Career / Career Progression

5 IT Exams that Give You a Free Retake

by Team Nuggets
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Published on September 9, 2019

You may be lucky and work for a company that will pay for your certification tests. But if that's not the case, then you've got to shell out the cash yourself for those tests—and hope that the first time's the charm. But if you don't ace your test the first time, then you may be forced to pay for a retake.

But wait. Not all vendors are intent on hoovering up your hard-earned money. There are a few that offer free exam retakes—and there are some that will give you a hand with the cost of retesting. Let's take a look at those vendors and their respective exams.

Vendors Offering Free Retakes

Two vendors—the Python Institute and the Linux Foundation—offer free retakes for their programming and systems admin certification exams.

Python Institute Certified Associate in Python Programming (PCAP)

The PCAP certification exam measures the candidate's ability to code using the Python language. This is a certification for junior level programmers. It covers common techniques in object-oriented programming, as well as computer programming concepts and Python language syntax.

It costs $295 to take the PCAP certification exam, although there are discounts if you take Python Institute programming courses. Exams are administered at a Pearson VUE Authorized Test Center.

There are 40 single and multiple-choice questions on the exam and you need a score of at least 70% to pass. For an idea of what the test covers just download the sample PCAP test—it's free.

If you don't pass, you can take the exam again, but you must wait 15 days. There are no limits to the number of times you can try your luck on the exam You just need to go to the Python Institute web site to request a retake voucher.

There are no prerequisites to take the exam, although clearly you need to be proficient in using Python. Python Institute has training courses, but we suggest that you take one or more of Ben Finkel's Python programming courses.

Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS)

The Linux Foundation has a number of certifications related to Linux and other open-source technologies. If you're a junior level administrator dealing with Linux systems, then you'll want to consider certifying as a Linux Foundation Certified SysAdmin (LFCS).

The certification validates a candidate's knowledge and proficiency operating and managing Linux systems.

The LFCS exam is a two-hour performance-based test. The exam is online and proctored—using web cam, streaming audio and screen-share. A Linux server is provisioned for use during the test, using your choice of CentOS or Ubuntu Linux distribution. All you need is a Chrome or Chromium web browser to access your exam console.

The exam costs $300 and you'll need a score of at least 65% to pass. If you fail the exam, you get one free retake, but you must take it within 12 months of your original exam purchase. Please note that this is the policy for exams purchased directly from The Linux Foundation and it may not apply if you buy the exam through one of their authorized training partners. If you fail the exam a second time, or miss the 12-month cut-off, then you'll have to pay the full $300 for all subsequent retakes.

You can prepare for the exam by reviewing the Linux Foundation's Certification Prep Guide. And be sure to check out our Linux Foundation Certified Sysadmin training course.

Vendors Offering Retake Promotions

Now let's take a look at some vendors that don't provide free retakes, but do offer promotions or discounts for candidates who fail their exam and need to take it again. We'll take a look at the retake promotions available from Microsoft, CompTIA, the Linux Professional Institute, and the EC-Council.

Microsoft MCP

Microsoft MCP exams are administered by Microsoft's testing partner Pearson Vue. The current price for a Microsoft certification exam voucher in the United States and Canada is $165. So if you fail an exam, then you'd have to double down for another $165 for your retake—a total of $330.

Don't despair. Microsoft has promotional voucher offers that provide retakes for MCP exams. Currently they offer two promos—Microsoft Exam Replay and Microsoft Exam Replay with Practice Test. For $230, Exam Replay gives you one certification exam plus one retake if needed. For $265—a savings of $164—Exam Replay with Practice Test gives you the exam, a retake, and 30-day online access to an exam practice test if available.

The Exam Replay promos are valid at Pearson Vue for all Microsoft Certification exams except Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) exams, Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams, Transition Exams, Fundamentals exams, and beta exams.

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA's basic exam vouchers do not provide for retakes, but you can pay extra for learning and testing bundles that DO include a retake option.

These bundles are available for a number of CompTIA certs, including Server+, Security+, Network+ and Project+. However, for this post, let's concentrate on Security+. The others follow the same pattern.

The Security+ SY0-601 exam validates the candidate's ability to secure apps, networks, and devices; analyze threats and develop and participate in risk mitigation; and understand security policies, laws, and regulations. The exam takes up to 90 minutes and comprises up to 90 multiple choice and performance-based questions. You'll pass the test with a score of 750 or more out of 900.

A standard exam voucher costs $339. It's valid for 12 months from the date of purchase and you must register and take your exam prior to the voucher's expiration date.

With the standard exam voucher, if you fail then you'd be on the hook for another $339 exam voucher for your retake. That's why you should take a look at CompTIA's promo bundles.

There are six separate CompTIA Security+ voucher bundles. Each bundle includes the exam voucher, an exam retake voucher, and one or more of CompTIA's CertMaster online learning or practice tools for the Security+ SY0-601 exam. Here are a couple of the bundles, with what you get for your dollars:

  • Basic Bundle: $499

  • Security+ Exam Voucher, Exam Retake, Security+ Study eGuide (SY0-601).

  • Exam Prep Bundle: $649

  • Security+ Exam Voucher, Exam Retake, Security+ Study eGuide (SY0-601), and CertMaster Practice online exam prep.

Do you feel nervous about passing the exam first time? Well, for less than the cost of two exam vouchers ($678), you can get the Basic Bundle to take the exam and a retake if needed, and also get an in-depth Security+ study guide. Do you want to practice in advance of taking the exam? Fine, just buy the Exam Prep Bundle and you'll also get access to CertMaster Practice for Security+. And it's still less than two exam vouchers.

Are the bundles worth it? It's really up to you whether you spring for one of CompTIA's higher-end bundles. A lower-cost approach would be to buy "retake insurance" with the Basic Bundle. You'll also get the Security+ study guide that you can use to reinforce your learning from the CBT Nuggets' online CompTIA Security+ (SY0-601) training course.

EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

An "Ethical Hacker" is someone who attempts to penetrate a computer network to discover and correct vulnerabilities before a "bad guy" can find them. Typically they'll do this on their own systems or on behalf of a network owner. The EC-Council's Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a vendor-neutral certification that validates a candidate's capabilities in the network security discipline of Ethical Hacking.

The EC-Council maintains tight control over who is eligible to take the Certified Ethical Hacker Exam. There are two paths you can take:

  • Complete official EC-Council training, or

  • Apply for approval to attempt the exam without EC-Council training.

In the second option, you'll need to pay a $100 non-refundable application fee.

The CEH exam itself is a 4-hour, 125-question test, which can be taken either at the EC-Council's online Exam Centre, or at a Pearson Vue testing center. Approved candidates must purchase an exam voucher for $1199 if they take the test with Pearson Vue, or $950 for the ECC Exam Center.

If you don't pass the exam, you can take it again with no waiting period. If you still don't pass, then you'll have to wait 14 days for each subsequent try up to your fourth retake, after which the Retake Policy imposes a 12-month waiting period. Retake exams must first be requested from the EC-Council, before you purchase a $499 CEH Retake Exam Voucher.


As we can see from the CEH example, the costs of retaking a certification exam can soon add up. It makes sense to try to everything you can to pass with flying colors—and keep the cash in your own wallet.

Make sure that you study diligently and reinforce your learning with as much hands-on as possible. Before you "splash the cash," try to take one or more practice exams, so there are no surprises on your live exam.

Finally, as you make your plans and devise a learning program to achieve your goals, be sure to check CBT Nuggets for online courses that are relevant to your needs.


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