It’s not easy to get the CompTIA Security+ certification, but candidates can greatly improve their chances by preparing well and getting focused training.
The CompTIA Security+ test is hard to pass, just like any other test you have to take to get a professional licence. But those who are up to the challenge will be able to take advantage of many well-paying jobs in cybersecurity. This guide looks at how the exam compares in terms of how hard it is and how much studying is needed to pass it.
CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level certification in cybersecurity, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get. CompTIA suggests getting Network+ or a similar certification first before going for Security+. This path makes sure that candidates already have the basic skills they need to specialise in cybersecurity, such as knowing how to set up, run, and fix networks.
What are the requirements for taking the CompTIA Security+ exam?
Since Security+ is an entry-level certification, there are no formal requirements to take the exam, and if you pass, you will get a formal certification no matter what. CompTIA recommends that candidates have at least two years of work experience in a related field, like network administration or risk management, with a focus on cybersecurity.
How ready a candidate is to pass the exam depends a lot on how much they know and have done in cybersecurity and related fields. This information and experience will help them close the gap between what they know and what they should know before the exam. Those who have enough experience should only need to do a little more studying to get ready for the test. Those who are just starting out may need a few months to get up to speed.
Self-study or formal training can help close the knowledge gap.
There is a lot of official and unofficial CompTIA Security+ study Guide out there for people who want to get the Security+ certification. There are self-paced online courses and virtual practise labs, as well as more traditional options like in-person seminars, bootcamps, and study guides. Online self-study is the most popular choice because it is easy to access and works well for people who already have full-time jobs.
It shouldn’t take more than 8–10 hours to study for an introductory course that should teach candidates the basics of the Security+ certification. But to fully prepare for the test, you should also get hands-on training, either through virtual labs by 101 Security+ Labs or workshops in person. It should take between 25 and 30 hours to get hands-on experience in all of the areas covered by the exam, such as penetration testing and risk management. Candidates who already have extensive experience in the cybersecurity space can expect to spend a lot less time closing the knowledge gap ahead of the exam.
What does the CompTIA Security+ test cover?
The test looks at five main areas, and each one is worth a certain amount of the total score. Candidates should be familiar with the exam they are taking, since they can choose between the current version and a previous one. At the moment, though, you can only take the current SY0-601 exam in English. Most people who want to take the test will want to take the current version, unless they just finished studying for the last one. In the most recent version, here are the domains and how much weight each one has on the exam:
- Attacks, threats, and vulnerabilities – 24%
- Architecture and design – 21%
- Implementation – 25%
- Operations and incident response – 16%
- Governance, risk, and compliance – 14%
The test has up to 90 questions that cover all of the above areas, and candidates have 90 minutes to finish it. The best score you can get is 900, and if you get 750 or more, you pass.
The questions on the test are either in the usual multiple-choice format or are based on how well you do on the job. Performance-based questions (PBQs) are different from traditional questions because they test the candidate’s ability to solve real-world problems in a simulated setting.
Before taking the test, it’s a good idea to spend a lot of time in virtual practise labs. CompTIA also suggests that candidates move on quickly to the next PBQ if they don’t feel confident answering a certain one. This is because there is a time limit. Most PBQs, though, come at the beginning of the test, so candidates should also be careful about how much time they spend on each exam question.
For how long CompTIA Security+ Certification is Valid?
After passing the exam, a Security+ certificate is good for three years. But it’s easy to keep the certification up to date by taking part in CompTIA’s programme for continuing education. Candidates will only have to take the test again if they let their certification lapse or don’t meet the other requirements for keeping it.
Standard for cybersecurity and related certifications is a three-year validity period. This helps make sure that certificate holders stay up to date with the constantly changing adoption cycles of new technologies and new threat vectors. CompTIA also looks over and changes the content of its exams every three years to keep up with these changes. This update is needed to keep its ISO/ANSI accreditation status and meet the US Department of Defence’s certification requirements.
A Security+ certification can be kept up-to-date in three main ways. Most people choose to take an approved training course, which should take those who already work in the field between 6 and 8 hours. Another popular choice is to do activities that earn continuing education units (CEUs), such as those that match one or more of the exam objectives. The third option is to recertify by taking a test that covers the most recent version of the test material.
Lastly, keeping the Security+ certification costs $50 per year, or $150 for the whole three-year period. This is on top of the $370 fee for taking the exam.
But after three years as a certificate holder, candidates may want to take their careers to the next level by getting a more advanced certification, such as the PenTest+, CASP+, or CySA+. Other groups, such as (ISC), offer a variety of certifications that compete with each other.
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