Where to find the best study materials to pass the CompTIA CySA+ exam
French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is credited with the adage: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Although he never had the idea of passing the CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) exam in mind, achieving this certifications may be one of your wishes for the year ahead. If so, applying his mindset toward preparing for and passing the CySA+ certification exam means understanding the resources that are out there to help you master the material, the tips that can help to overcome those test-day jitters and understand the types of questions that are covered on the exam.
Finding the right study resources will also help you create a plan that is right for you, your experience level and your preferred pace, all so you get comfortable with how the CySA+ certification exam and motivate you to stick to your study plan. In other words, setting yourself up for success allows you to approach your preparation for the CySA+ exam like an analysis effort in itself; maximizing your time, zeroing in on the important details, and picking the right resources that can help you get it done.
By the end of this article, you will be armed with a high-level overview of the study resources available to students who are studying for the CySA+ exam, including the best books, online resources, study guides, practice exams and much more.
What does the CySA+ exam cover?
The CySA+ exam is designed for IT professionals that are seeking to learn and refine their security analysis skills. It was also known as the CSA+ certification until January 2018, when the certification was changed to CySA+. As defined by CompTIA, the exam specifically covers:
- Perform data analysis and interpret the results to identify vulnerabilities, threats and risks to an organization
- Configure and use threat-detection tools
- Secure and protect applications and systems within an organization
Further breaking down the course, CompTIA has organized the learning material across four domains:
- 27%: Threat Management
- 26%: Vulnerability Management
- 23%: Cyber Incident Response
- 24%: Security Architecture and Tool Sets
In other words, the CySA+ exam brings together the technical and professional skills a security analyst needs to identify and resolve malware incidents and the behavioral analytics and other security tools used to combat advanced persistent threats.
The exam comprises a minimum of 85 questions and must be completed within 165 minutes. While no work experience is required as a prerequisite, the CySA+ is aimed at Security+ professionals with at least three to four years of hands-on experience.
What are the best books to study for the CySA+ exam?
Knowing the best books to use to help you study for the CySA+ exam is one of the best ways to kick-start your plan to pass it. In the industry, there are a whole host of options from which to prepare, but any search of peer groups or online resources will often have you turning toward three sources. We have outlined each of the three below.
McGraw-Hill’s CompTIA CySA+ Cybersecurity Analyst Certification All-in-One Exam Guide
Written by Dr. Fernando J. Maymi and Brent Chapman, the CompTIA CySA+ Cybersecurity Analyst Certification All-in-One Exam Guide continues McGraw-Hill’s well-known series of comprehensive certification study books.
This book is an excellent resource for comprehensive preparation because it is packed with excellent practice questions. It covers every topic you could encounter on the CySA+ exam and it breaks down difficult topics in an accessible way. This book also contains study and test-taking tips to help you really feel that you have your own study coach helping you to complete the exam.
CompTIA CySA+ Study Guide: Exam CS0-001
CompTIA also has their own published study guide for the CySA+ learning domains. This, as expected, is designed to be a complete resource for passing the exam. The book comes with an access code to additional online study resources as well as two custom practice exams and review questions organized throughout the book.
In short, the CompTIA CySA+ Study Guide is a great way to get introduced to the concepts on the certification exam and build your momentum toward achieving your goal.
The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) Cert Guide
This guide published by Pearson IT is another great resource for those looking to either supplement their formal training programs or to complete their own independent study plan. The author, Troy McMillan, is a Kaplan IT developer and editor as well as a full-time trainer with experience assisting developing programs for Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA.
The Cert Guide is more focused on explaining the certification topics rather than weaving in concepts from the workplace, but the book comes with a robust online practice test interface.
Are training programs available?
In addition to helping you meet the continuing education contact hours you may need to fulfill, a CySA+ exam prep course or boot camp — delivered in-person or online — can provide the structured and intensive learning that some need to get past the finish line successfully. With options that include self-paced or on-demand courses, live online or delivered in a classroom setting with programs that blend discussion with training, it can be difficult to decide which option is best to use to help pass the CySA+ exam.
What are other recommended online resources?
While it is possible to study for the CySA+ exam on your own, going this route requires considerable dedication, time and tenacity. Instead, for those looking to supplement their preparation from study guides with additional tools and resources, there are plenty of options to match each person’s learning style and needs.
First, you can locate and participate in a study group either in-person via your local community college or university as well as through LinkedIn, Google and online other forums like the CompTIA Industry Advisory Councils. These groups can offer a great place to share study tips, pass along lessons learned and interact with others on the same journey as you. As an added bonus, you can expand your network, kick-starting your plans for after you successfully pass the exam.
Second, you can find an existing study plan that was successful for others. For those not wanting to create their own study plan from scratch, reaching out to others who have taken the same path can lead you to a road map or study plan that others have used based on their experiences, especially if you are not interested in taking a full training course.
If that is the case, a study guide can be a perfect fit. Offering a flexible, self-driven, but also structured starting point for your preparation, a study guide can be both a complement to a larger training and study regimen or the only resource you need as you navigate the official CySA+ certification content.
Finally, because the CySA+ exam is not just about regurgitating facts from the certification’s knowledge domains, but rather the ability to also apply the concepts that an experienced cybersecurity analyst would demonstrate in real-world scenarios. To better understand these nuances and the context of the field, resources such as newsletters, podcasts and discussion forums are available.
Forums such as certforums and TechExams by Infosec are popular, but there are many more out there. E-newsletters, such as those from CompTIA, are also a great way to pick up additional tips, hear sample questions, and find other resources.
Where can you find the best online practice CySA+ exams?
While a search on the internet for free CySA+ sample exam questions will undoubtedly lead you to hundreds of websites packed with them, updates to the exam mean it can be hard to know with confidence that they actually provide quality CySA+ sample questions. In order to help you not fall into a trap where you attempt questions that no longer match current materials or are riddled with incorrect information, below are some of the best sources to assist with your journey to obtain your CySA+ certification.
Generally speaking, free tests from companies that are selling training content can be trusted to provide reliable practice CySA+ exam questions as their reputation depends on it.
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Bringing it all together
In this article, we set out with the goal of pulling together a compilation of CompTIA CySA+ study resources for those looking to set out on their own, take a full training course, or supplement other training with industry networking. While the goal of the article wasn’t to pull together every resource available to pass the exam, you should now have a solid foundation from which to prepare with the help of trusted, authenticated resources.
We hope you can use the time you saved searching for CySA+ resources toward taking the next steps toward achieving your CySA+ goal in a way that fits your time, resources, and style.