How to Pass the CompTIA Security+ (Plus) SY0-501 Exam
[This post was originally published in June 2017 and updated on 3/25/2019.]
The CompTIA Security+ certification exam is a globally recognized exam t taken by individuals to demonstrate their knowledge in IT security as well as general IT skills. Once the exam is completed with a passing score, a certification is awarded to show that the recipient is well acquainted with network security and risk management. People have asked if it is truly possible to pass the Security+ (plus) exam on the first attempt and earn Security+ certification.
Can I Pass the Security+ on the first try?
Yes, it is absolutely possible! Before answering, if you purchase a CompTIA Security+ training class ensure that it comes with a free retake voucher as assurance in case you don’t pass on the first attempt.
Taking the Security+ exam can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have not taken a test in a long time. However, thorough preparation will give you the confidence order to pass the Security+ exam. The Security+ exam must be finished within 90 minutes. The exam consists of no more than 90 multiple choice and performance-based questions, which means you will have to average answering one question at least every minute.
Develop Effective Study Habits and Discipline
The number one way to ensure you have the best chance to pass Security+ on the first attempt is to study, study, and study. Do not procrastinate and cram all of your study time into a week while taking a training class. The best study techniques and methods entail:
- Distributed practice and repetition over an extended period of time.
- Practice questions, exams, and exercises.
- Active reading, interrogation, and elaboration.
If you think one month is sufficient time to study and pass the exam, prepare for three months then. We often set unrealistic expectations for the time it takes to accomplish tasks. Also, if you’re not well versed with the bulk of the material in the outline and exam objectives, plan for additional study time. The key is to try to study or spend time with the material a little bit every day leading up the exam. As you gain confidence and get closer to exam day, focus on getting adequate sleep and exercise while reducing stress. Do not cram.
Good study habits and a disciplined schedule can go a long way and increase the likelihood of passing the exam on the first attempt. To learn more about effective study habits, refer to these resources:
- Why You Should Use Anki Decks to Improve Learning (blog post)
- Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects (online course)
Using a variety of study tools will increase your knowledge of the topics covered on the Security+ exam.
- Online Resources:
- Study Guide Books:
What you need to know to pass Security+
The main objectives that any Security+ certification candidate needs to fully understand are:
- Identifying network attack strategies and defenses
- Understand the principles of organizational security & the elements of effective security policies
- Know the technologies and uses of cryptographic standards and products
- Identify network and host-based security technologies and practices
- Describe how wireless and remote access security is enforced
- Describe the standards and products used to enforce security on the web and communication technologies
- Identify strategies for ensuring business continuity, fault tolerance, and disaster recovery
Having a firm grasp of the concepts and main objectives will go a long way while studying and subsequently sitting for the exam. It may also be helpful to familiarize yourself with keyword abbreviations, such as: MAC (mandatory access control, FTP ( File Transfer Protocol), SFTP ( Secure File Transfer Protocol), etc.
The Inside Scoop for passing the exam
We offer a free assessment to see if you will be able to master the topics without additional training. In addition to our free assessment, you can gauge your Security+ readiness by comparing yourself to others’ experiences by visiting the CompTIA Reddit page (Note: this link is for all CompTIA certifications). You will also learn how others managed to pass the Security+ exam on their first attempt.
Exam Day Tips
1. Arrive Early
It is very important to ensure that you arrive early to the test center. Arriving late to the test center will increase stress levels before the exam has even begun. Arriving earlier than your scheduled exam also gives you a chance to review your notes again.
2. Watch Your Time
As mentioned, the time given to complete the exam is 90 minutes. This is where a practice test or quiz sessions are vital. Treat practice sessions like the real testing environment. Use a timer and get accustomed to answering the questions with the time you have allotted for the exam. Due to the short time given to complete the exam it is very important to keep track of your time. The exam has a maximum of 90 multiple choice as well as performance-based questions.
During the exam keep in mind that you are unable to see your time remaining while completing the performance-based questions. You may find it necessary to skip questions you do not immediately know the answer. Make note of those questions and return to them once you have completed the other questions. Once you have completed all the questions it is best to double check that you have answered every question.