CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 vs SY0-701: What’s the Difference?

CompTIA Security+ SY0-601 vs SY0-701: What’s the Difference?

The CompTIA Security+ certification is a vendor-neutral certification that validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career. The exam covers a wide range of topics, including security concepts, threats and vulnerabilities, risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, application security, operational security, and risk, compliance, and law.

While (in theory) the certification is aimed at those already working in the IT security industry, most students taking the exam are trying to get into this career path, and with good reason. The Security+ covers all the bases you need to know for a career in network security, including:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Penetration testing
  • Network security
  • Compliance
  • Security management

About the CompTIA Security+ Certification

The CompTIA Security+ exam was first introduced in 2002. It is aimed at IT professionals who are new to security or who want to demonstrate their basic security knowledge. The exam is also a good starting point for those who want to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

According to CompTIA, over 350,000 people take the CompTIA Security+ exam each year. This makes it one of the most popular IT certifications in the world. The number of people taking the exam has been steadily increasing in recent years, as more and more organizations are looking for security-minded professionals.

The passing score for the CompTIA Security+ exam is 750/1000 but the questions are weighed so it’s not as simple as getting 75% correct. The exam is 90 minutes long and consists of 90 multiple-choice questions. It currently costs $392 to sit and on average, people take two attempts to pass (60% first time pass rate) but CompTIA keep the official numbers a secret.

It’s a mixture of multiple choice questions with a single or multiple correct answers, fill-in-the-blank questions, look at an image and answer questions and the infamous Practical Based Questions or PBQs where you have to log into equipment and input commands to answer questions. This is what our 101 Labs – CompTIA Security+ course and book is aimed to help with.

There are many benefits to passing the CompTIA Security+ exam. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased job opportunities: The CompTIA Security+ certification is one of the most sought-after certifications in the IT security industry. Having this certification can help you get your foot in the door and land a job in cybersecurity.
  • Higher salary: According to a study by Burning Glass Technologies, IT security professionals with the CompTIA Security+ certification earn an average of $10,000 more per year than those without the certification.
  • Enhanced skills: The CompTIA Security+ exam covers a wide range of security topics, so passing the exam can help you improve your security skills and knowledge.
  • Increased credibility: The CompTIA Security+ certification is a respected certification in the IT security industry. Having this certification can help you gain credibility with employers and customers.

Some of the careers you can aim for when you pass the CompTIA Security+ exam include:

  • Security analyst
  • Security engineer
  • Security architect
  • Security consultant
  • Security manager
  • Incident responder
  • Threat hunter
  • Vulnerability analyst

The current exam version is the SY0-601, which was released in November 2020. The SY0-701 exam is the next version of the exam, and it is scheduled to be released in March 2023. The SY0-701 exam will be updated to reflect the latest security threats and technologies.

As with any IT exam update, there is a crossover period when you can take the current or the new one. Please note that there is no tangible benefit to taking one over the other because your credentials will be Security+ engineer no matter which exam number you pass. It will last three years before you have to recertify to keep your credentials.

Security+ SY0-601 vs SY0-701

Here is a table comparing the SY0-601 and SY0-701 exam syllabuses:

1.0 Attacks, Threats, and Vulnerabilities24%1.0 General Security Concepts12%
2.0 Architecture and Design21%2.0 Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigations22%
3.0 Implementation25%3.0 Security Architecture18%
4.0 Operations and Incident Response16%4.0 Security Operations28%
5.0 Governance, Risk, and Compliance14%5.0 Security Program Management and Oversight20%

The SY0-701 exam has increased the focus on cloud security, security automation and orchestration, cryptography, threat modeling, and security assessment and testing. It has also decreased the focus on security concepts and asset security. The certification is becoming more focused on doing the job of IT security engineer rather than knowing about the job.

Here is a more detailed explanation of the differences between the two exams:

  • Cloud security: The SY0-701 exam now covers cloud security concepts such as cloud computing, cloud service models, cloud deployment models, and cloud security best practices. This is a reflection of the increasing importance of cloud computing in the enterprise.
  • Security automation and orchestration: The SY0-701 exam now covers security automation and orchestration concepts such as scripting, configuration management, and orchestration tools. This is a growing area of security as organizations look for ways to automate security tasks and improve efficiency.
  • Cryptography: The SY0-701 exam now covers cryptography concepts such as asymmetric encryption, symmetric encryption, and hashing. This is a fundamental security concept that is becoming increasingly important as organizations use more and more encryption to protect their data.
  • Threat modeling: The SY0-701 exam now covers threat modeling concepts such as threat modeling process, threat modeling techniques, and threat modeling tools. Threat modeling is a process for identifying and mitigating potential threats to an organization’s systems and data.
  • Security assessment and testing: The SY0-701 exam now covers security assessment and testing concepts such as vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and social engineering testing. Security assessment and testing are essential for identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities in an organization’s systems and data.

Preparing for the CompTIA Security+ Exam

Ignore the forum posts you might see boasting about studying for a day and passing. These people either got the answers to the questions somehow or already work in the IT security industry and have a deep understanding.

The average person needs to study for around three to six months for around two hours per day. These are a ballpark figures of course so take it with a pinch of salt. Like most IT exams, preparation involves three key components:

  • Learning all the theory with books and or videos
  • Doing hands-on labs
  • Taking practice exams

You should write out the exam syllabus in full into a spreadsheet and create two columns, one for theory and one for hands-on knowledge. Mark each syllabus item out of 10 for the two categories and then get each up to 9/10 at least before you are ready to take the exam. Here is how I do it for the Cisco CCNA exam.


The CompTIA Security+ exam is a valuable certification for anyone who wants to work in cybersecurity. If you are interested in a career in cybersecurity, I encourage you to take the CompTIA Security+ exam.

If you are planning to take the SY0-701 exam, I recommend that you focus on studying the topics that have been added or increased in importance. You can find more information about the SY0-701 exam syllabus on the CompTIA website.


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