How to Pass CompTIA Security+ Exam

Please note this post is from 2019 and for the SY0-501 which expires July 31, 2021. SY0-601 launched in Nov 2020 and will expire in 2023.

Planning on taking the CompTIA Security+ exam in 2020?

Here are some tips and resources I used to pass in November. This may seem like a lot, but since I’m coming from a non-traditional background (no degree, no IT experience) and didn’t want to pay another $300, I wanted to make sure I pass the first time.

This post contains affiliate links, this means I receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase using one of my links. Thanks for your support!

What I used:

From Darril Gibson (DG)

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

Kindle $10, Paperback $30, or rent it for free

CompTIA SY0-601 Study Guide

Audio Files (Remember This, Chapter Reviews, Q&A) – $18

From Professor Messer (PM)

SY0-501 Security+ Training Course – YouTube

**SY0-601 Security+ Training Course – YouTube**

Course Notes PDF – Print $40, Digital $25

SY0-601 Security+ Course

Find CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 books on Amazon

Want a more recent post on passing the 601? Read this great post – How I Passed the CompTIA Security+ Certification.

Study Plan

  1. Get the printed Course Notes from PM.
  2. Visual learners: Watch PM’s YT videos while going through the notes (write notes while you watch, change Playback Speed to 1.25 or 1.5)
  3. Review notes during free time.
  4. When you’re ready to move on, get DG’s Study Guide. Read the Introduction, then take the pre-assessment test.
  5. Take your time and read every chapter when you can. Highlight/underline important things. (You can write down your notes and just the Chapter Reviews.)
  6. Go through the labs for each chapter. This will help you with performance-based questions. Make sure you pay attention to Chapter 4 in DG’s book. They’re drag and drop questions that look similar to Figure 4.3 & 4.6. (More info – DG’s Performance-based questions & DG’s Blog Links)
  7. Take the tests at the end of every chapter. Go over the answer key and read why your answer is right or wrong.
  8. When you’re done, take the post-assessment test. (Suggestion – you can use DG’s guide as a reference and add what’s missing from PM’s Course Notes (charts, tables, port numbers). Way easier to carry the 100-page book than DG’s 600+ guide.)
  9. Purchase the voucher (Don’t forget to use the 10% discount code from DG.) and schedule the test when you think you’ll be ready. (You can always push it back, so no worries.)
  10. Check-in weekly to make sure the location didn’t close down or moved. (Went to change my test date and found out I couldn’t take the exam there anymore.)
  11. On LinkedIn, add this to your summary and resume – “CompTIA Security+ – expected Jan 2021” or “In Progress: Security+”.
  12. Listen to DG’s audio files. Start with Remember This, Chapter Reviews, then Q&As. Keep listening over and over until test day.

RelatedHow to create a study plan in Asana (my AWS SAA study plan), try Network Chuck’s IT Study Tracker in Notion, Security – YouTube playlist (there are a few videos in this playlist that can help you build your portfolio and share on Linkedin and your resume)

Test Day

  1. Eat breakfast and drink water.
  2. Bring 2 forms of ID with you.
  3. Get there early so you can go over your notes. Listen to the Remember This audio files from DG. (It’s about 1hr and 20 minutes long if listen to all chapters.)
  4. You’ll sign in and show your IDs. They’ll have a locker for you to put your hat, phone, and jacket.
  5. They’ll take your picture and then give you something to write on – write down port numbers and protocols or whatever you need to remember.
  6. When the exam begins, save those performance-based questions for last.
  7. Read the questions carefully. Not sure about a question? Flag it and try again later. Once you go through everything, you’ll have a chance to review those flagged questions. It’s mostly drag and drop, so read the question and think it through.
  8. But wait… there’s more! You have to answer 12 more questions about your background before you can see results. (Career, demographics, etc)
  9. After that, you finally get your results. congratulations!
  10. Get up and grab your Exam Score Report on the way out. It’ll have your Candidate ID, score/ Pass or Fail, questions you missed, and what you need to review. Plus, instructions on how to request a paper certificate or view/print your certificate online.
  11. Now it’s time to share your news on your social media accounts.
  12. Don’t forget to update your resume, profiles/bios, job sites, LinkedIn (summary, tagline, and add the certificate to your profile).

Tips and Resources

If you’ve taken the exam or plan on taking it, tell me what resources you used to study. Also, if this post was helpful, I’d love to hear from you after you pass! Find me on LinkedIn so I can send my congrats!

Security+ Renewal

Your Security+ certification expires 3 years after you pass the exam. Within those 3 years, make sure you’re keeping track of your continuing education units (CEUs). You can take courses related to security, take other CompTIA certs like Linux+ or Cloud+, or pass non-CompTIA exams like Microsoft, AWS, Cisco, or Google. You will need to have 50 CEUs and to pay $150 (or $50/year) for certification renewal (or you would have to take the exam all over again). Learn more here.

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