Certifications / CompTIA

How to Study for CompTIA Security+ in 10 Weeks

by Josh Adams
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Published on April 2, 2019

There will be many more cybersecurity job openings in the next five years than qualified professionals. That's great for any aspiring security professionals, but not so great for companies. If you want to enter this burgeoning field, CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 certification is the perfect first step.

With CBT Nuggets training and additional resources, you can learn CompTIA material and be ready to sit for the exam in 10 weeks.

We've laid out exactly how you can do that right here.

The Exam Nuts and Bolts

The CompTIA Security+ certification is designed to ensure learners have competency in the following core skills:

  • Identifying security risks

  • Participate in risk mitigation activities

  • Provide infrastructure, application, information, and operational security

  • Apply security controls to maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability

  • Troubleshoot security events and incidents

  • Operate with an awareness of applicable policies, laws, and regulations.

Security+ certification can prepare you for an information security analyst, security engineer, or security consultant role. Though, it's more likely that Security+ will help you shift laterally into security roles at your own company. In either case, if you choose to hone in on security-focused career, you'll have an excellent foundation with Security+.

CompTIA Security+ certification also meets the requirements for DOD 8750 and/or DOD 8140 baseline certifications for IAT Level II, and IAM Level I. If you've got your eye on government jobs, Security+ certification is a must.

Start with CompTIA Resources

Your first step should be to explore CompTIA's website. On the SY0-501 certification overview page, you'll find an exam overview and a plethora of Security+ resources.

The official CompTIA Security+ SY0-501 certification study guide lays out everything you need to know to sit for the exam. It includes review questions, a glossary of relevant terms, and study content mapped directly to the exam objectives.

CompTIA also offers classroom training for its certification exams. However, be advised that the nearest classroom sessions to you might not be that close.

Learn Security+ Skills with CBT Nuggets

If you're unable to attend classroom training or books aren't your preferred study resource, CBT Nuggets trainer Keith Barker recently created training tied to the SY0-501 exam. Spanning 23 hours and 110 videos, Keith covers all the topics and skills needed to conquer the exam.

A CBT Nuggets subscription includes quiz questions, supplemental files, and Kaplan® IT Training practice exams associated with the Security+ SY0-501 exam. These resources supplement our video training to help you reinforce and retain information.

CBT Nuggets is also a CompTIA-approved training provider. By completing Keith's SY0-501 training, you earn 20 Continuing Education Credits (CEUs). CEUs can be used to renew any certifications you already hold with CompTIA.

Building Your Study Plan

We usually point learners interested in Security+ certification to this PDF study plan. That being said, we know everyone studies differently, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution to training. But if you're using CBT Nuggets to study for SY0-501, there are some no-brainer tips we highly recommend.

Each Nugget in our Security+ training ties to a specific skill or topic. The videos are usually no more than 10 minutes, making it easier to maintain focus and retain information. Stop the video to take notes. Take the embedded quizzes to earn Validated Minutes. And, pro tip, watch at double-speed for topics you already feel you know.

Whichever way you prefer to watch videos, we recommend supplementing it with other resources. Those include study guide books, virtual labs, and practice exams.

Kaplan® IT Training practice exams are included with a CBT Nuggets subscription. They allow you to get a feel for the real exam, including question formats and how answers are worded. Oh, and they are timed. For all these reasons, they're invaluable.

You should take advantage of the practice exams. They help you establish a knowledge baseline and test your exam readiness. You can sit for a practice exam, or answer questions in flashcard-based format, as many times as you want. We recommend sitting for practice exams at least three times: at the beginning of your studies, halfway, and right before you sit for the real deal.

Now that you're armed with resources, let's look at how you can prepare to sit for the SY0-501 exam in 10 weeks.

Week 1: Get Security+ Started

Your first week of studies for Security+ welcomes you to the course, covering the first 10 video Nuggets. They focus on IT security practices in areas including network design. There are also case studies to help you get an idea of real-world security situations you could find.

If you haven't already, visit CompTIA's SY0-501 certification page. Make sure you are aware of all the details and the available free resources.

Also, be sure to download the CBT Nuggets app to your iOS, Google Play or Android device. It'll make training on the go easier. You can even download videos to watch offline. You will have no excuse not to train — and training in spare minutes really add up.

Weekly Time Commitment: A little less than 3 hours. This includes 134 minutes of videos, 30 minutes of CompTIA site exploration, and an extra five or so minutes to get apps on your mobile devices.

Week 2: Sit for a Practice Exam

This week's content tackles virtualization, ports and protocols, and everything you should know about mobile security. Nuggets 11-19 also cover both risk overview and calculation.

Now that you're getting into the meat of your studies, consider purchasing an exam prep book to supplement your training. Do some research and pick the one that you feel will best meet your needs for the price.

The second week is also the perfect time to sit for your very first Kaplan IT Training practice exam. Don't expect to ace it, but use it as a gauge to see what you already know.

Weekly Time Commitment: About 4.5 hours. This includes 137 minutes of videos, 30 minutes of exam prep book research, and 90 minutes of practice exam testing.

Week 3: Schedule Your Exam Date

If you haven't already, it's time to schedule your SY0-501 exam with an approved testing site. Setting an exam date holds you more accountable and keeps you moving toward your study goals. Don't forget to use our CompTIA partner code, CBT2018, for a 10% discount on the exam.

This week, you'll also watch Nuggets 20 to 29, and dive into data loss prevention, incident response, and physical security.

Don't forget to review CompTIA's Security+ exam objectives. You should be getting a good feel for the exam, but it's always a good idea to know what's coming next.

Weekly Time Commitment: 3.5 hours. This includes 151 minutes of videos, 15 minutes to schedule your exam (if needed), and 30 minutes to review the exam objectives.

Week 4: Planning with Security in Mind

Week 4 is all about planning ahead. Nuggets 30-39 cover business continuity, data integrity. You'll even get to start diving into specific attack types with Keith.

You're close to the halfway point of your studies, so you should sit for another Kaplan® IT Training practice exam. Use your results to gauge what you've learned the past couple of weeks. Make sure you're retaining the relevant information. Don't expect to get 100 percent. The goal at this point is to identify areas of review the rest of the way.

Weekly Time Commitment: Almost 4 hours. This includes 137 minutes of videos and 90 minutes for a practice exam.

Week 5: Don't Get Fooled

Nuggets 40-49 dive deep into social engineering threats, attack types, and reporting metrics. This week's video training gets you up to speed on how to protect an organization's data.

If you aren't already, consider joining the CBT Nuggets Learner Community on Slack. This resource connects you to other IT pros in a forum setting where you can post questions and share study resources.

Weekly Time Commitment: 3 hours. This week is 153 minutes of videos and 30 minutes to get up and running in the Learner Community.

Week 6: A Good Craftsman Knows His Tools

This week, you'll mostly be "tooling around." Keith is covering assessment tools, penetration testing, and mobile device security in Nuggets 50-62.

This week is also the perfect time to consider registering for a free trial of CompTIA's CertMaster eLearning program. It's another resource straight from CompTIA that helps gauge your readiness through additional labs and quizzing.

Weekly Time Commitment: About 3.5 hours. This includes 147 minutes of videos and 45 minutes of registering for and using CompTIA's CertMaster.

Week 7: The Devil's in the Details

Nuggets 63-73 prepare you to take on data security, multi-factor authentication, and elements that make up a secure system.

It's also a good idea this week to review the exam details:

Your path to 750. You need to earn a score of at least 750 to pass the SY0-501 exam, but the exam is scored on a sliding scale. Use your practice exam results to gauge how close you are to the 750 mark.

90 minutes. There's a reason you've been getting 90 minutes for each practice exam. When you sit for the real Security+, you'll be cut off at 90 minutes. The number of questions varies for each test, so every second counts.

Weekly Time Commitment: A little more than 2 hours. This includes 143 minutes of videos and 30 minutes to review your past practice exam results.

Week 8: It's All About Crypto(graphy)

Week 8 is going to be your deep dive into cryptography. You'll also cover PKI and account management. But you'll mainly cover considerations, management, and cryptography algorithms.

You're in the final stretch. You're going to want support from your personal network more than ever. Share your training goals with your friends, family, and colleagues. Get ready for your last two weeks of hitting the training hard.

Weekly Time Commitment: Slightly less than 3 hours. This week's training is 146 minutes of videos. We also tacked on 30 minutes to share your certification exam journey with your professional and personal networks.

Week 9: Build Your Review Plan

This week you're working through 16 Nuggets, but we promise they'll go by quick. Videos 83-99 cover topics such as malware, network scanning, sniffing, and vulnerability scanning.

Now that you're in your second to last week of studies, sit for a final Kaplan® IT Training practice exam. At this point, you should aim to score around 90 percent on the exam, considering there's a week's worth of content left to cover. If you're scoring lower than this, take note of the sections you didn't score as well on. Use this info to guide your review next week.

Weekly Time Commitment: A little less than 4 hours. This combines 140 minutes of video training and 90 minutes for your final practice exam.

Week 10: The Last Week

You've made it to your last week of studies. This week you're going to be covering social engineering, identity management, and incident response (Nuggets 100-110). You'll cap off your final video with an all-encompassing case study to help reinforce what you've learned.

On top of the final videos, don't forget to review concepts. Briefly review any necessary training, and skim any notes, books, or flashcards you have.

Weekly Time Commitment: Almost 4.5 hours. This is a big week of training, but that's because there are 141 minutes of videos — plus at least 120 minutes for review.

Exam Day

The day you've been waiting for is here. Don't forget to get a good night's rest the night before. It's not a bad idea to check out the exam logistics one more time. Take a few minutes to reflect on all the hard work you've put in the last few months. Regardless of how you perform on the exam, you took on a big accomplishment and that's worth recognizing.

Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity can be a fulfilling career. Getting certified in security, even at the entry-level, boosts your potential exponentially for a new job or a lateral move into the space. We're talking raises, promotions, and who knows what else.

This is why CompTIA's Security+ is one of the first steps that countless IT pros recommend for those wanting to start a security journey. So get at it.


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