Cybersecurity skills are at a premium in the Washington DC region. IT professionals with the ability to assess the cyber threat landscape are in demand. CompTIA’s CySA+ Certification demonstrates you are ready to take on higher levels of responsibility in the industry. Still, before you commit to training, you want to know how hard is the CySA+ exam, and can I do it?
Learn more about CySA+ and what is expected in the exam.
What is a Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA)?
As described by CompTIA, a cybersecurity analyst is: “a trained cyber professional who specializes in network and IT infrastructure security. The cybersecurity analyst thoroughly understands cyberattacks, malware, and the behavior of cybercriminals, and actively seeks to anticipate and prevent these attacks.”
That sentence encompasses many skills! From the definition alone, you can see that this certification demands a bit more than superficial knowledge. It requires an ability to perceive what you are seeing and how it might be used to thwart your security or defensive measures. It also indicates you know many tools that are specific to these tasks.
As you might have guessed, this certification follows CompTIA’s A+, Network+, and Security+ in the continuation of understanding our industry and its vulnerabilities and defenses. CySA+ is one step below the coveted CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) certification as the fourth step in the CompTIA series.
With so many high-profile companies, government agencies, and military installations based in Washington DC and Maryland, it’s not hard to understand why CySA+ certified practitioners are in demand.
What are the requirements to pass the CySA Exam?
As specified by CompTIA’s documentation, you need to be able to analyze and interpret data, identify and address vulnerabilities, suggest preventive measures, leverage intelligence, and threat detection techniques, and effectively respond to and recover from incidents.
It also specifies that you should have four years of experience in the security field. This is a tall order but is suggested to enhance your chances of passing the exam.
Your understanding of the concepts in this course assumes you took the previous three and therefore did not need to re-learn them. This course expands on them. CySA+ is not recommended as your first IT certification attempt.
The exam contains both multiple-choice questions, drag and drop type questions, and performance-based questions. These are like scenarios and provide information and require you to perform some action based on the presented scenario. Here is where the understanding of the concepts and principles learned comes in. If you have no previous experience or no idea what they are talking about, passing these performance-based questions is exceedingly difficult.
The maximum number of questions, again according to CompTIA, is eighty-five. You have 165 minutes to take the exam and need a score of at least 750 on a scale of 1 to 900.
How hard is the CySA+ Exam?
This is a very subjective question and one that requires discussion to answer. It is entirely dependent upon your understanding of the material, your experience, and your ability to accomplish all the things listed in the requirements above.
This is a challenging test, as it does require a higher level of experience and understanding of the issues and their impacts than previous tests in the series.
The performance-based questions appear to me to have a higher weight than other questions in the test (this is based upon a personal feeling) and are the newest addition of question types on all the CompTIA tests. They are genuinely relevant as they do reflect much more clearly the real-world readiness a candidate presents to a potential employer, and CompTIA is striving to be “more relevant in the real world.”
Another reason this is a hard question to answer is that we all learn differently. We all have different experiences, particularly in the IT industry.
I have had a wealth of experience in this field and have had almost every job available. That gives me a completely distinct perspective from someone new to the industry. Some of my students that work in this every day think the test is “easy.” (Their term, not mine). Others think it is pretty difficult, primarily because they do not have a lot of firsthand experience, so each test taker is different in many ways.
What can I do to best prepare for this Certification Exam?
My number one recommendation is to attend an instructor-led CySA+ class at Trainace! (Okay, I may be a bit biased here), but having someone to bounce questions against, someone who has the experience doing this job, is especially important.
Another essential trait is Curiosity. Why does this work like this; why did this work; why didn’t it work? Given a set of indications, what is happening here? These are all fundamental questions to be able to answer for yourself. It will force you to take extra time to find out the answers, which will enhance your understanding of the issue and its’ resolution.
Many historians have written concerning conflicts and the best way to wage against them and win. Most agree that “knowing the enemy” is crucial in devising plans to defeat them. This course goes a long way to helping you understand what is happening. If you understand your adversary, his tactics, techniques, and plans, you stand a much better chance of seeing the indicators of compromise so much of our responses depend upon.
And, as always, practice, practice, practice.