CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst Beta Exam

I just got back from taking the Cybersecurity Analyst beta exam. I won’t violate the non-disclosure agreement, but wanted to share some thoughts with readers.

Darril - What did you use to study?

Since posting this, I’ve been flooded with questions about what I used to study for this exam. Here are a couple.

How was it and how did you prepare for it?

Can you provide a good book for a study aide in preparing for it or is one not available yet?

and paraphrasing

I was thinking about taking xxx, but was thinking about a cybersecurity exam first. What do you think?

How was it? Check out this blog post for my notes.

It’s a beta exam so there aren’t any books or study aides directly related to it. CompTIA states on its web site “No exam objectives are available for the beta. The beta exam parameters are subject to change without notice.”

My study was largely from my experience authoring these books.

The steps outlined in this blog post are very useful too.

Without objectives, it isn’t something I can recommend. However, if you’re looking to round out you knowledge with a cybersecurity certification, I recommend the CyberSec First Responder certification. It’s been around for a while and it has objectives that you can study.

Cybersecurity Analyst Beta Basics

This blog post covered some of the basics on the beta exam, including the cost ($50 in the US) and how to register.

The CompTIA site includes more details here. Unfortunately, they state that “no exam objectives are available for the beta.”

Length of test165 minutes (which included any time providing comments for multiple choice questions)
Number of questions103
Type of questionsMultiple choice and performance-based
Number of people taking exam400 (beta period will stop after 400 people take exam)
RegistrationPearson Vue web site (you need a Pearson Vue account)
ResultsBeta testers will be informed if they passed or failed the exam in Fall 2016 after the responses and comments of all test takers have been analyzed.
Recommended experienceNetwork+, Security+ or equivalent knowledge. Minimum of 2-3 years of hands-on information security or related experience.

Cybersecurity Analyst Beta Experience

I was hit with five performance-based questions right off the bat. I followed my own advice that I give for the Security+ exam. I skipped them and I’m glad I did, they were quite challenging and complex.

My intention was to read them, but the first one was difficult to understand and after a moment, I just decided to skip through all five. The remaining 98 questions were multiple choice with some that required you to select two correct answers.

Cybersecurity Analyst Beta Multiple-Choice Questions

Many multiple-choice questions were clear with a three sentence format similar to what I described in this post and this video.

The basic format was:

  • Scenario
  • Requirement
  • Question

That said, many of the questions were still complex, especially when compared to what I’ve seen on the Security+ exam.

I did notice what appeared to be grammatical errors in the answers. Ultimately, I thought that was due to the questions and the correct answer getting the most attention, while proofers may have just scanned the incorrect answers. With this in mind, if the correct answer wasn’t clear, I eliminated possible answers with grammatical errors.

Another challenge was the large number of acronyms used in both the questions and answers. There were a few times when I thought I knew the best answer, but one of the answers had an unfamiliar acronym making me wonder if I was choosing the correct answer.

Cybersecurity Analyst Beta Performance-Based Questions

The five questions I had were quite complex and challenging. I didn’t track the time, but wouldn’t be surprised if I spent more than five minutes on each one. However, doing them after I had completed the 98 multiple choice questions reduced my stress level. I didn’t feel rushed and still finished the exam with about 20 minutes to spare.

These questions did include instructions that explained everything. The challenge I had was that they were so complex that it took quite a while to figure out what was required. Additionally, there was too much information to display on the screen. As an example, consider the following image of a monitor. There was typically some type of graphic along with some visual cues and text boxes that covered part of the graphic.

Cybersecurity Analyst+ Beta

On the monitor I had, the full screen wasn’t used, leaving large blank space on the right and left. However, the center was quite busy and I found myself moving things around just to see the underlying details necessary to answer the questions.

Cybersecurity Analyst+ Beta

I’ve added some numbers to explain some of the items in this figure.

  1. Notice the white highlight around the desktop PC labeled 1. This provides a visual clue that it is a clickable item.
  2. The blank box next to the server labeled 2 indicates it is an item that you can select if it is the correct answer.
  3. Item 3 is information related to the question. You typically have to click something to make this appear.
  4. Item 4 is the question details. I often tried to move it up so that I could see the bottom right quadrant of the screen. Unfortunately, when I did so, it automatically grew covering up the bottom right quadrant of the screen again.

Cybersecurity Analyst Beta Summary

The Cybersecurity Analyst Beta exam went live June 30, 2016. You can register to take it for $50 and if you do, you’ll find out if you passed some time this fall. The multiple-choice questions were often detailed and complex but usually clear enough to answer. The performance-based questions seemed overly complex, especially for the amount of space on the screen. However, a good strategy is to skip them and come back to them later.

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