How To Pass A Certification Exam

Posted by in Security+ | 0 comments

How To Pass A Certification Exam

I am frequently asked how I have passed so many certification exams. The short answer is “one at a time.” I don’t mean to be flip with that answer, but it’s the truth. If I could rephrase the question it would be “How do you pass a certification exam?” I can give you a much better answer to that one.

Don’t Assume it’s Easy

First, don’t take any exam for granted. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy and you don’t need to study. I say this from experience.

I failed the Security+ exam the first time I took it. This was back when it was SY0-101 (the first iteration of this exam) and it has become progressively more complex and difficult.

My mistake? I believed all the posts I read indicating this exam was easy. After working in IT jobs for so many years and teaching many security-related topics in advanced courses, I decided to plop down the two hundred or so dollars and take this exam.

There are not many things as disheartening as finishing an exam and seeing the message that you failed. Thankfully, I knew exactly what I did wrong. I took the exam for granted. I didn’t study. I didn’t make the same mistake again and soon passed this exam.

Since then I have taught many Security+ classes, wrote and published books on the Security+ exam, and created thousands of practice test questions, all designed to help people take and pass this exam the first time they take it. You don’t have to use my resources, but you do need to study for this exam. Don’t take it for granted.

Find a Good Study Guide to Pass a Certification Exam

I have earned almost all of my certifications through self-study. When possible, I get one or more study guides that cover the exam objectives. Ideally, a single book is enough but in general, it’s always a good idea to get more than one. If you don’t understand the concepts described by one author, you can get a different perspective from another author and you end up with a deeper understanding.

Many people have said the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide was their single source of study. I’m grateful and humbled to hear this. However, that isn’t typical. Two or more study guides is common.

I Don't Have Time To Read The Book

I recently received an email from a reader indicating he didn’t have time to read a book and asking what he could do.

The first option that came to mind isn’t a good one. He could hire someone else to take the exam for him. It’s expensive and unethical, but if he doesn’t have the time to learn the material, it is one option.

Perhaps he meant that he doesn’t learn easily by reading a book. Are their other options? Yes.

One option is to attend a course. It’s more expensive than buying one or two study guides though. For example, Security+ courses range between $1,000 and $3,000 per person depending on the location, the training materials used, what’s included, and the trainer. Compare this to two study guides averaging $30 for a total of $60, and you can see the difference. Similarly, there are many video courses out there that teach the material. Some of these video courses are expensive but there are also some videos available for free.

Another option is to look for audio on the topics. For example some books are available on the Amazon Kindle, and the Kindle has an audio feature that reads the book to you. Additionally, you can sometimes purchase audio files for some topics. For example, supplementary audio files for the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide are available here.

Look at the Objectives to Pass a Certification Exam

The objectives identify what you can expect to be tested on. For example, if you are studying the Security+ certification, you can check out the objectives for it on CompTIAs web site. Many study guides, including the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide include the objectives in the book along with an objective map telling you exactly where that objective is covered in the book.

When reviewing the objectives, your goal is to identify what is familiar and what is not familiar. A study guide can help you clarify these objectives and how you might be tested on them.

Research Unclear Topics to Pass a Certification Exam

It’s entirely possible that all of the topics aren’t clear to you. Some quick Internet searches should help you identify the answers. Additionally, there are many forums where people provide helpful answers to each other. If you post a well thought-out question to one of these forums, you can get some great responses.

Many times when I’m studying for an exam today, it’s before any study guides have been published. The Internet is a great resource for me.

Use Practice Exams to Pass a Certification Exam

After you’ve studied the concepts related to the objectives, use practice exams to test your readiness. Many study guides including the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide include practice test questions at the end of each chapter. Use these to test your comprehension of the chapter topics. Some books also have a pre-test before the first chapter and a post-test after the last chapter. Additionally, there are many other sources for practice test questions such as the Get Certified Get Ahead Premium site.

When using practice test questions, your goal is not to get them all correct. Instead, your goal is to test your comprehension.

Ideally, you should be able to look at any question and know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect. This way no matter how the questions are worded on the actual exam, you will be able to answer it correctly.

Some questions seem incomprehensible if you only look for the correct answer. However, if you eliminate the incorrect answers, the correct answer becomes obvious. As an example, I described this process in this video. While the video is focused on Security+ performance-based questions, I also included an explanation of eliminating incorrect answers with a typical multiple choice question in the video.

Along these lines, make sure the practice test questions you use have explanations. After writing thousands of practice test questions for several different certifications, I know how valuable these are to the user, and to the author.

  • As a user, you can use explanations to understand why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. Many times, the questions have a subtle twist of words making one answer obviously incorrect. You might not see this subtle twist when you read the question, but the explanation helps make it clear.
  • As an author, the explanation forces me to think about why each answer is incorrect. During this process, I often find that one of my answers is not necessarily incorrect, and I change the question. In contrast, some authors do not provide explanations and do not see some of these issues. As a reader/user, you might struggle with the question way too long trying to figure out why one answer is incorrect when it is actually correct.

Security+ Practice Test Questions

SYO-401 Practice Test Questions Now Available

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+ Practice Test Questions Here

 SYO-401 Practice Test Questions Now Available


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+ Practice Test Questions Here

Get the full bank of Security+ Practice Test Questions

Simulated Performance-based Questions

Bonus - Performance Based Questions

Simulated performance-based questions included with all

packages that include practice test 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+ Practice Test Questions Here

Simulated performance-based questions included with

all packages that include practice test questions.

Security+ Full Access Package

Get Certified Get Ahead Security+

Pass the First Time!

Up-to-date Content

New multiple-choice and performance-based questions added regularly

Pass the first time with quality practice test questions, performance-based questions, flashcards, and audio.

Buy The Full Access Study Package Today

60 Days Access For Only $55.98

Need more time? You can easily renew for another 60 days at a significantly reduced price.

All materials are available online shortly after making your payment.

Get the Security+ Full Access Study Package Here

Our online Security+ study materials are the perfect complement to the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. They can also be used to help ensure you're ready no matter what study guide you're using.

This exam is expensive.

Make sure you're ready before exam day. 

Here's what you'll get:
  • All of the multiple-choice questions from the best-selling CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. See a demo here. All questions have full explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.
  • Over 35 new multiple-choice questions we've added after publishing the study guide.
  • Over 70 performance-based questions. See a demo here.
  • All of the flashcards from the study guide. View them in any Web browser.
  • All of the audio from the study guide. Listen to a sample here.
  • A subnetting mini-tutorial to help you answer key question types in the Security+ exam.
  • Access to a free discount code for 10% off your Security+ voucher. Save $31.10 off the US retail cost for this voucher.

Buy The Full Access Study Package Today

60 Days Access For Only $55.98

All materials are available online shortly after making your payment.

Get the Security+ Full Access Study Package Here

Beware of Brain Dumps

Beware of Brain Dumps

Brain dumps are supposedly actual questions with supposedly actual answers. Some criminals use illegal and/or unethical methods to capture the questions, they guess at the correct answers, and then sell them. They do not include explanations. Instead, the buyers are encouraged to memorize the questions and answers.

If it’s discovered that you used brain dump sources to pass an exam, you can have your certification revoked. That’s bad enough, but there’s a worse consequence of using them.

Many have incorrect answers. People that memorize these questions and answers memorize incorrect information without understanding the reasoning behind it. Subtle changes to the questions elude them. They fail once, twice, and more and don’t understand why. I’ve had students in classes that had memorized incorrect brain dump answers and had a significant amount of trouble trying to relearn the correct information.

Practice Test Questions Should Not be the First or Only Option

Some people turn to practice test questions as their only source of study. This isn’t recommended, especially if your goal is to learn the concepts. Especially when they don’t take the time to understand why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect, they fail and don’t understand why.

Also, many people seek certifications to get ahead. The certification helps them land interviews and get new jobs with more responsibility and more pay. However, many people that only study questions do not learn the concepts. They falter during the interviews, or worse, move into a new job and falter there and end up unemployed.

Instead, seek to learn the material, and then use practice test questions to test your comprehension.

Summary How To Pass a Certification Exam

While I’ve focused a lot of this on Security+, these same steps can be used on just about any certification you want to earn through self-study. As a summary, the steps are:

  • Get one or more good study guides
  • Review the objectives
  • Research further to clarify any unclear topics
  • Use practice test questions to test your comprehension
    • Ensure the practice test questions have explanations
    • Read the explanations to understand why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect

Leave a Comment

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

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list and get a free excerpt of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide.  This excerpt includes the introduction and Chapter 1. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Get Certified Get Ahead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program,
an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Copyright © 2015 Get Certified Get Ahead. All Rights Reserved.