Tuesday, December 4, 2012

You Can Pass the Security+ Certification

Many times I hear from people asking if they can pass the Security+ SY0-301 exam and earn the Security+ certification. My answer is almost always a hearty yes, but I also spend some time telling them how.  If you were thinking of pursuing this, you might want to know how you can earn the certification. If you've been working with computers for a while (and most people have), this is achievable. And when you have you'll find that it often opens up doors of opportunity for you.

What's Required?

First, there are no prerequisites except for some money to pay for the voucher. The voucher is $276 though you can often find  discounted vouchers for cheaper. For example, this company often has discounted vouchers for cheaper. Sometimes they're just a little cheaper, and sometimes they are a lot cheaper.
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Beware of some unscrupulous people selling vouchers on eBay. Some have sold bogus voucher numbers that aren't valid and the buyers have lost their money. However, some people have had success this way too.

What's Recommended?

CompTIA recommends the following:
  • A minimum of 2 years' experience in IT administration with a focus on security
  • Day to day technical information security experience
  • Broad knowledge of security concerns and implementation including the topics listed in the Security+ objectives
The objectives include six domains:
  • 1.0 Network Security (21% of exam)
  • 2.0 Compliance and Operational Security (18% of exam)
  • 3.0 Threats and Vulnerabilities (21% of exam)
  • 4.0 Application, Data and Host Security (16% of exam)
  • 5.0 Access Control and Identity Management (13% of exam)
  • 6.0 Cryptography (11% of exam)
The exam is heavy on networking topics so ideally you will have some networking knowledge.  Ideally, you will have taken and passed the Network+ exam first but I have taught many students without this knowledge and they have taken and passed the exam.  If you're studying for the Network+ exam, check out these quality practice test questions for only $9.99.

What Should You Study?

Many people have used the  CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-301 Study Guide to study for this exam. If you take a look at the reviews on Amazon you can see that over 85 people have given it five star reviews after using to take and pass the Security+ exam the first time they tried.
Some people with technical backgrounds have posted that they read the book over the weekend and took and passed the exam on Monday. I'm impressed that anyone could read that many pages over the weekend and I'm not in that category. However, it does give an idea of how the book has been able to fill in the right knowledge gaps for people so that they could quickly pass the exam.
Similarly, I've taught many classes with this book in a Monday through Friday daytime setting and people have taken and passed the exam on Friday afternoon or Sunday morning.
This blog includes multiple pages on Security+ you can check out too.

Are There Any Practice Test Questions?

The  CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-301 Study Guide includes over 450 practice test questions in it. This includes practice test question in a pre-assessment, after the end of each chapter, and a post assessment at the end. I recommend the study guide as the primary study source but if you've already been studying from another source and want to test your readiness with some practice test questions, you might like to check out one of these sources.
If you use any practice test questions you should ensure that they have explanations. In my experience, I've noticed that practice test questions without explanations often aren't the best quality and include incorrect answers. I have taught students that have memorized the incorrect answers to these types of practice test questions and they had a hard time unlearning the faulty knowledge they hammered into their head.
Also, you should take the time to ensure you know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. Ideally, you should be able look at any question and be able to identify the correct answer knowing why it is correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. This way, you'll be prepared to correctly answer the questions no matter how they are worded.

How Long Will It Take To Get Ready?

Exactly 64, 800 minutes. That might sound like a better answer than "it depends" but "it depends" is a more realistic answer. In truth, it depends on what your background knowledge is, how much time you have to study, and how determined you are to stick to a study schedule. However, here's a formula that works. Pick a day 45 days from today and set a goal. For example, it might be February 19th and your goal will be:
  • I will take and pass the Security+ exam by midnight on February 19th.
  • Repeat that goal to yourself every day between now and February 19th and start taking action to make it happen.
  • Buy a book such as the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-301 Study Guide and spend time studying it every day.
  • If something doesn't come clear, post a question to a public forum such as at TechExams.net where friendly people are willing to help you achieve your goal
  • Buy a voucher and schedule the exam at a Pearson Vue testing center as soon as you can. You can reschedule later if you have to but when you're scheduled, you're more likely to follow through.
By the way, 64,800 minutes works out to 45 days.


If you follow these steps, you'll join the thousands of people before you that have become Security+ certified.  Other people have done this. You can too.


If you want to take and pass the Security+ SY0-301 exam and earn the Security+ certification, these steps can help you do so. The key is to take action now to get started. Good luck.