study for security plus - a comprehensive guide

The Security+ exam is one of the most popular certifications for professionals starting careers in cybersecurity. Globally recognized and administered by CompTIA, the Security+ validates that you have the required skills to pursue a career in IT security. Given the comprehensive foundation that the certification provides, how long it takes to study for Security+ can vary significantly based on factors including your learning style, level of experience, and more.

In this comprehensive guide, we aim to clarify the preparation timeline for the Security+ exam. Whether you’re entirely new to the field of cybersecurity or already have some experience, it’s worth understanding the factors that influence study time. From assessing your current level of expertise to incorporating effective study strategies and choosing the right resources, this article helps you prepare and puts you in a better position for Security+ certification success.

Understanding Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification serves as a benchmark for cybersecurity proficiency, covering a wide range of topics and skills crucial for security professionals. In this section, we’ll go over what the Security+ covers, who the certification is suitable for, and why it’s important.

What does Security+ cover?

Security+ explores foundational aspects of cybersecurity, covering the following areas (all of which are essential for cybersecurity professionals):

  • Threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities: Identification and mitigation of a variety of security threats and vulnerabilities, including the ability to analyze indicators of compromise.
  • Technologies and tools: Utilization of a range of security tools and technologies to secure networks, manage secure architectures, and conduct forensic analysis.
  • Architecture and design: Principles of secure system architecture and design, including an understanding of secure deployment methods and controls to mitigate threats.
  • Identity and access management: Implementation of identity and access management practices, ensuring proper authentication, authorization, and access controls.
  • Risk management: Development and application of risk management strategies, understanding of business impact, and disaster recovery and incident response planning.
  • Cryptography and PKI: Application of cryptographic techniques and an understanding of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to protect data in transit and at rest.

Who is the Security+ certification for?

The Security+ certification is aimed at individuals at the early stages of their cybersecurity career or IT professionals looking to shift towards security-focused roles. It’s ideal for those looking to establish a solid foundation in cybersecurity. This may be entry-level IT professionals, career changers, or students.

Why Security+ is important

In today’s digital age, cybersecurity is a critical concern for organizations across all industries. The Security+ certification does the following:

  • Validates skills: Confirms candidates have the practical skills and knowledge to address security issues.
  • Builds foundations: Provides a comprehensive overview of cybersecurity principles and practices, laying a solid foundation for further specialization.
  • Enhances career prospects: Security+ is recognized globally and can open doors to a wide range of security-related job roles and opportunities for advancement.
  • Meets industry standards: Security+ is compliant with ISO 17024 standards and approved by the US Department of Defense, making it a respected and required certification for cybersecurity roles within government.

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Factors influencing study time

When preparing for the Security+, the amount of time needed to study can vary significantly from one person to another. Several key factors influence the duration of study time required to understand the concepts and skills tested by the exam. Understanding these factors can help you create a more personalized and efficient study plan.

Relevant experience

If you have a background in IT, especially in network administration or information security, you may find the Security+ material more familiar and require less study time as a result. Or it may be that you’ve already taken a course related to cybersecurity, completed other security certifications, or self-studied cybersecurity topics. In all cases, this may reduce the time required to prepare for the Security+ certification.

Learning style

People learn differently. While some prefer reading books or watching videos (visual), others benefit from lectures or discussions (auditory). Some require hands-on experience (kinesthetic). Identifying your learning style can help you adjust your study approach and make it more efficient. Effective study habits can reduce the time required to learn material. This might include regular review sessions, flashcards, or practice exams.

Study materials

The access and availability of study materials including books, online courses, and practice exams can impact how quickly and effectively you can prepare for the Security+ exam. Practical experience, be it through virtual labs or real-world practice, is crucial for understanding security concepts and tools. By providing deeper understanding, it can help reduce the time it takes to study for the Security+.

Time commitment

Of course, the amount of time you can dedicate on a daily or weekly basis will influence the overall duration of the study period. Consistent, focused study sessions are likely to be more effective than sporadic and lengthy cramming sessions. Work, family, and personal responsibilities can limit study time and result in it being extended.

How long to study for Security+

With the above in mind, it’s fair to say that there’s no definitive answer as to how long it takes to study for the Security+ certification. The more experience and knowledge you have, the more study resources you have access to, and the more time you have to dedicate for studying can all have an impact on time taken.

However, based on the experiences posted online of those that have taken the Security+ exam, you can generally expect to study for four to six weeks, provided you have some prior knowledge and experience. Otherwise, you may need more time, perhaps as much as three to six months to learn the concepts and skills tested by the exam.

Resources for studying for Security+

Preparing for the Security+ exam also requires selecting the appropriate study materials. The right resources can make a significant difference in understanding concepts covered in the exam. By studying more efficiently, you can potentially save time studying for Security+ and hopefully pass the first attempt without the need for time-consuming (and costly) exam retakes.

Here’s a guide to some of the most effective resources available for Security+:

Books and eBooks

The official CompTIA Security+ Study Guide covers all of the exam objectives and is updated regularly to reflect the latest exam syllabus and cybersecurity trends. The study guide includes practical examples and insights, review questions and practice tests, and study tools and resources. It’s priced at $159 at the time of writing, although for just $10 extra you can get a paperback print version. Note that you can also find third-party guides such as CompTIA Security+ Get Certified Get Ahead by Darril Gibson.

Online courses and tutorials

CompTIA’s CertMaster Learn ($561) is an interactive eLearning platform offering a comprehensive course tailored to the Security+ exam, including lessons, videos, and practice questions. Both Udemy and LinkedIn Learning are platforms featuring courses on Security+ exam preparation. These are often taught by experienced instructors who can provide valuable insights and strategies.

Practice exams and simulations

ExamCompass and Crucial Exams offer free practice questions and exams that simulate the format and difficulty of the Security+ test. CompTIA’s CertMaster Practice is an online companion tool that helps reinforce knowledge and skills acquired, providing practice questions and feedback based on performance. It costs $211 at the time of writing.

Training platforms

StationX offers a comprehensive suite of cybersecurity courses, including for Security+. Its CompTIA Security+ Certification Course is designed to prepare you for the exam as well as equip you with the practical skills needed for a career in cybersecurity. One of the advantages of this course is that you can take it at your own pace. You’ll also have unlimited access for as long as you like. If at all unsatisfied, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.

StationX Apr 2024 CompTIA+, AWS, CCSK, CCSP, GCSATested Apr 2024

Peer study groups and forums

Online communities such as the CompTIA subreddit or cybersecurity Discord channels can provide support, insights, and resources shared by fellow exam candidates as well as certified professionals. You could even check if there are any local meetups or study groups in your area. Engaging with peers can offer motivation, different perspectives, and clarification on more complex topics.

Security+: FAQs

What should I know about the Security+ exam?

The duration of the Security+ exam is 90 minutes. In that time, you’ll need to answer 90 questions. These questions are a mix of multiple choice and performance based questions (PBQs). The PBQs test your ability to solve problems in real-world settings and can be delivered as simulations or within virtual environments. The Security+ exam currently costs $404 (you’ll need to purchase the exam voucher to gain access).

How often is the Security+ exam updated?

CompTIA updates the Security+ exam every three years to ensure it remains relevant to the latest cybersecurity trends, technologies, and practices. It’s important to check the CompTIA website for the most current exam version when you begin your studies. There are multiple ways to renew your certification, be it through training, certification and recertification exams, or activities.

Can I retake the Security+ exam if I don’t pass the first time?

Yes, you can retake the exam. CompTIA has a retake policy that allows you to retake the exam without having to wait, although this is only after the first attempt. For any subsequent attempts, there’s a 14-day waiting period (from the date of your last attempt). Note also that CompTIA doesn’t offer any free retakes or even discounts for retakes. You have to pay the full exam price with each attempt.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Security+ certification?

There are no formal prerequisites for taking the Security+ exam. However, CompTIA recommends candidates have at least two years of experience in IT administration with a security focus and to have already earned the Network+ certification or possess equivalent knowledge.