Wondering how to pass the CompTIA CySA+ exam? More importantly, is it worth the time to try and pass it?
In this guide, we’ll explore the CySA+ certification’s benefits, free CySA+ training materials, which CySA+ practice questions to use, and provide insights on how to pass the exam.
Hopefully by the end, you’ll have the materials you need to pass the CySA+ exam.
Is the CySA+ Certification Exam Really Worth It? (My Opinion)
Just an FYI…the expected launch date of the official CySA+ exam is June 6, 2023. If you’ve already taken the CompTIA Security+ exam, then the CySA+ certification is the next best exam to dive right into.
That’s because you’ll find some overlap between the Security+ and the CySA+. The CySA+ is a natural progression of the Security+, but it goes into more depth and has a different focus.
What do I mean by focus? While anyone can take the CySA+ certification exam, it’s really designed for security professionals that are already in, or trying to get into, the security operations domain.
Additionally, you’ll find some concepts from the CompTIA Pentest+ certification that overlap, but that’s expected due to the exam’s focus. As you read further, I’ll give you some more insight on who should and shouldn’t be taking this exam.
What Is the CompTIA CySA+ Certification?
It’s not surprising you haven’t heard of the CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) certification. It was formerly known as the CSA+ when it was originally released in 2017.
They rebranded it CySA+ due to a trademark infringement issue with another certifying organization; regardless, it’s still a relatively new certification being offered by CompTIA. The reason for this certification?
For years, CompTIA has predominantly been known for their entry level certifications. Having understood this perception, they developed the CySA+ certification, in part to break out of that mold but also to validate your knowledge of security operations.
It’s somewhat of a midpoint between the Security+ and the CompTIA CASP+ certification (an advanced level cert) but mostly with a focus on security analysis, incident response, and vulnerability management. Hopefully this will be the start of more mid-level certifications being offered by CompTIA.
Now if you’re a government employee, the CySA+ has already been listed as an approved DoD 8570 baseline certification. That’s pretty good considering the certification is quite new!
Just to add, it’s also one of only eight CompTIA certifications that’s ANSI Accredited. However, this has less to do with the actual cert but basically says the certification is being offered by a legitimate organization.
Who Is the CompTIA CySA+ Certification For?
Before even thinking about taking this intermediate-level exam, start with the CompTIA Security+ first! You’ll have a much better chance if you already have a security background.
Sure, you could make the CySA+ your first security exam; it’ll be tough but doable. And the downside is that it’s not as broad in scope as the Security+.
But if you decide to go down that route, just be aware…there will be an expectation that you already know the basic security concepts taught in the Security+. Now…let’s get on with the CySA+ certification!
If you’re currently working in a cyber security role or aspire to do so, the CompTIA CySA+ certification can be an excellent way to validate your knowledge. That means, if you’re interested in incident prevention/detection/response, ethical hacking, threat hunting, or vulnerability management, then the CySA+ certification is a certainly a great exam to study for.
Even if you don’t find yourself in security operations, taking CySA+ at least provides you better context of the overall cyber security landscape. However, I don’t recommend you take this exam if you already have a higher-level certification, such as the CompTIA CASP+ or CISSP.
It just becomes pointless. Additionally, if you already possess one of the GIAC certifications related to cyber offense/defense, incident response or digital forensics, then I wouldn’t bother as you’d just end up covering much of the same material.
What Jobs Can I Get with a CompTIA CySA+ Certification?
It’s no secret that getting certified will always open up new job opportunities. But let me take it a step further by briefly summarizing how the CySA+ certification contributes to your knowledge in each of these roles.
This might be helpful in an interview if you’re asked what you learned while studying for the CySA+ exam.
Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst: When applying for a role as a SOC analyst, the CySA+ indicates your knowledge of real-time threat monitoring, detection, and response, which are vital skills for working effectively within a SOC team.
Vulnerability Analyst: You learn the concepts to identify and assess security weaknesses, as well as the ability to recommend and implement remediation strategies, which are crucial for a vulnerability analyst role.
Threat Intelligence Analyst: As a threat intelligence analyst the certification will help you showcase your knowledge in gathering and analyzing threat intelligence, understanding attacker motivations, and recommending proactive security measures.
Incident Responder: The CySA+ certification helps you obtain an incident responder role by validating your knowledge of managing and mitigating security incidents, containing threats, minimizing damage, and supporting recovery efforts.
Blue Teamer: The certification can help you secure a blue team role by validating your knowledge of monitoring, testing, and strengthening security measures to actively defend an organization’s systems and networks against cyber threats.
What Are the CompTIA CySA+ Exam Details and Cost?
The CompTIA CySA+ exam, codes CS0-002 and CS0-003, consist of a maximum of 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions, with a 165-minute time limit. To pass the exam, you must achieve a minimum score of 750 on a scale of 100-900.
- Number of Questions: Maximum of 85 questions
- Type of Questions: Multiple-choice and performance-based
- Exam Duration: 165 minutes
- Passing Score: 750 (on a scale of 100-900)
- Exam Price: $392 USD (price may vary by country)
CompTIA does offer their own study guides and bundle packages. Depending on the option you choose, it can range between $565 – $977.
Many exam takers pass the exam without even paying for the higher-end bundle packages. However, if you choose to get nothing else, I highly recommend you at least purchase the basic bundle which includes the exam voucher, retake voucher, and study guide.
You could buy the voucher and guide separately, but it’s the same price as the bundle and you get the retake voucher included.
How to Pass the CompTIA CySA+ Exam?
The CySA+ exam is designed to test your security analysis capabilities. Unfortunately, the objectives don’t do a very good job of explaining much except to throw a bunch of keywords at you.
Here’s a copy of the CS0-002 exam objectives and CS0-003 exam objectives or you can provide some info and download it for free from CompTIA’s website. So, I’ve taken the time to break it down into a logical sequence that might make it easier to understand.
If you’ve done security analysis for quite some time, then this should already be familiar to you. In addition to studying the theory, it would be highly beneficial for you to setup your own lab and practice the following concepts. If you can study them in a practical environment, you’ll do so much better on the exam than trying to read about in a book:
Security Operations (33%)
Start by familiarizing yourself with system and network architecture concepts. Understand the structure and design of the networks, devices, and systems. You should learn how they affect security operations, and get acquainted with the hardware, software, protocols, and network topology.
Next, focus on learning how to recognize indicators of malicious activity, such as suspicious network traffic, unusual system behavior, or unauthorized access attempts.
Work on mastering the tools and techniques for determining malicious activity. This includes intrusion detection systems, log analysis, and endpoint protection.
After that, concentrate on threat intelligence and threat hunting. You’ll need to collect, analyze, and apply information about existing and emerging threats.
Take the time to proactively search for potential threats within the environment. Lastly, you need to put effort into improving efficiency and processes.
Understand how to refine and optimize security operations to maintain the security posture.
Vulnerability Management (30%)
Then you need to learn the vulnerability scanning methods and concepts. Apply techniques that help you identify and assess security weaknesses in systems, networks, and applications.
Analyze the output from the vulnerability assessment tools you use, pinpoint potential risks, and prioritize your remediation efforts.
Next, concentrate on learning how to prioritize vulnerabilities effectively. Assess their severity and impact on your organization. Be comfortable recommending controls like patch management, access control, and encryption to mitigate attacks and software vulnerabilities.
When all is done, dive into managing the vulnerability response. Familiarize yourself with the processes and procedures for addressing, remediating, and documenting identified vulnerabilities.
Incident Response and Management (20%)
You should start the IR process by studying attack methodology frameworks. Explore the various security frameworks and understand their role in incident response.
Practice performing incident response activities, such as detection, containment, eradication, and recovery, to enhance your skills.
Complete this section by grasping the incident management life cycle. Understand the stages of incident management, from preparation and planning to post-incident analysis and improvement.
Reporting and Communication (17%)
Master the art of vulnerability management reporting and communication. Focus on effectively conveying information about vulnerabilities, risks, and remediation efforts to various stakeholders, including technical staff, management, and executives.
In the end, you’ll need to excel at incident response reporting and communication. Strive to report on security incidents and response activities clearly and accurately.
Then, share lessons you learned to foster organizational learning and continuous improvement. Watch as Jason Dion goes over the differences between the CS0-002 and the Beta CS0-003 objectives.
CySA+ Practice Test
The CySA+ practice tests are a great way to prepare for the actual exam. You can find practice questions for free usually at your local library and sample questions on the internet, but full-length practice exams cost money:
What Experience Do You Need to Take the CompTIA CySA+ Exam?
It’s not like the Security+. According to CompTIA, to excel on the CompTIA CySA+ exam, it’s a good idea to possess at least three to four years of hands-on IT experience.
It’s not a strict requirement, but it helps. The same applies to having the certifications. It’s great if you already have CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications but they’re not strictly required.
Although, these certifications do give you a strong foundation in networking and security concepts.
Is the CompTIA CySA+ Exam Hard?
Like any certification exam, the difficulty of the CompTIA CySA+ exam is subjective. Some have managed to pass in a few weeks while others have taken months.
I will say that it’s not an easy exam to pass unless you have several years of experience in the field. But that’s okay because with enough preparation you still have a chance.
When you do study, I advise you to use officially authorized CompTIA study materials and take practice exams to help you prepare. If you’re going to get study materials from a third party, I talk about where to find them in the next section.
Here’s an excellent video by Michel Guerra about how to pass the CompTIA CySA+ exam in one month.
Are There CompTIA CySA+ Bootcamps?
Yes, you can find plenty of CompTIA CySA+ bootcamps to help you get ready for the exam. If you’ve never taken a security bootcamp, they’re an intensive training program that crams a lot of information into a few weeks.
If you’re going to take part in these programs, make sure they include an exam voucher; otherwise, don’t waste your time and money. As always, I advise you to pick a program that’s officially authorized by CompTIA.
Luckily, you can find every company that’s officially authorized on the CompTIA Delivery Partners List. When you choose a bootcamp, consider the instructor’s experience, course materials, and student reviews.
If you’re unsure, you can review profiles at places like CourseReport. Whatever you choose, just ensure you pick a program that fits your learning style.
How Long is CompTIA CySA+ Certification Valid For?
Your CompTIA certifications is valid for three years from the date you pass your exams. To maintain your certification, you’ll need to accumulate 60 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) over the three-year period and submit them to CompTIA to keep your certification active.
I go into a lot more information about renewing your CySA+ certification here.
Free CySA+ Training
While you can choose to take any certification training course, I’ve managed to find one for FREE! Here’s a free supplemental training video offered by Andrei Ciorba where he offers 58 videos dedicated to training you on how to pass the CompTIA CySA+ exam:
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