A Tale of Two Test Takers
It was the best of test taking days. It was the worst of test taking days.
It was the age of critical thinking. It was the age of memorization.
It was a time of celebration and elation. It was a time of sadness and grief.
It was the spring of career advancement. It was the winter of career reevaluation.
It was a day of passing Security+. It was a day of failing Security+.
Lisa passed. Bart failed.*
How To Pass Security+ (SY0-501)
Gratefully, I hear from people almost every day from people telling me that they passed the Security+ exam using the CompTIA Security+ Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide and/or study materials on the gcgapremium.com site. Over time, I’ve discovered some basic steps people such as Lisa can follow to pass the SY0-501 Security+ exam using these materials.
Step 1) Use all the materials you have. For example, if you’re using the online materials, take all the quizzes.
Step 2) Get scores of at least 90% on all the quizzes.
Step 3) Don’t memorize quiz questions and answers. This is a sure recipe for failure. Except for a random quiz (that gives you random questions), don’t take the same quiz twice in a day.
– Why not?
– This encourages your brain to memorize the questions and answers.
– It is also misleading. Your score is sure to improve because you just saw the correct answers to all the questions. However, the increased score doesn’t give you an accurate view of your comprehension, but instead it indicates you were able to memorize the questions and answers.
In contrast, if you take a practice quiz on Monday and then again on Wednesday, your score on Wednesday is a much better gauge of your understanding.
4) Read the explanations for all of the practice test questions, not just the ones you missed.
5) Ensure you understand why each answer is correct, and why each answer is incorrect.
Practice test questions are typically multi-layered. On the surface, they are helping you understand why the correct answer is correct. However, most questions can be slightly reworded to make one or more other answers correct. By taking the to understand why the incorrect answers are incorrect, a single practice test question helps you understand several potential questions.
This practice gives you the best chance of accurately interpreting the questions on the live exam and answering them correctly.
How To Fail Security+ (SY0-501)
Unfortunately, I occasionally hear from people letting me know that they failed the Security+ exam after using online materials. Looking at their online scores, I can easily see that they are not following these steps.
As an example, I recently heard from someone (I’ll call him Bart) that wrote: “Sadly today I failed…. I went through all the quizzes multiple times, most chapters I have done well.”
However, looking at Bart’s quiz history the facts show a different story.
Step 1) Bart didn’t use all the materials.
As an example, I’ve added over 35 new practice test questions to the SY0-501 online materials since first publishing the book. It’s called the Extras Test Bank.
Unfortunately, Bart’s quiz history doesn’t show any record of him taking the quiz. Similarly, his quiz history doesn’t show any record of him taking the pre-assessment quiz.
Step 2) Bart didn’t get scores of at least 90% on all the quizzes.
As an example, despite taking the Performance-Based Questions quizzes several times, he never achieved 90% on any of them.
Step 3) Bart routinely took the same quizzes twice or more times in a day. As an example, he only took the Cryptography quiz twice, both times on July 25. Here are his scores:
- July 25 3:43 am 25%
- July 25 4:22 am 90%
In this example, a score of 90% is a good reflection on his short-term memory. However, it isn’t a good reflection on his long-term understanding of the topics.
Also, he was left with the following impression “most chapters I have done well.” If he took the quiz a couple of days later, he may have gotten a better evaluation of his understanding.
Steps 4 and 5) Some of his scores indicate that he didn’t take the time to read the explanations and remind himself why the correct answers were correct and why the incorrect answers were incorrect. As an example, here are his scores for the Managing Risk quiz, which he took only twice.
- July 25 2:18 am 40%
- July 25 2:25 am 90%
Notice that he finished the second quiz within 7 minutes of finishing the first quiz. This equates to about 21 seconds per question. This is enough time to remember the answers for questions someone just reviewed. However, it isn’t enough time for most people to go through all the questions reminding himself why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.
When you plan to take the Security+ exam, your study practices may be a good predictor of whether or not it will be the best of test taking days or not. I encourage you to implement these steps in your studies, no matter what materials you use.
* Just as Charles Dickens tells the story of two men experiencing the same time period in astonishingly different ways (A Tale of Two Cities), Lisa and Bart experienced the same day differently as they took the Security+ exam.