What You Need To Know

Welcome to our comprehensive blog series on how to improve your CompTIA Security+ exam score. Obtaining cybersecurity certifications, particularly the CompTIA Security+, in today’s job market has become a necessity. With threats on the rise, it’s crucial for professionals to stay updated and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to protect organizations from cyber-attacks. This is why so many organizations are relying on these certifications as vetting tools, providing a way to gauge an individual’s baseline understanding of core concepts.

So often, we’ve found that understanding and passing these certifications can be a daunting task. That’s why we’re excited to bring you this informative blog series, aimed at providing everything you need to know to pass the CompTIA Security+ exam. Whether you’re just starting your journey in cybersecurity or looking to advance your career with additional certifications, this series is designed to support you every step of the way. Through this series, we will cover all aspects of the certification exam, with three comprehensive articles:

  1. Understanding the CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam: This is the first article, where you will get an overview of the exam format, structure, and registration process. Learn what to expect on exam day and discover tips for tackling different question types.
  2. Deciphering the Security+ Exam Grading and Scoring: Our second blog will dive deep into the grading and scoring system of the Security+ exam. Understand how the exam is scored, what constitutes a passing score, and additional keys around unlocking that score you desire.
  3. Strategies for Improving Your CompTIA Security+ Exam Score: The final article will explore practical strategies and study tips to enhance your performance on the Security+ exam. From targeted study plans to time management techniques, discover how to maximize your chances of success.

Understanding the CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam

CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, is a globally recognized leader in providing vendor-neutral IT certifications that validate the skills and knowledge of IT professionals. With a mission to advance the IT industry and empower professionals worldwide, CompTIA offers a wide range of certifications catering to various domains. Their focus is to provide training for all levels within the industry, ranging from entry-level to advanced expertise. Among these certifications, the CompTIA Security+ certification holds a prominent position, serving as a foundational credential for individuals aspiring to start a career.

The CompTIA Security+ certification is widely regarded as one of the most essential certifications for cybersecurity professionals. At its core, the certification validates foundational skills in security concepts, risk management, network security, cryptography, and more. Recognized by employers worldwide, Security+ certification holders demonstrate proficiency in identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities, implementing secure network architectures, and mitigating security threats effectively. As organizations increasingly prioritize cybersecurity, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals with Security+ certification continues to rise.

As the starting point of this blog series, we’re going to delve into the fundamentals of the Security+ exam, covering everything from its format and structure to what to expect on exam day.

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Deciphering the Security+ Exam Format and Structure

student taking test on computer

Understanding the format and structure of the CompTIA Security+ certification exam is essential for effective preparation and success. This holds true with pretty much every certification you will take. Gaining a thorough understanding of what you will see on exam day is a great first step when you start preparing. This section provides an overview of the exam’s length, types of questions, and distribution of domains to help candidates navigate the complexities of the Security+ exam with confidence.

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Security+ Exam Length and Types of Questions

The Security+ exam spans a duration of 90 minutes and comprises a variety of question types aimed at evaluating candidates’ cybersecurity knowledge and skills. This exam will be mostly multiple-choice questions, which present scenarios or problems with several answer choices. There will also be a few performance-based questions, these require candidates to perform specific tasks or solve practical problems within simulated environments. In total, there is a maximum of 90 questions on the exam.

By becoming familiar with the different question formats and understanding how to approach each type effectively, candidates can optimize their exam strategy and maximize their chances of success. Additionally, learning essential time management skills while working through both formats will pay huge dividends. This is why taking practice exams during your preparation can be so vital. Practice exams simulate the testing format and environment, providing the opportunity to familiarize yourself prior to exam day.

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Understanding the Domain Distribution Across Security+ Exam Questions

The CompTIA Security+ exam covers a wide range of cybersecurity domains, each representing critical areas of expertise in the field. These domains include:

  • General Security Concepts
  • Threats, Vulnerabilities, & Mitigation
  • Security Architecture
  • Security Operations
  • Security Program Management and Oversight

Understanding the distribution of domains within the exam content is essential for prioritizing study efforts and ensuring comprehensive coverage of all exam objectives. By focusing on areas of strength and addressing areas of weakness, candidates can approach the Security+ exam with a well-rounded understanding of cybersecurity principles and practices.

The distribution of questions can vary slightly, but there is an overall standard that CompTIA uses when approaching their exams. Security Operations has the largest chunk with 28%; followed by Threats, Vulnerabilities and Mitigations with 22%; and then Security Program Management and Oversight at 20%. Security Architecture and General Security Concepts have the lowest distribution at 18% and 12% respectively. Something else to keep in mind, the exam objectives are updated to include current trends and hybrid environments (meaning organizations that combine both cloud environments and with on premises).

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Navigating Security+ Exam Registration and Scheduling

Virtual calendar

Preparing for the CompTIA Security+ certification exam involves not only studying the exam content but also understanding the registration and scheduling process. Although the process may not be lengthy, it is very important to follow the steps and understand important exam day rules. This section provides valuable insights into how to register for the exam and offers tips for scheduling the exam date and time effectively. Often, if you are working with an Accredited Training Center, they should be able to provide your exam voucher and assist with the registration process. That is usually an added benefit of going through one of CompTIA’s training partners.

If you decide to go through the preparation on your own, then you will need to pay for your exam voucher and go through the following steps.

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Security+ Exam Registration Steps

Something to note while reading through these steps is that CompTIA works through Pearson OnVue for their remote exam proctoring. This company is the one that will be monitoring you via your computer, while taking the exam.

  • Review Testing Policies and Procedures. These documents are very important, as they include things you must adhere to while taking the test. Things like not talking during the exam, staying seated throughout, showing proof that there is nothing on your desk (including cell phone). If any of the rules are broken, then the exam is immediately ended, and you will forfeit your exam voucher as well as the money spent to obtain it. So read through those thoroughly.
  • Run a System Test. Prior to taking the exam, you will need to ensure your computer/laptop is capable of running the necessary programs. This will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes. For this process, use the same computer and network that you plan to use on test day. It will check things like network speed, confirm no programs are running in the background, and ensure your computer can use the necessary testing platform.
  • Create a CompTIA Account. This part is relatively straight forward, if you haven’t already done so when purchasing the exam voucher, create an account through the CompTIA website.
  • Schedule Your Online Exam. While logged in to the CompTIA site, click the ‘Schedule Now’ button, find your exam, and follow the prompts to select the best testing day.
    example of exam registration
  • Return to the CompTIA Website On Test Day. When it’s time to take the test, you can either access your exam through the CompTIA website directly, or through the email confirmation sent to you when registering. You will have to be ready to go 15-20 minutes prior to the exam start time, so it is recommended to give yourself 30-45 minutes of prep time prior to the start of your exam. This will give you ample time to go through all of the requirements on test day like taking pictures of your testing space, confirming you identity, running a system test, etc.

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Understanding Security+ Exam Objectives and Knowledge Areas

Objectives

To excel in the CompTIA Security+ certification exam, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the exam objectives and the knowledge areas they encompass. Previously, we discussed how the exam domains are distributed on the exam. This section provides a breakdown of the specific objectives within each of those domains. By studying the exam objectives thoroughly and understanding the concepts they entail, candidates can effectively prepare for success on the Security+ exam. Although this section highlights all of the key areas you will need to focus on, you can get all the specific topics for each objective from the CompTIA exam objective PDF.

  1. General Security Concepts
    • Compare and contrast various types of security controls.
    • Summarize fundamental security concepts.
    • Explain the importance of change management processes and the impact to security.
    • Explain the importance of using appropriate cryptographic solutions.
  2. Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigations
    • Compare and contrast common threat actors and motivations.
    • Explain common threat vectors and attack surfaces.
    • Explain various types of vulnerabilities.
    • Analyze indicators of malicious activity.
    • Explain the purpose of mitigation techniques used to secure the enterprise.
  3. Security Architecture
    • Compare and contrast security implications of different architecture models.
    • Given a scenario, apply security principles to secure enterprise infrastructure.
    • Compare and contrast concepts and strategies to protect data.
    • Explain the importance of resilience and recovery in security architecture.
  4. Security Operations
    • Given a scenario, apply common security techniques to computing resources.
    • Explain the security implications of proper hardware, software, and data asset management.
    • Explain various activities associated with vulnerability management.
    • Explain security alerting and monitoring concepts and tools.
    • Given a scenario, modify enterprise capabilities to enhance security.
    • Given a scenario, implement and maintain identity and access management.
    • Explain the importance of automation and orchestration related to secure operations.
    • Explain appropriate incident response activities.
    • Given a scenario, use data sources to support an investigation.
  5. Security Program Management and Oversight
    • Summarize elements of effective security governance.
    • Explain elements of the risk management process.
    • Explain the processes associated with third-party risk assessment and management.
    • Summarize elements of effective security compliance.
    • Explain types and purposes of audits and assessments.
    • Given a scenario, implement security awareness practices.

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How to Start Preparing for the Security+ Exam

where do i start

Understanding the ins and outs of the exam is just the beginning of your journey towards certification. With a thorough understanding of what to expect on exam day, it is time to start creating a preparation pathway. Crafting a plan of action is paramount for any aspiring professional seeking success in the cybersecurity field. When it comes to preparing for the Security+ exam, breaking down the process into manageable steps can make the journey more attainable and less daunting.

Our recommended approach follows a simple three-step method – selecting a target date, opting for a suitable learning platform, and thoroughly reviewing exam objectives beforehand. Getting started is indeed as straightforward as that. With a solid plan in place, you can confidently navigate the path towards becoming CompTIA Security+ certified and setting yourself up for success in the cybersecurity industry. Let’s dive into each of these steps in greater detail to facilitate a seamless preparation journey.

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Step 1: Pick a Target Exam Date

Before beginning study routine, it’s crucial to establish a target date for taking the exam. Consider factors such as your current level of knowledge, available study time, and any external commitments. Setting a realistic target date will provide you with a clear goal to work towards, while also assisting with motivation throughout your preparation. While some learners will be approaching this exam with a hard test date due to job requirements, that is most likely not the case for the majority. The hard part with having a more flexible due date is it opens the door for procrastination.

It’s imperative that you approach the testing date as if it’s a final exam at school, it can’t be moved. Pick the date and stick with it. After that, you need to decide on how much time each week you can dedicate to preparing for this exam. For the CompTIA Security+ exam, you will want to assume a minimum of 40 to 60 hours of total preparation time, possibly more if specific domains are more difficult to comprehend. Keep this information in mind while you determine which learning platform you will utilize in Step 2.

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Step 2: Deciding on a Learning Platform

When it comes to preparing for the Security+ exam, you have two main options: self-paced study or training bootcamp. Each approach has its pros and cons, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits your learning style and schedule. One big factor to keep in mind is how much time you have before your exam. Self-paced programs tend to require two to four months, while bootcamps tend to be completed within a week.

  • Self-Paced Study: This option allows you to study at your own pace, on your own schedule. You have the flexibility to focus on areas where you need the most improvement and can tailor your study plan to fit your needs. However, self-paced study requires self-discipline and may lack the structure and guidance provided by a training bootcamp.
  • Training Bootcamp: Joining a training bootcamp provides you with a structured learning environment led by experienced instructors. Bootcamps typically offer comprehensive study materials and interactive sessions to enhance your understanding of exam topics. While bootcamps offer valuable guidance and support, they may require a significant time commitment and financial investment upfront.

Last thing, when deciding on the learning platform, ask yourself these four questions:

  • Does it use CompTIA approved course materials?
  • Does it offer hands-on labs?
  • Are quizzes and/or practice tests included?
  • Is the exam voucher included in the price?

Phishbuster Academy has numerous offerings for both self-paced programs and bootcamps. For all of our courses, the answer for every question above is ‘YES’. In addition to all of that, regardless of whether you pick a bootcamp or self-paced program, you will get access to our certified trainers. These trainers act as your mentors and provide guidance to ensure you are fully prepared before exam day.

CompTIA Security+ Bootcamp

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Step 3: Thoroughly Review Exam Objectives

With having the target date picked, and the learning platform purchased, the next step is to get your mind primed and ready for the course materials. Familiarizing yourself with the exam objectives is essential for effective preparation. Passing an exam is all about recall. You need to put your mind in a position so it can recall the necessary information quickly.

Take the time to thoroughly review the detailed breakdown of objectives provided by CompTIA, prior to starting your learning platform. You want to be familiar with the topics beforehand so that you aren’t seeing it for the first time when working through the learning platform you choose. Additionally, understanding what topics will be covered and the level of proficiency expected in each domain will guide your study efforts and help you prioritize areas for focus. If you don’t have the complete breakdown of all exam objectives and knowledge areas, view the CompTIA PDF.

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Strategies for Taking the Security+ Exam

The CompTIA Security+ exam aims to equip certified individuals with the essential skills and knowledge necessary for success in the cybersecurity industry. However, it’s important to keep in mind that, ultimately, it is just an assessment. This blog series is dedicated to dissecting all facets of the CompTIA Security+ certification, offering readers comprehensive knowledge to guide them on their certification journey. Each section provides unique tips and actionable steps that are easily implementable. This segment of the article delves into universal testing strategies applicable to all cybersecurity certifications.

Passing the CompTIA Security+ exam requires more than just studying the content; it necessitates the adoption of effective strategies for navigating exam day successfully. This section offers invaluable insights into various strategies, including approaches to different question types, time management techniques, and essential reminders for test day. While some of these strategies may seem straightforward, they play crucial roles in achieving success on the exam.

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Approaches to Different Question Types

There are two types of questions you will encounter – multiple choice and performance based. When tackling multiple-choice questions on the Security+ exam, remember to carefully read each question and all answer choices before selecting your response. Eliminating obviously incorrect options should always be the first step. Just remember, often there are a couple options that could potentially be correct, forcing you into a ‘Pick the BEST option’ scenario. When in doubt, go with the answer you are most familiar with.

For performance-based questions, pay close attention to instructions and ensure that you follow them meticulously. There are often multiple issues you are trying to solve at once, which could make these feel overwhelming. Additionally, these questions get a little more stressful, as you are on a time restraint with the exam. Just take a deep breath, and work through each scenario piece by piece. It can be helpful to read all of the details through once, then circle back and attempt to focus on each issue individually.
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Time Management Techniques

Effective time management is crucial for success on any certification exam, with the first step being an analysis of the questions you need to answer in the allotted time. Typically, on the Security+ exam, you will have 3 performance-based questions and 87 multiple-choice questions. A good goal should be to complete each performance-based question under 5 minutes, leaving roughly 50 seconds per multiple-choice question. If they happen to take longer, then just take the time you have left and divide it by the number of questions left, that will give you a per question time goal.

In the end, just pace yourself throughout the exam, aiming to complete each section within the allotted time frame. Some people like to take on the more difficult performance-based questions first, and then dividing their remaining time among the multiple-choice questions. Others prefer to go through the quicker questions first, leaving the more difficult and longer questions to the end. This is where practice tests can be really helpful, providing you the opportunity to attempt both approaches to see which is more effective for you.

Something else to keep in mind is the exams review feature. If you encounter a challenging question, answer it with your best guess, flag the question (there’s a flag next to the question that you can click), and save all flagged questions for review at the end. By quickly answering the challenging ones, you can progress through the exam while avoiding the trap of spending too much time on any single question. This will leave you with ample time in the end to go back and thoroughly review them. Just remember to answer each question even if you do flag it, that way if you happen to run short on time, you will at least ensure it’s not left empty.

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Essential Reminders for Test Day

There are several rules you must follow while taking the exam, making some of these test day reminders crucial. On exam day, take care of personal needs before the exam begins. Visit the restroom, silence your phone, and get any eating or drinking done prior to the start of the test. Minimizing noise and distractions will be greatly beneficial while working under strict time restraints.

Once the exam begins, remain seated and focused, refraining from any unnecessary movements or disruptions. Remember that once the exam starts, you must maintain silence until you have completed and submitted the exam. Excessive noise, and any talking, can result in the proctor terminating your exam. By adhering to these reminders and maintaining a calm and focused mindset, you can optimize your performance on the Security+ exam.

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It’s Time to Get Started

We’ve explored the various facets of the Security+ exam, from understanding its structure and content to implementing effective preparation strategies and test-taking techniques. By dissecting each aspect of the exam and providing actionable insights, we aim to empower each one of you with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed on your certification journey. As you continue your preparation for the Security+ exam, remember to stay focused, disciplined, and committed to your goals. Utilize the strategies and tips outlined in this series to optimize your study efforts and approach exam day with confidence. As always, if you have any questions, contact the experts at Phishbuster Academy for help. Otherwise, keep a look out for our next blog in this series as we continue to uncover all aspects of the CompTIA Security+ certification.

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