How Do I Get The CompTIA Security+ Certification?

Taylor Karl
How Do I Get The CompTIA Security+ Certification? 1861 0

The CompTIA Security+ certification is designed to demonstrate you have the skills needed to be an effective cybersecurity professional. Many aspiring and seasoned cybersecurity experts wonder how to get CompTIA+ Security+ certification because it gives prospective employers the assurance that the applicant has a comprehensive set of security skills. The certification verifies that you are well-versed in everything from cybersecurity architecture to risk management to cryptography and more.

What Are the Steps to Earning the CompTIA Security+ Certification?

The steps you need to take to earn your certification are relatively straightforward. Here is how to get CompTIA Security+ certification, step-by-step.

Decide Which Test to Take

It is important for you to decide which cybersecurity exam will meet your needs and that of your employer or prospective employer. There are many different entry-level cybersecurity exams to choose from, created by different vendors. For example, the (ISC)Systems Security Certified Practitioner and the GIAC Security Essentials exams generally cover the same material as is covered in CompTIA Security+. However, the CompTIA exam may more recognized or even required for your position or one to which you are applying.

The current version of the Security+ exam is SYO-601, which first launched on November 12, 2020. In terms of comparing exams, the Security+ exam features performance-based questions to evaluate a candidate’s hands-on proficiency in addition to evaluating their theoretical knowledge.

Prepare for the Exam

The best way to prepare for this exam is to take a systematic approach instead of cramming in domain knowledge in a few bulk study sessions. Here’s the best way to approach your preparation:

1. Get Familiar With The Exam’s Domains

In the context of the exam, a "domain" is an area of focus that the test covers. For the CompTIA Security+ certification, there are five different domains you’ll want to make sure you have a working knowledge of:

Threats, Attacks, and Vulnerabilities

The aim of this domain is to test your knowledge regarding the kinds of threats organizations face. The subject also encompasses the attack methods that are most common today. In addition, the test touches on the kinds of vulnerabilities that networks and devices have that could expose a company to attacks.

Technologies and Tools

Tools such as firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems help mitigate and prevent threats. This domain covers an array of technologies that cybersecurity professionals can use to defend against digital assaults.

Architecture and Design

Cybersecurity architecture involves the methodologies and technologies you use to build a cyber defense system. It includes the design of networks—from a security perspective—and how to build safer applications.

Designing cybersecurity architecture is about more than building defense systems. It also includes ways to prevent introducing vulnerabilities when building other systems. This domain reinforces your knowledge about how to build defense-minded solutions.

Identity and Access Management

Identity and access management is one of the first lines of defense for companies that build applications, primarily because it keeps unwanted or unverified people away from sensitive digital infrastructure. This domain focuses on models used to manage identity and access. It also touches on different methods you can use to authenticate users.

Risk Management

This domain focuses on how to manage and mitigate risk. It also covers ways to identify the kinds of risks an organization or network may be especially susceptible to. It goes through the entire risk timeline, from pinpointing the risks a company may face to disaster recovery in the wake of an attack.

Cryptography and PKI

The focal point of this domain is cryptography and PKI (public key infrastructure). These technologies facilitate secure connections between users and systems by leveraging encoded messages that you can only decipher with secure decoding keys.

Those are the main domains of the test, but it is common for there to be considerable overlap between concepts. That can be a good thing. Overlapping ideas are great for reinforcing recent learning as they cause you to recall what you've just learned and apply it in a new area.

The key will be to cover everything in a systematic way—without skimming through or skipping over things you think you already know. While it may take you less time to go through topics you’re already comfortable with, you’ll want to review them all. In this way, you can be sure to touch all the bases and be ready to ace the test.

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2. Develop a Study Plan

Everyone’s study strategy is different because everyone's life is a little different, and working study time into a schedule will depend on the person. For many, this involves working around a job, family, school, and personal obligations. So, as you design your study plan, it’s important to be realistic about how much time you’ll need to prepare, and the time commitments associated with learning each domain topic. This may involve making a few sacrifices in your personal schedule, but you’ll soon see it’s well worth it, especially once you get the CompTIA Security+ certificate in your portfolio.

Your study plan should involve prioritizing the most challenging topics, those that you’re least familiar with. This is particularly important because many concepts are interdependent, so a knowledge gap in one area can make it harder to grasp other concepts elsewhere. By establishing a baseline understanding of all the domain topics, you have a strong foundation on which to build the rest of your competency.

Here are some questions you may want to ask as you build out your study strategy:

  • What’s your timeline for taking the exam? This determines how much time you’ll have to prepare, whether it’s a matter of weeks or months.
  • What’s your budget for preparation courses and material? You will want to make sure you are able to get everything you need to be successful.
  • What training methods have worked well for you in the past? For instance, some may find it helpful to learn something, practice it in a real-life scenario, and then repeat that process for the next topic. Others prefer to learn a few different things and then put all of them into practice at once before moving on to the next topic.

3. Reinforce Your Knowledge and Test-taking Skills With Practice Tests

Practice tests accomplish several objectives at once. They allow you to see how well you perform in a timed environment, for instance. The exam only lasts 90 minutes, so you’ll need to be able to demonstrate your knowledge relatively quickly.

Practice tests also give you a feel for how the exam flows from one topic and question to another. At times, the series of questions for the CompTIA Security+ test may feel random. It also can have a comfortable, logical feel. By taking practice tests, you reduce the chances of being caught off guard by how the questions are arranged.

You can use CompTIA’s practice questions as well as those provided by a test prep organization like United Training.

How Long Should You Study?

The time you invest in your test prep will vary based on factors such as how much information you must learn from scratch and how much you simply have to review. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a dependable time budget.

For example, suppose you’re allotting a month to learning or refreshing around each domain. If you feel you have some significant knowledge gaps when it comes to Identity and Access Management, you may want to devote an extra week to that area. On the other hand, you may feel fairly comfortable with risk management principles and tech, so you may be able to slash a week or two off of your prep schedule for that domain.

Register for the Exam

The first step in registering for the exam is to purchase a voucher on the CompTIA website. Each voucher comes with a time limit. You have 12 months from when you buy the voucher to when you have to take the test.

You’ll then want to start preparing for the exam—or at least set up a preparation plan—before registering to take it on a specific test date. You can start preparing with United Training anytime you’d like.

Pass Your Exam

To pass the exam, you need a score of at least 750 on a scale from 100 to 900. In other words, you must get 83.3% of the questions right to earn your certification.

The test consists of two different types of questions: multiple-choice and performance-based. The multiple-choice questions are constructed similarly to those you may have encountered in school or while taking standardized tests. The performance-based questions (PBQs) involve simulated scenarios that assess your knowledge and problem-solving skills. It’s possible to earn partial credit, and while you can skip and return to a simulation performance-based question, you have to complete virtual PBQs the first time you encounter them on the exam.

Can You Retake the Exam if You Don’t Pass?

Yes, you can retake the exam as many times as you need if you don’t pass. It may be best to adjust your study prep each time you take it to address any weak areas.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even though you can go for your second attempt as soon as you’d like, you have to wait at least 14 calendar days before giving it a third try.

Earn Continuing Education Credits

To renew your certification, you must earn continuing education credits via the CompTIA Continuing Education (CE) program. You have the option to engage in various activities and training programs. There’s an online CE course called CertMaster you can take advantage of to qualify. Plus, you can also earn CE credits by taking other CompTIA courses.

Once you’ve completed and uploaded the equivalent of at least 50 Continuing Educations Units within three years, your certification renews automatically.

Exam Tips

To do your best on the exam, you should make sure you understand the exam format. This is easiest when you spend some time taking practice tests.

It’s also important to read each question carefully, looking for nuances that can make them easier to answer. If you’re not sure what the right answer is, you can begin by eliminating incorrect responses, which increases your chances of picking the best solution.

It’s also a good idea to have some scratch paper with you. Using this, you can take some notes and work through challenging problems. You can also use your scratch paper to keep track of questions you may want to review because you’re not certain you got them right. This saves time and prevents you from getting hung up on any one question for too long.

Start Prepping For Your CompTIA Security+ Certification Today

Using a systematic approach centered around strong preparation and knowledge of the test’s structure, you can put yourself in a powerful position to ace the CompTIA Security+ exam. The best way to position yourself for success is by using a structured, comprehensive prep program. United Training has a full selection of courses designed to put you in the best position to earn your CompTIA Security+ certification. Learn more by connecting with United Training today.