My Experience with the Security+ Exam

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I took the Security+ exam (SYO-401 version) last week. While I’ve held the certification since 2005, I wanted to see how it looked and compare this to what readers have shared with me.  

As background, I hear from people almost every day telling me that they passed the exam using  the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide and/or online study packages. They often mention things like how many performance-based questions they saw or if they had any port questions.

I’m not going to violate the NDA, but there are many things I can share.

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Number of Questions

First, I had 6 performance-based questions. Many people that I’ve heard from recently had only two. I followed the advice I’ve given to others and skipped the performance-based questions.

Next, I went through 66 multiple-choice questions. This took me about 40 minutes, which averages out to about 36 seconds per question. Admittedly, this is probably less time than most people will spend on each question.  However, I found most of the questions straight-forward and I’m very familiar with the content.

In contrast, I spent about 30 minutes on the performance-based questions. That’s an average of about 5 minutes per question. Some of these were straight-forward, while others were quite vague making it difficult to figure out what the test writer was asking.

Content

Some test-takers told me they didn’t receive any port questions. I had two. Both were covered in the book, and listed in Table 3.1: “Some commonly used well-known ports.”

Some questions were simple, but thin. For example, I had a couple of one-sentence questions about which key to use with digital signatures or encryption. These didn’t have any scenario and didn’t add any extra words to confuse the topic. They simply asked which key to use to meet a specific need.

Some questions were outrageously fuzzy.  I had difficulty figuring out what they were even asking. Gratefully, these typically had answer choices that were completely unrelated to the topic of the question.

For comparison, imagine this question.

Q. What is the color of the sky at sunset in northern Alaska while the northern lights are active?

A. Electronic

B. Magnetic

C. Gravitational

D. Orange

Admittedly, if this question had four color choices, it might be difficult to answer. However, if you know that electronic, magnetic, and gravitational are not colors, the question becomes trivial.

This is one of the reasons I stress to test takers the importance of knowing why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. This gives them the best chance of accurately interpreting the questions on the live exam and answering them correctly. Eliminate the incorrect answers and you’ll find the correct answer.

Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

– Arthur Conan Doyle

Some questions had two obviously incorrect choices that were easy to throw out. The remaining two answers required me to reread the question to understand what the test writer was really asking. Picking the correct answer in these questions required a solid understanding of the topic.

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide

The 401 Version of the Study Guide

SY0-401 Study GuideThe CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide is an update to the top-selling SY0-201 and SY0-301 study guides, which have helped thousands of readers pass the exam the first time they took it.

CompTIA Authorized Quality Content (CAQC)After a comprehensive review by ProCert Labs, the SY0-401 version has been certified as CompTIA Approved Quality Content (CAQC) and covers every aspect of the SY0-401 exam.

It includes the same elements readers raved about in the previous two versions.

Each of the eleven chapters presents topics in an easy to understand manner and includes real-world examples of security principles in action.

You’ll understand the important and relevant security topics for the Security+ exam, without being overloaded with unnecessary details. Additionally, each chapter includes a comprehensive review section to help you focus on what’s important.


Click for Free Preview


Over 400 realistic practice test questions with in-depth explanations will help you test your comprehension and readiness for the exam. The book includes:

  • A 100 question pre-test
  • A 100 question post-test
  • Practice test questions at the end of every chapter.

Each practice test question includes a detailed explanation to help you understand the content and the reasoning behind the question. You’ll be ready to take and pass the exam the first time you take it.

If you plan to pursue any of the advanced security certifications, this guide will also help you lay a solid foundation of security knowledge. Learn this material, and you’ll be a step ahead for other exams. This SY0-401 study guide is for any IT or security professional interested in advancing in their field, and a must read for anyone striving to master the basics of IT security.

Kindle edition also available.

Are you looking for SYO-501 Study Guide?

The 501 Version of the Study Guide is Now Available. Click Here.

Multiple-Choice Questions

I had a few questions with multiple answers. These were always clear how many answers were required in the question with a statement such as Select Two or Select Three.

In contrast, some people have reported that questions they saw required multiple answers, but the question didn’t say so. I’m not sure if this was a mistake in a beta question, or something new CompTIA is trying out. At any rate, you can tell if the question needs one or more answers by looking at how the answers are formatted.

A single-answer question has the answers formatted with radio buttons.

A multiple-answer question has the answers formatted with check boxes.

Ungraded Questions

 

CompTIA typically includes ungraded questions in the exam. These are often added to validate the question and commonly called beta questions. However, you are told which questions are ungraded.

I noticed several questions that were obviously beta questions. I could tell because the content was directly from the newer SY0-501 objectives and not included in the SY0-401 objectives.

As an example, Airgap is listed twice in the 501 objectives (once as air gap and once as airgap), but it isn’t listed in the 401 objectives. If I had any questions on airgaps, I’d say that they are beta questions for the 501 version.

Full Security+ (SY0-401) Course

Full Security+ Course Now Available

Helping you Pass the First Time

Online access includes all of the content from the

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including types of questions and strategies for performance-based questions)
  • 100 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Control Types and Methods (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Basic Network Security (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Malware and Social Engineering (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Identifying Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Managing Risk (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Preparing for Business Continuity (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Operational Security (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • 100 question post-assessment exam
  • Security+ Acronyms

Get the Full Security+ Course Here

 Full Security+ Course Now Available


Test your readiness with these quality materials

Random 100-question tests

Random practice tests from the all of the practice test questions in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

34 Simulated Performance-based Questions

Eight sets of performance-based questions with multiple questions in each set. These questions help you understand and prepare for performance based questions.

22 Realistic Performance-based Questions

Two new sets of performance-based questions with a total of 22 questions. These new questions use a new testing engine that includes realistic drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions.

Flashcard Set

  • 273 Security+ Flashcards to reinforce key testable concepts
  • 280 Security+ acronyms flashcards to help you master the required acronyms
  • 204 Security+ Remember This slides

Audio - SY0-401 Security+ Remember This Audio Files

Learn by Listening. Over one hour and 15 minutes of audio (MP3 downloads.)

Audio - SY0-401 Security+ Question and Answer Audio Files

Learn by Listening. Over three hours hour and 15 minutes of audio (MP3 downloads.)

Bonus #1

Audio from the end of chapter reviews from each of the chapters in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. Over one hour and 15 minutes of additional audio.

Bonus #2

Subnetting mini-tutorial that will help you answer two key question types:
  • Identify how many hosts a subnet supports
  • Identify valid IP addresses within a subnet

Bonus #3 

Access the study materials for a total of 60 days because sometimes life happens.

Get the Full Security+ Course Here

Performance-Based Questions

Most of the performance-based questions were relatively straight-forward and simple to answer. However, at least a couple of them were quite deep. Additionally, it was difficult to determine exactly what the question wanted. These will likely be challenging for people that don’t meet the networking prerequisites.

Gratefully, the content to answer the performance-based questions that I saw is included in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide, online study packages, and labs. In other words, if you understand the content, you can answer these questions.

Security+ Practice Test Questions

SYO-501 Practice Test Questions Now Available

SYO-401 Practice Test Questions

Over 440 realistic Security+ practice test questions

All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct,

and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

Pass the Security+ Exam

the First Time You Take It

Multiple quiz formats to let you use these questions based on the way you learn.
  • Learn mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Learn mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. Use this if you want to make sure that you see all of the questions. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Test mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - 100 random questions. View 100 random questions from the full test bank similar to how the Security+ exam has a potential maximum of 100 multiple choice questions. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.

Get the full bank of Security+ (SYO-401) Practice Test Questions Here

 SYO-401 Practice Test Questions


INCLUDES QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU PREPARE

FOR THE NEW PERFORMANCE BASED QUESTIONS 

Bonus - Performance Based Questions

Additional Security+ questions to help you prepare for the new performance based questions. These are included with the full bank of Security+ practice test questions and are divided into different sections. For example, you'll have access to the following links:

- Performance Based Question - Set 1

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of security to mobile devices and servers in a data center. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 2

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 3

You'll see a graphic showing a network with computers and servers separated by a firewall. The firewall is used to control traffic between the computers and users using rules within an access control list (ACL).  You'll have three questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly identify the relevant components of the rule. The incorrect answers and explanation provide you with insight into how to correctly answer this type of question on the actual exam.

- Performance Based Question - Set 4

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam related to what a forensic analyst would do during an investigation. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 5

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match protocols and ports. You'll then have seven questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 6

You'll see a list of security controls along with a graphic showing devices and locations within an organization, along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the controls with the devices and locations. You'll then have four questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 7

You'll see a list of authentication methods and authentication factors along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the authentication methods with the authentication factors. You'll then have six questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This set also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 8

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This is similar to Set 2 but expands on the possibilities. The set also includes a link to a page showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 9

New questions recently added using a different testing engine. See a demo here. This set includes drag and drop and matching questions on ports.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 10

A random set of 20 performance-based questions using drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in-the blank. This set includes performance-based questions on RAID.

Get the full bank of Security+ (SYO-401) Practice Test Questions Here

Get the full bank of Security+ Practice Test Questions

Click here if you're looking for SYO-501 Practice Test Questions

Security+ Exam Summary

In summary, I had 6 performance-based questions (that I skipped at first) and 66 multiple-choice questions. Many questions were straight-forward and easy to answer because I knew the content. Other questions were unclear, but again because I understood the content, I easily eliminated obviously incorrect answers to get to the correct answer. My exam included what I believe were obviously ungraded questions (but I answered them anyway). Most of the performance-based questions were clear, but a couple of them were very deep and unclear. And yes, I passed.

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