This exam expired on 12/31/2011. A new version of this exam (SY0-301) is now available. Read more about it at this page.

"The CompTIA Security+ certification tests an IT person's knowledge of computer security, network security, and security policies and procedures. It is recommended that examinees have two years of technical IT experience and the Network+ certification before attempting the exam."

Exam Details

To obtain the Security+ certification you must pass one exam. The exam is called: SY0-201. Here's a quick breakdown of the exam specifications:

Exam Questions Time Allowed Passing Score Cost
SY0-201 100 90 minutes 750 $266

The passing score of 750 is graded on a scale of 100-900. This can be roughly equated to answering 81% correct on the exam. This exam is considered to be more difficult than the A+ and Network+ exams and is usually taken third of the three. CompTIA expects a person to have a solid understanding of networking before attempting the Sec+ exam.

The content of the exam is described by CompTIA in an objectives document. You can download the objectives (in .PDF format) by clicking the following link:

SY0-201 Objectives

Or, by clicking here and filling out the form.

The Security+ objectives are broken down into 6 domains. Each domain covers a particular percentage of the exam as shown below:

  • 1.0 Systems Security (21%)
  • 2.0 Network Infrastructure (20%)
  • 3.0 Access Control (17%)
  • 4.0 Assessments & Audits (15%)
  • 5.0 Cryptography (15%)
  • 6.0 Organizational Security (12%)

It's important to study all of the domains, and all of the objectives within each domain. Exam questions can come from any of the objectives.

Security+ Exam costs and how to save money

The cost of the Security+ exam shown in the previous table is for exams taken in the United States. (For a list of global prices, see this link). This fee is not paid directly to CompTIA however. You must register for, and schedule the exam with either Sylvan Prometric or Pearson Vue. These organizations administer the exams at a testing facility near you, so they are the ones to be paid. You can register online or by phone. Be sure to have a credit card ready and your Social Security#. If you do not have a Social Security number and this is your first exam, the testing agency will assign you an examinee number. Be sure to take two forms of ID (one with photo, both signed) to the testing center on the day of your exam. For help on how to pass any exam, see my article at this link.

One sure way to save yourself money in the long run is to not rush the exam. Only take the exam when you are fully ready. How will you know? You should be passing your practice exams with scores of 85% or higher. If your study guide only has one practice exam, consider purchasing a second study guide, or additional practice exams. You should also be able to define any key word that is listed in your study guide and the acronyms listed in the objectives. You should also create some kind of cheat sheet (which I show how to create in my books) from which to do last minute study. By doing these things, you give yourself a much better chance of passing. remember, if you fail a certification exam, you will have to pay for it and take it all over again!

Save Money With Discount Vouchers!
Certification prices can be steep. Consider discount vouchers! When you buy a discount voucher from an authorized organization such as GetCertify4Less you can save a decent amount of money, an average of at least $10 per exam. After payment, the voucher company e-mails you a voucher number. You then use this number when registering with the VUE or Prometric testing agency. The vouchers are valid for 1 year. It's an extra step, but it's really worth it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Quite often I get questions from students and readers about the best ways to prepare for the Security+. The following details some of the most common questions and my answers and recommendations. Keep in mind that these are general recommendations that work for most people, but that some people will have special circumstances. If you have questions that are not covered here, or have questions about my books, feel free to contact me.

Q: Why get the CompTIA Security+ certification?

A: The Security+ certification is a stepping stone into the security field. It provides an excellent foundation for IT professionals whether they want to find a job in network security, or train for more advanced security certifications such as CISSP or Checkpoint. By adding the Security+ certification to a resume, a person can expect more interest from employers when applying for jobs. Also, many organizations require that their current employees stay current with the latest security certifications, including the Sec+.

Q: What kind of experience and pre-requisites should I have before attempting the CompTIA Security+ exam?

A: CompTIA recommends that a person has 2 years of experience in the IT Field. However, many people take the exam with less experience. It is also recommended that the Network+ certification be attained first.

Q: Should I take a class on Security+?

A: If you do not have the recommended 2 years of experience in the field, then I recommend an instructor-led CompTIA Security+ course. An on-site course where you can learn in a hands-on manner from a dedicated instructor in a classroom. I also recommend a class in networking (preferably a Network+ course) if you don't have much networking experience. The networking course should be taken before the security course.

Security+ courses can be taken at county and community colleges, technical schools, and even some high schools. Click the search button below to find Security+ training centers in your area.


Q: Should I set up a home lab? And if so, what equipment should I use?

A: You should definitely have a home-lab. This lab should not include the computer you have for everyday use. I recommend an entire network that you can practice securing as well as one computer that you can use for virtual machine security. Consider e-bay, and computer refurbishers such as Dell Outlet or Yesterday's Business Computers (a quick Google search will aid you in your quest for more computer refurbishers). There are several different types of virtual software that can be downloaded for free; for example, Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. For information on how to use Virtual PC, see this video. For your network I recommend the D-Link DIR-655 Extreme N Gigabit Wireless Router. Learn in a hands-on manner. While it takes longer, it will benefit you greatly in the long run.

Q: What kind of, and how many study materials should I use?

A: The typical study guide is usually the best bet. I usually recommend that the reader study from two sources, in order to get the viewpoint of two different authors. This helps to increase your knowledge greatly. I recommend the my Security+ Cert Guide and the Security+ Exam Cram (shown below), but feel free to use even a third source! Video training can also be beneficial, but most people only use this as a secondary method, and not as the primary training method. I've listed a link to the Security+ Video Mentor below.

Check out these Security+ titles!
My new Security+ Cert Guide prepares you for the Sec+ exam thoroughly. With 300 questions and answers, and plenty of concise content, it's usually the only guide a person needs. But for more, check out the Security+ Exam Cram and Video Mentor!
Get yours today!

Q: How long does the certification last for?

A: As of January 1st, 2011, the Security+ certification is valid for 3 years from whenever you completed passing both exams. After 3 years, a person would need to re-certify by either taking the new exam, or by obtaining continuing education units (CEUs). CEUs can be gathered by taking classes, sitting workshops, teaching classes, taking a higher level exam, and so on. See this link for more information on how this can be accomplished. If you were certified before January 1st, 2011, your certification will remain valid for life. This also applies to the A+ and Network+ exams.

Q: Can I still take the bridge exam?

A: No, the bridge exam has been retired. In fact, CompTIA is retiring the bridge exams for each of the A+, Net+, and Sec+. This is because these exams have become 3-year renewables as of January 1st, 2011.

Q: Can I take the exam in Spanish?

A: Yes, in addition to English, the exams are administered in Spanish, German, Japanese, and Chinese. Keep in mind that you will need to pick the right language when you register for your exams.

Q: What's next after the Security+?

A: Some students decide to concentrate on getting that job. Others opt to go for more certifications such as the CISSP or other similar security certifications.

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