Passing the CompTIA Security+ Exam

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.

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

From Professor Messer (PM)
SY0-501 Security+ Training Course – YouTube
Course Notes PDF – Print $40, Digital $25

There were a few networking questions that these guides didn’t go over, so make sure you learn more than the basics. You can check out Prof. Messer’s networking course on YouTube.

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 then 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.)
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.)

10. On LinkedIn, add this to your summary and resume – “CompTIA Security+ – expected Jan 2020” or “In Progress: Security+”.

11. Listen to DG’s audio files. Start with Remember This, Chapter Reviews, then Q&As. Keep listening over and over until test day.

Test Day

1. Eat breakfast and drink water.

2. Bring 2 forms of ID with you.

3. Get there early so you can 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. (My anemic friends, layer up.)

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, make sure you 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. They’re 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


Atlanta-based Digital PM & Implementation Consultant. Loves long walks at record stores + helping service providers simplify operations and launch online projects without tech stress. Liked this post? Join the Brief Gems email list to get more content like this delivered to your inbox!

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