In this post, I want to reveal how I passed the CompTIA Security+ exam in just 2 weeks. If I can do this, you can do this too. I’ll share my study plan, the resources I used, and some advice that you can apply to pass the Security+ exam on the first attempt.
Familiarize with Exam Details
CompTIA says the “Security+ is a global certification that validates the baseline skills you need to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career.”
It is important to note that the SY0-501 version will be retired in July of 2021. An updated SY0-601 version will release in November 2020.
The exam contains a maximum of 90 questions. Speaking from recent experience, my exam had 77. There are multiple-choice questions where you pick one from a set or choose multiple options (the question specifies this). Also, be prepared for simulation type questions, often called performance-based questions or PBQs for short. My exam had five of this type.
You need a minimum of 750 points out of 900 to pass. You have 90 minutes to answer all questions to the best of your ability. I ended my exam with a few minutes to spare after going over flagged questions.
The cost is $349 for most people. However, if you have a .edu email address, you can sign up for an account at the CompTIA Academic Store here. An academic account user can purchase the Security+ exam voucher for $221 plus tax. Be sure to take advantage of these savings if you are able.
The exam has two formats, online or in person. The online exam option requires that you have a webcam on. Also, you may start the exam 30 minutes earlier than your scheduled time if you so choose. Keep in mind, there will be about ten minutes of setting up before you are allowed into the exam.
Now let’s move on to the exam objectives.
Exam Objectives (Domains)
The scope of this exam is quite broad. However, by reviewing the exam objectives during your studies, the probability of successfully passing the exam on the first try increases.
The exam objectives are as follows:
|Threats, Attacks, and Vulnerabilities||21%|
|Technologies and Tools||22%|
|Architecture and Design||15%|
|Identity and Access Management||16%|
|Cryptography and PKI||12%|
I encourage you to download the exam objectives and read the details thoroughly. Let’s now discuss your study plan.
The Study Plan
The next action you want to take in your success journey is to create a study plan. This helps you stay organized by fitting the exam objectives into a schedule. I used a calendar for my study plan by writing exactly what I want to cover on which day.
This method allowed me to clearly see what days I was studying which topic. The dates I allocated to rest, and the dates I planned to take practice exams. This was my study plan but feel free to adjust this to reflect your situation.
Now that I’ve shared with you my study plan to pass the Security+ exam in 2 weeks, I want to share with you my study resources.
Every student prefers studying in one of three methods. Through lecture, reading, or a combination. Since the very first Security+ exam debuted over ten years ago, a plethora of resources is available from online videos, to software, and textbooks.
The approach that fit my primary study style was through reading a textbook and taking notes. The textbook I used was the Get Certified Get Ahead or GCGA by Darril Gibson. This book has 11 chapters and two full practice exams (without PBQs). Each chapter offers a quiz that relates to the information contained in that chapter. I highly recommend this book as your number one resource.
The next study resource I used is Jason Dions practice exams on Udemy. This is a six exam series with multiple choice problems and multiple choice PBQs. The Udemy platform does not allow for simulating a PBQ type question unfortunately. Jason Dion also provides a full course on Security+ but I didn’t use that in my studies.
Another textbook I utilized is CompTIA Security+ Certification Study Guide, Third Edition (Exam SY0-501), 3rd Edition by Glen Clark. This textbook comes with the Total Tester software. The software simulates the exam multiple-choice questions. In addition, the text includes a weblink to PBQ type questions that I found very helpful.
Now that I’ve provided the resources I used to pass the Security+ exam, I want to share with you some tips so that you can succeed.
Without violating the NDA and revealing exam content, I offer you some tips to help you achieve your goal.
Memorize the protocols and ports. I’ve listed the main protocols to know in the table below. Make flashcards and study these daily to commit them to your memory.
|SMTP||TCP Port 25|
|DHCP||UDP Port 67 & 68|
|SFTP||TCP Port 22|
|SSH||TCP Port 22|
|SCP||TCP Port 22|
|SNMP||UDP Port161 & 162|
|TFTP||UDP Port 69|
|FTP||TCP Port 20 & 21|
|DNS||TCP or UDP 53|
|RDP||TCP Port 3389|
|IMAP||TCP Port 143|
|SPOP3||TCP Port 995|
|HTTPS||TCP Port 443|
|TELNET||TCP Port 23|
|HTTP||UDP Port 80|
|POP3||TCP Port 110|
|LDAP||TCP Port 389|
|SIP||TCP or UDP Port 5060|
|SIMAP||TCP Port 993|
|LDAPS||TCP Port 636|
|Kerberos||TCP or UDP Port 88|
Read the exam objective details before and after your study sessions. For example, if you plan to study risk management tomorrow, read the specifics of risk management in the exam objectives PDF before and after your study period. Ask yourself while reading the PDF if you know that term and can explain it simply.
Practice Exam, Review Weak Topics, Rinse, and Repeat.
Start by taking a practice exam. This helps you to learn your weak topics immediately. Then, study the materials that relate to your weak areas. Next, take another practice exam and further define your weak topics. Keep following this method until you are scoring above 85 on practice exams.
Finally, don’t forget to rest your mind. It is vital that you relax and take time off from studying. For example, two days before my exam, I studied for maybe two hours total because I did not want to feel burnt out before exam day. I also took a rest day halfway between the start of my study plan and my scheduled exam day.
In this post, I’ve discussed the Security+ exam objectives, my study plan, the resources I used, and some tips to help you flourish. I hope you find at least one part of this post useful in your study. If you stick to your plan and study earnestly, you too will pass the Security+ exam.
To ensure that you have proper bandwidth on exam day, check out my post on extending your WiFi coverage at home.