Preparing for the Pentest Certification: What you need to know

Preparing for the Pentest+: What you need to know


In the world of cyber security, the CompTIA Pentest+ certification is a game-changer. It’s a stepping stone for those aspiring to become penetration testers, often referred to as “pentesters.” This article will guide you through what you need to know to prepare for the Pentest+ certification.

Understanding the Pentest+ Certification

The CompTIA Pentest+ is a certification that validates your knowledge and skills in penetration testing and vulnerability management. It’s designed for cyber security professionals tasked with identifying, exploiting, reporting, and managing vulnerabilities on a network.

The CompTIA Pentest+ certification is an intermediate-level course specialized for cyber security professionals. It covers a broad range of topics, from pre-engagement tasks to actual tests and reporting. The exam consists of 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions that must be completed within 165 minutes. To pass, you must score at least 750 out of a possible 900 points.

Why is this role important?

In today’s digital world, cyber security threats are ever-present. Organizations need skilled professionals who can identify and exploit vulnerabilities before the bad guys do. That’s where these certified professionals come in. They play a crucial role in maintaining the cyber security health of a system.

The concept of ethical hacking is one that is critical to this role. An ethical hacker is one who performs actions to either determine or exploit system vulnerabilities to show that the system could be damaged by a bad actor, but they are doing this in a way that helps rather than hinders the organization as they are doing this in cooperation with the people managing the system.

What You need to learn in Preparing for the Pentest+ Certification Exam

The CompTIA Pentest+ exam covers a wide range of topics, each of which requires a deep understanding and practical experience. Here are the key domains or topics you need to be familiar with, along with some resources to help you prepare.

For each of these domains, the Official CompTIA Content (OCC) provides self-paced study guides. You can also use online courses and practice exams to further enhance your understanding and preparation.

1. Planning and Scoping

This domain involves defining the scope of the test. Then, one can identify the key systems, networks, and resources that will be the focus of the test. It’s crucial to understand how to effectively plan and scope penetration tests [2].

2. Conducting Passive and Active Reconnaissance

Reconnaissance is the process of gathering information about the target systems and networks. Passive reconnaissance involves collecting information without directly interacting with the target systems. Active reconnaissance involves direct interaction with the systems.

3. Vulnerability Analysis

This domain involves identifying and analyzing vulnerabilities in the target systems and networks. You’ll need to understand how to use various tools and techniques to perform vulnerability analysis [2].

4. Penetrating Networks

This domain involves exploiting the identified vulnerabilities to gain access to the target systems and networks. You’ll need to understand various penetration techniques and how to use them effectively [2].

5. Exploiting Host-Based Vulnerabilities

This domain involves exploiting vulnerabilities in individual systems or hosts. This could involve exploiting software vulnerabilities, system configuration issues, or other weaknesses in the host systems [2].

6. Testing Applications

This domain involves testing the security of various applications. This could involve web application testing, mobile application testing, or testing of other types of applications [2].

7. Completing Post-Exploit Tasks

After successfully exploiting a system, there are various post-exploit tasks that may need to be performed. This could involve establishing persistence, cleaning up traces of the penetration test, or other tasks [2].

8. Analyzing and Reporting Penetration Test Results

After the penetration test is completed, the results need to be analyzed and reported. This involves understanding how to effectively communicate the results of the test. Among other things, this includes the vulnerabilities identified, the exploits used, and any recommendations.

The Journey to Becoming a Penetration Tester

Skills required

Becoming a penetration tester requires a mix of technical and soft skills. You need to be proficient in areas like networking, scripting, and system administration. Soft skills like problem-solving, communication, and ethical considerations are equally important.

Tools of the trade

Pen testers use a variety of tools to carry out their pen testing tasks. These include network scanning tools, vulnerability scanners, exploitation frameworks, and more. Knowing these tools is a must for any aspiring penetration tester..

Steps to Prepare for the Pentest+ Certification Exam

Self-study and training

Preparation for the Pentest+ exam involves a combination of self-study and formal training. There are numerous resources available, including study guides, online courses, and practice exams.

Practice through simulations

Hands-on experience identifying security issues is invaluable in preparing for the Pentest+. Platforms like Hack The Box offer realistic environments where you can practice your skills.

The Pentest+ Certification Test

What to expect

The Pentest+ exam is a combination of multiple-choice and performance-based questions. It covers various domains, including planning and scoping, information gathering and vulnerability identification, attacks and exploits, and reporting and communication.

Tips for success

Success in the Pentest+ exam requires thorough preparation. Understand the exam objectives, use a variety of study resources, and practice as much as you can.

After Passing the Pentest+ Certification

Continuous learning

The field of cyber security is constantly evolving. Even after achieving the Pentest+ certification, it’s important to continue learning and stay updated with the latest trends and technologies.

Career prospects

With the Pentest+ certification, you can explore various roles in cyber security, including penetration tester, vulnerability tester, security analyst, and more.


Preparing for the Pentest+ is a journey that requires dedication, effort, and a passion for cyber security. It’s not just about passing an exam, but about acquiring the skills to protect organizations from cyber threats. So, are you ready to take on the challenge?


What job roles can benefit from the CompTIA PenTest+ certification? 

The CompTIA PenTest+ certification is ideal for cybersecurity professionals with 3-4 years of hands-on information security or related experience. It prepares candidates for roles such as Penetration Tester, Vulnerability Tester, Security Analyst, Vulnerability Assessment Analyst, Network Security Operations, and Application Security Vulnerability[4].

What is the format of the CompTIA PenTest+ exam? 

The CompTIA PenTest+ exam uses both performance-based and knowledge-based questions to ensure all stages of penetration testing are addressed. The exam has no more than 85 questions[1].

How often is the CompTIA PenTest+ updated? 

The CompTIA PenTest+ certification is updated every three years to meet the needs of the industry and ensure that IT professionals have the skills necessary for today’s cybersecurity jobs[2].

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