The CompTIA A+ certification is an international, vendor-neutral certification that validates the foundation-level knowledge and skills necessary for a career in PC support. It proves competence in areas such as installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security and troubleshooting and is a primary starting point for a career in the IT Industry.
Many companies require A+ certification of their new hires, and for many others A+ will be what makes your resume stand out from the competition. Even if your line of work isn't directly related, you'll benefit from this kind of knowledge. A programmer who is helpless in the face of a blue screen, waiting for a tech who is busy elsewhere, is a nonproductive programmer.
The CompTIA A+ Certification is valid for a period of three years before expiring. Certification can be maintained by passing the most current CompTIA exam prior to expiration or by enrolling in CompTIA's Continuing Education (CE) program.
About the 2009 CompTIA 220-70x series exam:
The 2009 CompTIA A+ certification process consists of two exams, 220-701 Essentials and 220-702 Practical Application. Both exams must be taken and passed to become certified.
CompTIA A+ Essentials measures the necessary competencies of an entry-level IT professional with a recommended 500 hours of hands-on experience in the lab or field. It tests for technical understanding of computer technology, networking and security, as well as the communication skills and professionalism now required of all entry-level IT professionals.
CompTIA A+ Practical Application is an extension of the knowledge and skills identified in CompTIA A+ Essentials, with more of a "hands-on" orientation focused on scenarios in which troubleshooting and tools must be applied to resolve problems.
Each exam will consist of 100 multiple choice questions and must be completed within a 90 minute time frame. Passing scores are 675 for the Essentials (701) exam and 700 for the Practical Application (702). Grades will be assessed on a scale of 100 to 900. Any unanswered questions will be scored as wrong answers.
The CompTIA A+ certification, exam codes 220-701 and 220-702, will be available through Aug. 31, 2013. You can take either exam series to become CompTIA A+ certified.
About the 2012 CompTIA 220-80x series exam:
The 2012 CompTIA A+ certification process consists of two exams, 220-801 and 220-802. Both exams must be taken and passed to become certified.
The CompTIA A+ 220-801 examination measures necessary competencies for an entry-level IT professional with the equivalent knowledge of at least 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field. Successful candidates will have the knowledge required to assemble components based on customer requirements, install, configure and maintain devices, PCs and software for end users, understand the basics of networking and security/forensics, properly and safely diagnose, resolve and document common hardware and software issues while applying troubleshooting skills. Successful candidates will also provide appropriate customer support; understand the basics of virtualization, desktop imaging, and deployment.
The CompTIA A+ 220-802 examination measures necessary competencies for an entry-level IT professional with the equivalent knowledge of at least 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field. Successful candidates will have the knowledge required to assemble components based on customer requirements, install, configure and maintain devices, PCs and software for end users, understand the basics of networking and security/forensics, properly and safely diagnose, resolve and document common hardware and software issues while applying troubleshooting skills. Successful candidates will also provide appropriate customer support; understand the basics of virtualization, desktop imaging, and deployment.
Each exam will consist of 90 multiple choice and performance-based questions which must be completed within a 90 minute time frame. Passing scores are 675 for the 220-801 exam and 700 for the 220-802 exam. Grades will be assessed on a scale of 100 to 900. Any unanswered questions will be scored as wrong answers.
Prepare for the exam:
There are several different methods of exam preparation, and each candidate may utilize a different method depending on their own abilities and comfort level. Some may require the more structured environment of a qualified learning provider with an instructor available, while others may feel an online format is better suited to their needs and personal schedule.
The resources here are directed toward those that prefer a more casual self-taught, self-paced environment, and while this approach may seem appealing to most, it often requires an intense level of discipline and can also be the most difficult approach with which to achieve success.
Besides dedicating a considerable amount of time to your studies, the method described will consist of five additional physical components. These include the following:
1. Appropriate literature
2. Video training
3. A study sheet or hand-written notes
4. Hands-on experience
5. Appropriate practice questions
The first documents that you'll need will be copies of the exam objectives. These are lists of all of the topics that will be covered in the exam and what you'll need to know in order to pass the exam. There will be a separate set for each of the exams, these are available in PDF form through the links below.
Several books are available by different authors that address certification. Each author will have their own writing style and will appeal differently to each individual. I would suggest that you drop in to a local bookstore and browse through any or all that you find. If possible, make yourself comfortable and read through a chapter or two from each one. If you have the time and would like to save a little money, decide which book reads best for you and look for it online. Most copies can be found at a considerable savings that way.
Once you've made your choice and obtained your book(s), you should decide how much time you can allow for reading. Set a modest goal and stick to it. Some will read a chapter a day, some a chapter a week. As you begin to read each chapter, browse to the end and read through the practice questions first. This will give you a general idea of the focus of the chapter and what topics to concentrate on. When you finish the chapter, answer the questions. If you have problems with any of the questions, review the chapter.
Video resources are an excellent accompaniment to written literature and tend to provide you with a bit of a break from your reading. After you finish each chapter of the book, watch the video that corresponds with that material. Having more than one source of information helps to reinforce the material you are learning. There are a lot of resources for this type of product.
In the past, the videos available from TestOut or CBTNuggets were very popular, although quite expensive. Currently, I recommend the videos found at Professor Messer's CompTIA A+ Training Course. These are quality videos that cover the necessary material quite well and can be freely viewed at your own convenience. You can also find an assortment of videos available at websites such as YouTube, I just don't feel they match the quality or cover the material as well.
A study guide or hand-written notes:
A good set of personalized study notes can be a valuable assett. Read each chapter briefly, then review the chapter more thoroughly, taking notes of each topic. These do not have to be extensive, they're primarily intended for review, just be sure to cover a few key notes for each objective of the exam and pay close attention to topics that you are still uncertain of for further review.
For exams like these, it is important to get as much hands-on experience as possible and apply what you have learned. Used computers are really fairly easy to come by without spending a lot of money. Thrift stores and garage sales are a good outlet for used equipment to practice on. You may even have an older unit tucked away in your basement or garage or a neighbor may have one that is no longer in use. These can be dismantled, examined, and reassembled without endangering your working machine.
Virtual machines are a great tool for learning your way around a system BIOS or experimenting with the system commands and utilities from different operating systems and can be safely installed on an existing machine.
Go beyond the basics covered by the books and video training, navigate through all of the menus and understand what each setting does, read white papers or do online searches for topics that are difficult to grasp, and ask questions. The number of resources for information is almost countless. Utilize as many as you can.
Appropriate practice questions:
There is a big difference between learning mode and study mode. Practice questions help you shift into that study mode. This involves learning how to effectively read questions and filter out the irrelevant information provided. It also helps in identifying weak areas that you need to improve upon. Make notes about questions that seem difficult to answer and research the topics.
Appropriate practice material can be difficult to come by. Much of what is available applies to previous versions of the exam and is often outdated. Material sold by "braindump" providers should be avoided entirely. Promises of a guaranteed pass, or full refunds should immediately send up a red flag. In truth, providers of material of this sort have violated the "Non-Disclosure Agreement" (NDA) required by every certification authority and their use could jeopardize your chances of obtaining or maintaining certification.
The authenticity of any material that is available for the exams can be verified through the free services provided by CertGuard. Just follow the link below and enter the companies url (i.e., anycompany.com) in the search box provided. Your results will be provided in just a few seconds.
Some of the topics covered in the exams can be difficult to understand at first, and may take some time to absorb. If you find yourself skipping material because maybe it's starting to bore you, or because you're growing weary of studying, TAKE A BREAK!