How to pass the OSCP first time

Passing the OSCP first time was a dream come true. If I can do it...so can you.

I was fortunate enough to pass the OSCP first time. In this post, I’m going to pass on my advice for giving you the best chance of doing the same. The Offensive Security Certified Professional exam is a beast: it’s 24 hours of hacking followed by 24 hours to submit your flawless report. It’s a 48-hour sprint. Whilst the advice that follows applies to most exams, I made use of it heavily during my OSCP. If you’re doing any long-form cyber-security exams or long exams in general, I hope this advice is useful.

I made a video version of this article if you prefer to watch!

🤸 Stretch

If you can, take regular breaks to stretch throughout the exam. Stretching is really good for you, especially when you're going to be hacking at a computer for 24 hours, followed by about 12 hours of report writing. I know that not everyone is able-bodied, but if you can, get up, and stretch your back, legs, arms, and neck. You'll feel a whole lot better.

🍱 Eat well

Food and drink fuel your body and therefore, your brain. If you wake up on exam day and eat a load of sugar, taurine, and salt, you won't feel great for long. I'm not a dietician but I do know that low glycemic index foods release energy slowly and consistently. Do some research about low glycemic index foods and stock up. Porridge oats are my go-to for breakfast and beef jerky to snack on.

🧉 Hydrate

Water is important. The majority of your body is made of water. Your brain thrives on being hydrated. If you're dehydrated, you can expect reduced brain function and that doesn't sound great on the day of one of the most important exams of your life. Have a water source to hand and feel free to add some flavouring if it helps you drink it.

🥶 Temperature 🥵

Air con and heating are luxuries in some parts of the world, in others, it’s a necessity. Whatever your situation, make sure you're feeling cosy throughout the whole exam. In my current home office, there is no air con and the sun streams in through the window in the afternoon. It becomes a sweatbox. Not the best environment to be doing an exam in. In the winter, I need the heating on to combat the cold weather. So figure out what room you need to be in or what solution you need, before you need it.


Don't just sit at your desk the whole day. It's tempting, especially if you aren't where you want to be in terms of progress in the exam. But get out of the house, even just a short while. Hit the gym for a quick weights session. Do your favourite exercise. Just do something to get your blood flowing and some fresh air into your lungs.

👥 Support

Having a person on hand nearby during your exam is invaluable. If you need a snack...ring the bell. If you need a cup of tea...ring the bell. If you need a back massage...ring the bell. Honestly, it's a luxury that not everyone has. But if you can get someone to stay with you for the day of the exam to cook meals and support you, it's a real game changer.

👾 GitBook

Exams like the OSCP aren't easy. They're 48-hour-long exams. It's pretty intense. You don't have time to be searching random blogs for commands that you saw 3 months ago. You don't have time to be watching YouTube videos on Active Directory query techniques. You need notes. Good notes at that. I highly recommend that you use GitBook. I made a video about how to use it here:

⏰ Timings

I started my exam at 7 am and finished 20 hours later at 2 am. The reason I chose 7 am as my start time is because I knew that I function really well in the early hours after midnight (2 am is around when I start to get sleepy in front of the keys). Giving me a full 20 hours of strong work. If I started the exam at 12 noon, I would have only had about 14 good hours. Then I would have to have gotten some poor sleep and work up at 7 am to squeeze in the last few hours of quality hacking. It would have been a mess for me personally. Think about your quality hours and figure out the best start time to give you the most time on target.

🟩 Hack the Box

Go deep on Hack the box. If you want to set yourself up to pass the first time around, this is a key part of it. If you have completed around 50 Hack the box machines and can complete 5 Hack the box machines in 24 hours, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be about to do the same on the OSCP. I had the VIP membership and used it all the time before and after my OSCP.

📕 Finish the lab report and get your 10 extra points

You get 10 bonus points for completing the lab report and compromising at least 10 hosts. If you don’t do this you’re putting an extra burden on yourself to be on top form during the exam. Be smart: do the lab report and claim your 10 points.

Most popular
Improve your cyber knowledge in less than 5 minutes a week

Receive weekly news and insights in your inbox. Don't miss out!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.