How to Interpret Performance-Based Questions

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If you’re preparing for a CompTIA exam such as the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of how to interpret performance-based questions.

They don’t test new knowledge. However, they test the knowledge in a slightly different way.

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CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including information on the number of questions, test duration, passing score, types of questions and more. Also includes a listing of the exam objectives)
  • 75 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Identity and Access Management (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Network Technologies and Tools (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Comparing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Common Attacks (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Protecting Against Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Using Risk Management Tools (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Controls to Protect Assets (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography and PKI (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Policies to Mitigate Risks (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • 75 question post-assessment exam
  • Glossary

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Random 75-question tests

Random practice tests from the all of the practice test questions in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

3 sets Performance-based Questions

Three new sets of performance-based questions with a total of 30 questions. These new questions use a new testing engine that includes realistic drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions.

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Audio from the end of chapter reviews from each of the chapters in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. Over one hour and 40 minutes of additional audio.

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

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How to Interpret Performance-Based Questions as a Matrix

As an example, consider the following matrix.

 Classification Fill-in-the-Blank Usage
 Letter___ Name
 Number___Count
Character___Special

Can you fill in the table if you’re given the following three potential answers?

  • C
  • 5
  • $

In other words, do you know that letters are A to Z, numbers are 0 to 9, and special characters are the other characters that are neither numbers nor letters?

If you do, you know how to interpret performance-based questions and the question is trivial.

 Classification Fill-in-the-Blank Usage
 LetterC Name
 Number5 Count
Character$ Special

However, what if you didn’t understand the concepts of letters, numbers, and characters? If you were taking practice test questions to prepare for a question like this, what would you do with this question?

Can you fill in the table if you’re given the following three potential answers?

  • 3
  • #
  • Z

You might complain that the test was tricky because it was using different numbers, letters and characters. You might complain that the practice test questions didn’t prepare you for these tricky questions.

Of course it is possible to create multiple questions to test more possibilities. Here are a few:

Can you fill in the table if you’re given the following three potential answers?

  • &
  • 1
  • e

Can you fill in the table if you’re given the following three potential answers?

  • G
  • 8
  • @

Can you fill in the table if you’re given the following three potential answers?

  • D
  • 1
  • *

However, most people (me included) would find answering an endless number of these questions painful. Indeed, most people could study a practice test question like this, review the concepts of letters (A to Z), numbers (0 to 9), and special characters (the other characters that are neither numbers nor letters) and be fully prepared for any type of question like this. They know how to interpret performance-based questions.

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide

The 501 Version of the Study Guide

The CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide is an update to the top-selling SY0-201, SY0-301, and SY0-401 study guides, which have helped thousands of readers pass the exam the first time they took it.  It includes the same elements readers raved about in the previous three 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.



Over 300 realistic practice test questions with in-depth explanations will help you test your comprehension and readiness for the exam. The book includes:

  • A 75 question pre-test
  • A 75 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 SY0-501 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.

How to Interpret Performance-Based Questions With Access Controls

You can look at this from another perspective that has more meaning within the context of the Security+ exam. As an example, consider this practice test question that covers some access controls.

Q. Homer is the day-time nuclear power plant manager and should only be allowed to access classified documents during his working hours. Personnel within the IT department should be able to access materials they need, but should not be able to access materials used by personnel in the nuclear engineer department. Only nuclear engineers with the label of Meltdown should be able to access highly classified material with the same label.

Fill in the table with the following available answers:

  • Departments
  • Meltdown
  • Time-based Restriction
  • Nuclear engineers
  • Homer
     Component  Your Answer 
     Role-Based Access Control ___
     Mandatory Access Control  ___
     Nuclear Power Plant Manager  ___

    Note that all of the available answers will not be used. However, you must meet all of the requirements.


This question requires you to understand some basic access control models. All of the access control models are covered in Chapter 1 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. There are also some blog posts that cover some relevant content with extra practice test questions such as:

  • Implementing Security Labels
    The blog includes a practice test question and discusses how security labels are typically used within a trusted operating system.
  • Role-based Access Control
    This blog gives some specific examples of how RBAC is used with groups and roles.

So, do you know the answer?

The scenario has three primary requirements. They are:

  1. Homer, the Nuclear Power Plant Manager should only be allowed to access classified documents during his working hours.
    This is a time-based restriction. The answer for Nuclear Power Plant Manager is Time-based Restriction.
  2. Personnel in different departments should only be able to access materials they need.
    This is a Role-based Access Control. Access is based on the departments where users work. In practice, users are typically put into specific groups related to their assigned department.
  3. Only engineers with the Meltdown label should be allowed to access highly classified material with the same label.
    This is a Mandatory Access Control. In a Mandatory Access Control, access is based on labels and in this question, the access is based on the Meltdown label.

Unused Answers

  • While Homer is a Nuclear Power Plant Manager, matching his name to Nuclear Power Plant Manager does not implement any security requirement.
  • While Nuclear engineers might be a role, group, or department within the organization, it is only one role, group, or department. If you match it to Role-Based-Access Control, it ignores the requirement for personnel in the IT department.

If you filled in the table with your answers, they would look like this:

 Component  Your Answer 
 Role-Based Access ControlDepartments
 Mandatory Access Control  Meltdown
 Nuclear Power Plant Manager  Time-based Restriction

Security+ Practice Test Questions

SY0-501 Practice Test Questions 

Over 300 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.

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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 - 75 random questions. View 75 random questions from the full test bank similar to how the Security+ exam has a potential maximum of 75 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.

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 SY0-501 Practice Test Questions


INCLUDES QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU PREPARE

FOR THE NEW PERFORMANCE BASED QUESTIONS 

Bonus - Performance Based Questions

Three sets of performance-based questions including over 30 questions. These questions show you what you can expect in the live exam. They include drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions. See a demo here.

Bonus - Extra Practice Test Questions

New multiple-choice questions in the extra test bank. Questions are added occasionally. You can see what has been added recently here.

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How to Interpret Performance-Based Questions Summary

When preparing for any exam, the goal is to understand the content. If you only remember things like a number is “5” you will likely be confused by a question that tests your knowledge about the number “9”. In contrast, if you understand that any character between 0 and 9 is a number, you can answer any questions about numbers.

Ideally, you should be able to look at any practice test question and identify why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. This way, you’ll be able to answer the questions no matter how CompTIA words them. It takes time. However, it takes a lot longer if you have to take the test again.

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