Brian Robert Callahan

academic, developer, with an eye towards a brighter techno-social life



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2022-11-13
I took the CompTIA CySA+ CS1-003 beta exam for fun

I'm back with another CompTIA beta exam review. I just finished taking the Cybersecurity Analyst+ (CySA+) CS1-003 beta exam. I've had a truly enjoyable time with the previous beta exams I took, the Project+ PK1-005 and the Linux+ XK1-005. It might say something about me that I enjoy taking these beta exams, though I'm not quite sure what.

Here, I'd like to provide my thoughts on the CS1-003 beta exam. Obviously, I cannot share any specifics about the exam itself, so if that's what you're looking for, I'll be disappointing you. Instead, I am going to talk about the 30,000-foot view and my personal feelings on the exam while they are still fresh in my head.

Preparation

I pludged this exam; that is to say, I did not do any real studying for this exam other than review the exam objectives. Not too dissimilarly from when I took the Linux+ beta exam, reading over the objectives document made it clear to me that I was familiar with all the topics that were mentioned. I had also, back at the beginning of 2022, read the Sybex book for the current version of the CySA+ exam and taken a Udemy course on the CySA+ because I thought I would be taking the current version of the exam over this past summer. Clearly, that did not happen.

I also took and passed the (ISC)2 Certified in Cybersecurity and SSCP exams in the past month. I also know and do a lot of this stuff for $DAYJOB. So perhaps it is not fair to say I "didn't study." But my point being between the time I registered for the CS1-003 beta exam and taking it, I did not do any targeted studying for it.

Exam day

I took the exam online from home. I always do that for CompTIA exams. I've taken seven exams over six certifications (A+, Security+, Linux+, Data+, Project+, and CySA+), and never had an issue with the online examinations. It just works and I didn't even speak to a proctor this time; they just released my exam immediately without even as much as a hello.

My exam had 110 questions and an excessive amount of time to answer those questions. I think I had over 3 hours to complete the exam. I took about 80 minutes to complete the exam. In those 110 questions were 4 PBQs and the rest were a combination of multiple choice and select two. The questions did feel balanced for the weights that the exam objectives document specified.

Who is this exam for?

The primary take-away I had coming out of the CS1-003 beta exam is the question "who exactly is this exam for?" The PBQs were shockingly simple. The exam all but told you the answers; really, all you had to do is put what the exam told you to put in the boxes and you were finished.

When it came to the multiple choice and select two questions, even those seemed below the bar I would expect from a CompTIA exam. And when you remember that the CySA+ is billed as an intermediate-level exam, it just felt underwhelming. I'm not saying I passed the exam, but I don't feel as if the exam lives up to its goals.

I would not feel comfortable that the CySA+ was actually validating the knowledge my junior SOC analysts have.

Conclusion

I'm quite bummed to be writing this reflection on the CS1-003 beta exam. I really like CompTIA and I thought all the previous exams I took were fair, relevant, and hit the mark on the skills the exams were validating. Case in point, I think the new Linux+ is a truly excellent exam. This one just fell short.

Unfortunately, you can no longer apply to take the CS1-003 beta exam. If you still could, for $50 I would say it would still be worthwhile taking if you were a junior cybersecurity analyst or wanted to become a junior cybersecurity analyst. With the CS1-003 beta program now closed, I would instead recommend that you get a vendor-specific SOC certification. For example, the Microsoft SC-200 is only $165 and in my experience does a significantly better job at validating real-world experience in the cybersecurity analyst space.

Still, I am looking forward to the next CompTIA certification exams. I hear they are expanding their data and analytics pathway and that is very exciting. I will certainly be taking those exams as soon as I can and will let you know my thoughts on them.

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