7 Steps to Security+ (SY0-401) Certification
The CompTIA Security+ certification is a popular certification within the IT field. One IT hiring manager told me that if a résumé doesn’t include the Security+ certification, or a higher-level security certification, he simply sets it aside. He won’t even talk to applicants.
Because of this many IT professionals have this certification and it doesn’t have to be difficult.
There isn’t any guaranteed path to pass the Security+ Certification. However, the following steps outline the path that thousands of people have used to add the Security+ certification to their resume.
Here are 7 steps that thousands of people have used to get the Security+ certification, and you can use them too. As an overview they are:
- Get a good study guide.
- Set a goal 45 days out from the day you receive your study guide.
- Start studying the book.
- Supplement your studies with online materials such as blog posts.
- Buy a voucher (assuming your employer doesn’t buy it for you).
- Schedule your exam for your target date.
- Use quality practice test questions with explanations.
Security+ Certification Step 1 of 7
Get a good study guide.
One of the best ways you can identify a good study guide is by the reviews of others. The CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. This is an update to the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-301 Study Guide, which had close to 600 reviews and about 500 of them are five star reviews.
The CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide hasn’t been out as long so it doesn’t have as many reviews yet, but it has all of the same elements that made the 301 study guide so popular.
When getting a study guide, ensure you get one for the exam you plan to take. Exams periodically change and using an old book to take a new exam isn’t the best path to success.
Security+ Certification Step 2 of 7
Set a goal 45 days out from the day you receive your study guide.
A target of 45 days allows you to master about one and a half chapters per week. It may be that some of the chapters take you less time and some of the chapters take you more time. No problem. If you want to modify your target date later or reschedule your exam, do so. However, a recipe for success in almost any endeavor includes setting a goal.
Security+ Certification Step 3 of 7
Start studying the book.
Set a time to read the study guide daily and stick to your schedule. Some people study best in the morning. Others study best in the evening. If you don’t know what works best for you, study throughout the day as your schedule allows.
However, you do need to study every day.
Most study guides include an objective map at the beginning of the book. For example, the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead SY0-401 Study Guide lists all of the objectives for the SY0-401 exam in the introduction. Next to each of the objectives, it lists the chapters where you can find the relevant content. Here’s a short snippet:
1.0 Network Security
1.1 Implement security configuration parameters on network devices and other technologies. (Chapters 3, 4, 6, 8, 9)
- Firewalls (Chapter 3)
- Routers (Chapter 3)
- Switches (Chapter 3)
- Load Balancers (Chapter 9)
- Proxies (Chapter 3)
- Web security gateways (Chapter 3)
- VPN concentrators (Chapter 4)
- NIDS and NIPS (Chapter 4)
- Behavior based (Chapter 4)
- Signature based (Chapter 4)
- Anomaly based (Chapter 4)
- Heuristic (Chapter 4)
- Protocol analyzers (Chapter 8)
- Spam filter (Chapter 6)
- UTM security appliances (Chapter 3)
- URL filter (Chapter 3)
- Content inspection (Chapter 3)
- Malware inspection (Chapter 3)
- Web application firewall vs. network firewall (Chapter 3)
- Application aware devices (Chapter 3)
- Firewalls (Chapter 3)
- IPS (Chapter 4)
- IDS (Chapter 4)
- Proxies (Chapter 3)
Objective maps such as this allow you to easily review the exam objectives and see where they are covered.
Security+ Certification Step 4 of 7
Supplement your studies with online materials such as blog posts.
When a topic isn’t clear, look for more information on the topic online.
I regularly post blog articles about Security+ and other topics on the Get Certified Get Ahead blog site and this page is a good place to see if there are important changes to the certification before you take the exam. Readers often post their comments on the pages too so it’s worth reading their comments too.
Security+ Certification Step 5 of 7
Buy a voucher (assuming your employer doesn’t buy it for you).
Purchase a Security+ certification voucher for the exam. These typically are good for a year, and purchasing it early provides some motivation to you to keep you studying. You can get a code for a 10% discount on all CompTIA vouchers here.
Be careful about buying vouchers from unknown sources. Many people have purchased vouchers through sites such as eBay only to learn that the voucher isn’t valid.
Security+ Certification Step 6 of 7
Schedule your exam for your target date.
Contact a Pearson Vue testing center and schedule your exam. Just as purchasing the voucher provides some motivation for you to keep studying, scheduling your exam helps keep you focused.
Even if a life event pops up and slows you down, you can still reschedule the exam for a later date.
Security+ Certification Step 7 of 7
Use quality practice test questions with explanations.
Practice test questions help you gauge your understanding and ability to pass the actual exam. These can be very useful, but beware of questions without explanations.
Many “braindumps” have questions and answers but the majority of the questions don’t have any explanations. Worse, many of the answers are incorrect. The result is that people using these memorize inaccurate information without understanding the content. When CompTIA modifies the questions just slightly, they fail the exam without understanding why.
In contrast, when you use questions with explanations, you’ll understand why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. When you soak up this knowledge, you’ll be able to answer the questions correctly no matter how CompTIA words the questions.
Some people use the practice test questions within their study guide. Other people, look for additional materials such as the materials available here. This site includes practice test questions, flashcards, and audio files.
After gauging your understanding with practice test questions, take the exam and celebrate.