Are You Ready for Test Day?

Posted by in Security+ | 4 comments

If you’re getting ready to take a certification exam, you’re probably asking yourself “Am I ready?”

It’s a good question to ask. No one wants to take the same certification exam more than once.

Many people ask me if they’re ready. As an example, I recently received this query from a reader.

I attached hereto the test preparation results for your viewing. Do you
think I am prepared to take the exam… ?

It’s not an easy question to answer intelligently.

Does Your Practice Test Score Matter?

Practice test scores can be a good measure of your readiness, but they can also be misleading. Here are two examples of people studying for the Security+ exam.

Lisa is Learning

Lisa picked up a copy of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide, which covers all of the exam objectives, and she read it to understand the content.

When a topic wasn’t clear to her, she searched the Internet for answers, and read multiple blog posts.

She then began taking practice test questions from an online test bank. When she missed a question, she dug into the explanation to understand why she missed it.

After going through the test bank multiple times, her knowledge and understanding increased, and her scores steadily increased. Ultimately, she was scoring more than 90% with the practice test.

More, when looking at the questions she knew why the correct answers were correct, and why the incorrect answers were incorrect. (People that do this are able to interpret the questions and can correctly answer most of them, no matter how they are worded.) 

Lisa is ready.

She took the exam and passed the first time she took it.

Maggie is Memorizing

Maggie decided she didn’t have time to read a study guide so she skipped it. Instead, she found some practice test questions online and began going through them.

When she missed a question, she looked for key words in the question and tried to match them with the correct answer.

As she went through the test bank multiple times, she slowly memorized the correct answers for the questions, and her scores steadily increased. Ultimately, she was scoring more than 90% with the practice test.

With these test scores, Maggie convinced herself that she was ready.

However, she did not gain much knowledge and didn’t gain a better understanding of the test content.

When she took the test she saw many questions with similar phrases. She found the memorized answer and picked it.

Unfortunately, she didn’t notice the subtle wording differences in the questions. These differences changed the question and the correct answer.

Maggie failed.

Are You Ready

Prerequisites Matter

Certification exams have both recommended and required prerequisites. These are important guides.

As an example, CompTIA mentions these recommended prerequisites for the Security+ exam.

  • CompTIA Network+
  • Two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus

If you don’t have these recommended prerequisites, you’ll need to spend more time studying. 

In contrast, consider someone with the CompTIA Network+ certification (and many more certifications), along with ten years of IT experience, specializing in security roles for the last few years. This person can prepare for the exam much quicker.

Are You Ready?

So, what is the best answer for this query?

I attached hereto the test preparation results for your viewing. Do you
think I am prepared to take the exam… ?

Only you can answer this because only you know how much you understand. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Is my study method more like Lisa’s or Maggie’s?
    If you’re studying like Maggie, consider changing or be prepared to take the exam more than once.
  • Do I meet the prerequisites?
    If you don’t, build in extra time to study and master the content.

 “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

– Various






  1. Just wanted to stop by to say that I passed the Sec+ today in no small part due to your book & all the premium content. Thank you so much for the excellent material!

    • Congratulations on the pass. That’s always great to hear and good to know that the book and premium content helped you. Good luck with your next adventure.

  2. I recently passed the Security+ test and wanted to share some advice and tips for future test takers.

    How I prepared.

    1) I read from cover to cover Security+ (SY0-401) Study Guide.
    2) I took all the practice tests in the study guide until I was averaging over 90%. If I got an answer wrong I re-read the specific section of that chapter in the study guide. Understand why the right answer is right and the wrong answer is wrong.
    3) I also watched Professor Messer’s Security+ videos on specific topics I was not comfortable with. This is a great resource for learning the material.
    4) I used the Get Certified Get Ahead web site.
    5) I repeatedly took all the practice tests on until I was scoring over 90%.

    Remember, if you get practice test answer wrong, understand why the right answer is right and the wrong answer is wrong.

    You MUST know the fundamentals of each and every section in the CompTIA security plus exam objectives. If you rely solely on practice tests, you will not pass the test.

    Tips for taking the test.

    1) On your way to the testing center, repeatedly say to yourself… “I’m will pass this test”
    2) Get there early and skim all the “Remember this” sections in Security+ Study Guide
    3) Relax, relax, relax
    4) Read ALL the instructions for navigating the performance based questions.
    5) Read each question twice and and look for keywords to help you determine the correct answer.
    6) 80% of the exam questions will be foreign (not like any of the practice tests or quizzes) so use the process of elimination

    Good luck!

    • Congratulations on the pass. Great advice to all.

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