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how to study for CompTIA security+
Cybersecurity

How To Study for (and Pass) CompTIA Security+ Exam

10 minute read | July 18, 2023
Sakshi Gupta

Written by:
Sakshi Gupta

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The CompTIA Security+ exam is one of the most widely recommended exams for those who are working in cybersecurity and looking to land a job as a security analyst, network security engineer, or business analyst. Getting this certification is a surefire way to enhance your profile and make a strong case for yourself in job interviews.

While seasoned security professionals may find the CompTIA Security+ exam a breeze, that’s not the case for everyone. It is one of the tougher certification exams out there and tests a wide range of skills across the security discipline.

So if you’ve been planning to take the CompTIA Security+ certification exam, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll take you through exam details, show you how to plan your studies, and look at additional resources that you can use to work through all the exam topics.

What Is CompTIA Security+?

The CompTIA Security+ exam is a certification offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). This is an organization that’s involved in thought leadership and advocacy in the worldwide cybersecurity ecosystem.

CompTIA offers certification programs across various IT and cybersecurity disciplines, including data, operating systems, security, and networks. Security+ is its security-focused certification program and assesses test-takers on their baseline security skills. The exams are offered at Pearson VUE centers across the world.

The CompTIA Security+ exam tests candidates on a broad set of theoretical concepts and practical situations that can determine their proficiency in the security domain. The exam ensures that candidates have the skills to achieve four specific kinds of tasks:

  • Assessing an organization’s cybersecurity readiness and coming up with recommendations where gaps exist 
  • Setting up security infrastructures for hybrid environments across mobile, IoT, and cloud
  • Understanding laws and regulations pertaining to risk mitigation and governance 
  • Isolating, analyzing, and adequately responding to any security breaches that occur in a system

The exam lasts ninety minutes and consists of ninety performance-based questions, where test-takers are required to perform different security tasks in a simulated environment. 

Test-takers are assigned a score between 100 and 900 on the Security+ exam. Among candidates who are either first-timers or not classroom trained, the failure rate can be as high as more than 50%.

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Tips to Studying for the CompTIA Security+ Exam

Here’s how you can ensure that you perform well on the exam:

  1. Get a Good Study Guide

  2. Make a Study Plan

  3. Invest in a Cybersecurity Bootcamp That Prepares You for CompTIA’s Security+ Exam

  4. Take Advantage of Online Resources

  5. Learn in Bite-Sized Chunks and Use Smart Study Techniques

  6. Become Familiar with the Exam Domains

  7. Practice and Plan Your Approach for the Performance-Based Questions

  8. Find a Study Buddy or Join a Security+ Study Group

  9. Take at Least Three Practice Exams (Use The First One as a Baseline to See What You Already Know)

Get a Good Study Guide

Think of your study guide as the map that you will use to navigate your way through the CompTIA Security+ exam. A guide provides you with a kicking-off point for your preparation and a broad view of the topics that you need to cover in the exam. 

Now there are a few different study guides that you can use for the exam. However, you can’t go wrong with the CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 Certification Study Guide, which is the official study guide published by the organization. It takes you through the structure of the exam and provides material that you can use to study for it at your own pace.

Remember that the study guide is only one of the resources that you have at your disposal to prepare for the exam. While you should use it, don’t limit yourself just to the official guide in your preparation. We’ll take a look at some of the other resources that you can tap for your preparation in subsequent sections.

Make a Study Plan

Having the study guide at your disposal isn’t the only thing that you need to do to prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam. While everyone has to cover the same topics, not everybody can learn at the same pace or style. Here are a few things to keep in mind when coming up with your personal study plan.

Review the Exam Portions

Take the preliminary step of reviewing the topics that will be covered in the exam. You can get an idea of exactly what those portions are from the study guide.

This serves two key purposes. The first is that it gives you an idea of the scope of the actual exam and the exam objectives. Second, it allows you to do some resource planning. Some of the topics that you come across will be ones that you’re already familiar with. You can assign a small amount of time for those. There will also be areas and exam questions that are completely new to you, which you can take more time to study.

Decide When You Want To Be Certified

The CompTIA Security+ allows you to pick the dates on which you want to take the exam. You can, of course, take the exam on the earliest available date. But that might not be enough time for you to get prepared. So it’s important that you manage your expectations and choose a date that gives you enough time to prepare for the theory parts and performance-based questions.

Understand How Much Time You Can Devote to Studying Each Day

Once you determine the date on which you want to take the CompTIA Security+ exam (you can view the schedule after signing up here), work backward from there. Break the entire length of time that you have available to you into smaller chunks and determine how much time you can reasonably spend studying on a daily basis.

Remember that you will want to spend some time revising some topics and taking practice tests. Consider all of those things when you’re looking at how much time to devote to different exam domains.

Invest in a Cybersecurity Bootcamp That Prepares You for CompTIA’s Security+ Exam

Given that you’re preparing for an exam that’s focused on cybersecurity, having a broad understanding of security risks, firewall rules, and ethics in cybersecurity is a good base to have. A cybersecurity bootcamp can help you get to an experience level where preparing for exam-specific topics will become a breeze. 

The Cybersecurity Bootcamp by Springboard is a six-month program that takes you from a complete beginner to someone who’s eligible for an entry-level position in the industry. That also means that you will have a strong practical understanding of a lot of the topics covered in the CompTIA Security+ exam. An added advantage is that you get access to 1-on-1 mentorship, which you can use to clarify any doubts that you have about the certification or learn more about specific areas where you need help.

You can learn more about other popular cybersecurity bootcamps here.

Take Advantage of Online Resources

The cybersecurity community is a large, active community on the Internet. Members of this community create tons of content that you can use as part of your preparation for the CompTIA Security+ exam. Let’s take a look at a few high-quality resources.

Courses

Check out these cybersecurity courses:

Books

YouTube Videos

Learn in Bite-Sized Chunks and Use Smart Study Techniques

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of ground you need to cover to prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam. But it’s important to remind yourself that you don’t need to learn everything in a small amount of time. Study only for a certain amount of time each day and maintain a consistent pace once you’ve figured out when you want to take the exam. 

Here are a few study techniques that you can use to maximize your acquisition and retention of new concepts. 

Use the Study Cycle Method

The Study Cycle method was devised by Frank Christ. It recommends that learners follow a cycle of previewing the material before attending class, then reviewing the material afterward in addition to studying for the exam itself. 

Tap Multisensory Input

Many people tend to only read from a book when they’re studying. But not everyone is a visual learner, and you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage if you’re only doing that. Mix things up by reading out loud, writing notes, and watching videos so that you get a holistic sensory experience while learning. 

Find an Ideal Setting

Where you study can matter as much as how you study. You might not be able to do your best work at your work desk. So take some time to explore where you feel most comfortable doing your studies. Make sure that the spot you choose allows you to sit in a healthy posture and gives you enough light so that you can read and work easily. 

Become Familiar With the Exam Domains

There are a few cybersecurity domains that are covered in the CompTIA Security+ certification. That includes attacks, threats, vulnerabilities, architecture and design, operations and incident response, and implementation. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to prepare for each exam domain. 

Practice and Plan Your Approach for the Performance-Based Questions

Working on cybersecurity projects can give you the practice that you need to deal with performance-based questions. Also, make sure that you check out CompTIA’s own simulated environment practice page, which allows you to practice different questions and get familiar with the drag-and-drop interface. 

Find a Study Buddy or Join a Security+ Study Group

Since this is a popular certification that’s taken by candidates worldwide, there are various study groups online. You can find groups on Facebook or your preferred social media channel.

Also, make sure to get clued into the cybersecurity community in your local area. Attending meetups and conferences is a good way to do that. You’re very likely to find others who are considering taking the CompTIA Security+ and are open to the idea of forming a study group with you.

Take at Least Three Practice Exams (Use the First One as a Baseline To See What You Already Know)

Completing practice tests is an essential prerequisite for taking the CompTIA Security+ exam. These allow you to get an idea of the pacing of the exam and whether you’re able to complete answers at an average of one per minute.

There are various websites where you can do these practice tests. Some are available on the CompTIA website. There are also online courses that offer practice questions.

Passing the CompTIA Security+ Exam: Real-Life Examples To Learn From

Tanvi Biyani

how to study for CompTIA security, real life example Tanvi Biyani

Tanvi Biyani was able to pass the CompTIA Security+ exam on the first attempt, which is what all test-takers aspire to do. In this post, they go over the resources and strategies they used to achieve that feat. If you’re looking for specific tactics that can help you translate learning into marks in the exam, you should definitely check this out.

Zak Jaeb

YouTube video player for AA8Ks6qey74

Zak Jaeb took just forty days to prepare for and pass the CompTIA Security+. This isn’t a realistic timeline for most people who want to take the exam, especially if you don’t have experience in the security field, but you can use their experience to learn how to methodically plan your studies.

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FAQs on Studying For CompTIA Security+ 

We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked questions.

Is the CompTIA Security+ Exam Hard?

Yes, the Security+ exam is known to be hard. Failure rates are especially high among first-time test takers. That said, you can maximize your chances of passing on the first attempt through methodical preparation and giving yourself plenty of time to do practice exams.

How Long Should You Study for the CompTIA Security+ Exam?

You should give yourself at least two months to prepare for the exam. This is especially true if you don’t have a background in IT.

Can I Take the CompTIA Security+ Exam Without Experience?

You can take Security+ without experience, but it is recommended that you take some time to complete a cybersecurity bootcamp, or a self-paced course, to learn the basics of the domain.

Should I Get the CompTIA Network+ Certification Before the CompTIA Security+ Certification?

You don’t necessarily need to take the Network+ exam before Security+. That said, some of the things you learn for the Network+ exam apply to others as well. If you’re somebody who is still not sure whether you want to work in networking or security, then you can consider doing both.

What’s the Next Certificate After the CompTIA Security+ Exam?

There are various advanced certifications that you can take after the CompTIA Security+ exam. Many professionals often move on to the CISSP certification. You should also consider other popular cybersecurity certifications.

Is the CompTIA Security+ Certification Enough To Land a Job?

Completing the CompTIA Security+ exam can raise your profile in job interviews. However, employers consider a candidate’s entire profile during the hiring process, including their educational background, work experience, and portfolio.

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About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Managing Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer with experience in the Indian and US markets.