines and obtain the required points to pass.
  • You will receive detailed instructions and exam connection information via email, including the start time and VPN access details.
  • The exam environment will include target machines, a dedicated exam control panel, and a separate VPN connection. You will use these resources to complete the exam objectives.
  • Effective time management is crucial. Allocate time for enumeration, exploitation, post-exploitation, and report writing. A well-structured exam report is a vital part of your submission.

Certification Procedure after Passing the Exam

  • After completing the exam and earning the required points, you will receive an email notification confirming your pass status.
  • You must submit a detailed exam report within 24 hours of finishing the exam. This report should include your methodology, findings, and proofs of exploitation for each machine.
  • Once your report is reviewed and approved, Offensive Security will officially award you the OSCP certification.
  • A digital certificate and special certification number will be given to you, enabling you to highlight your accomplishments on your professional profiles.

Maintenance Requirements

The OSCP certification does not have ongoing maintenance requirements or recurring fees. Once you have earned it, the certification is yours for life. However, continuing learning and practicing to stay up-to-date with evolving cybersecurity trends and technologies is highly recommended.

What If You Don’t Pass?

  • Don’t be disheartened if you do not pass the OSCP exam on your initial attempt. Many candidates need to retake the exam before achieving success.
  • Use the experience gained during your first attempt to identify areas where you need improvement. Focus on strengthening those skills, review the exam report requirements, and refine your documentation.
  • Keep practicing and learning in the OSCP lab environment to enhance your skills further.

Final Note

The OSCP certification journey is both challenging and rewarding, validating practical skills and enhancing problem-solving abilities critical in cybersecurity. The certification’s remote accessibility makes it accessible worldwide, opening doors to diverse career opportunities and industry recognition. Whether passing on the first attempt or requiring a retake, the gained knowledge and experience are invaluable. Continuous learning, practice, and community engagement are vital for success in cybersecurity.

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