A Complete Guide to CompTIA a+ Exam

Taylor Karl
A Complete Guide to CompTIA a+ Exam 2056 0

Technology is ubiquitous, and businesses are more reliant than ever on robust IT infrastructures. The CompTIA A+ certification serves as a testament to an individual's competence in essential IT domain and is probably the most relevant and in-demand professional certification employers are looking for in tech workers. It’s particularly valuable because it is regularly updated to reflect the latest IT trends and technologies. It covers foundational skills critical for various IT roles and is an essential stepping stone for anyone starting in IT.

This article will provide a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of the CompTIA A+ test, the broad spectrum of topics included, and how you can equip yourself with the knowledge needed to pass the exam and thrive in the dynamic world of IT.

Understanding CompTIA A+ Certification

CompTIA A+ is an entry-level certification for those starting in the IT field. It covers fundamental computer and networking knowledge, focusing on the practical, hands-on skills required for IT operational roles and technical support. The certification recognizes the importance of not only understanding theoretical concepts but also being able to apply that knowledge in real-world scenarios.

The A+ certification was recently revised to focus primarily on the technologies and skills IT professionals need to sustain a hybrid workforce, including the ever-increasing reliance on SaaS applications and virtualization. As a result, the exams are designed to confirm that a candidate can troubleshoot and remotely diagnose and correct common software, hardware, or connectivity issues.

The Core 1 exam covers fundamental topics such as hardware, networking, mobile devices, and hardware troubleshooting. The Core 2 exam delves into operating systems, security, software troubleshooting, and operational procedures.

Exam Details

Those who wish to earn the A+ certification must complete two exams: Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102). Both are computer-based tests with a combination of 90 multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, and performance-based questions. Test takers have a time limit of 90 minutes to complete each exam.

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Domains Covered in Core 1 (220-1101)

The 220-1101 exam includes the following domains and topics:

 

  • Mobile Devices (15%): How to successfully install, configure, and optimize components of mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
  • Networking (20%): Knowing common port numbers and network protocols mirrors the essential skills needed in modern IT networking roles. Know how to successfully install, configure, and optimize components of mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
  • Hardware (25%): Demonstrate an ability to install and configure power supplies, cooling, storage devices, system memory, and CPUs.
  • Virtualization and Cloud Computing (11%): Compare and contrast cloud computing concepts and set up client-side virtualization.
  • Hardware and Network Troubleshooting (29%): Troubleshoot device and network issues seamlessly to limit user disruption.

 

Domain Covered in Core 2 (220-1102)

The 220-1102 exam includes the following domains and topics:

 

  • Operating Systems (31%): Demonstrate a working understanding of multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, Android, and Linux, when to use them, and how to keep them running correctly.
  • Security (25%): Assess a candidate's understanding of fundamental security concepts and practices in an IT environment, including the ability to identify common security threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Software Troubleshooting (22%): Install and troubleshoot common PC and mobile device issues, including typical OS, malware, and security issues.
  • Operational Procedures (22%): Emphasize best practices for safety, environmental impacts, communication, and professionalism.

 

You can take the CompTIA A+ exams online or in person. Pearson OnVUE is a remote exam proctoring service that provides a secure and easy way to complete your CompTIA certification exam.

Preparing for the Exam

The most challenging aspect of passing these exams is the breadth of topics covered. It's not just about memorizing facts; it's about understanding a wide range of hardware, software, and troubleshooting concepts and applying them in practical scenarios. It varies per individual, but on average, it takes about 10-12 weeks of dedicated study. This can be longer for those new to IT or shorter for those with some experience or prior knowledge in the field.

Practical experience is not necessary before taking the exam, but it is highly beneficial as the exams include performance-based questions that test hands-on skills. Gaining some practical experience, even through labs or simulations, can be crucial for understanding the real-world application of the concepts.

Third-party materials can also be beneficial, but the focus should be on understanding core concepts and terms found on the exam. The best resources for exam preparation are the official CompTIA study guides and practice tests:

Guided Training Courses: Self-paced learning should always be part of your study plan, but training courses are the next best thing to real-world experience in IT. They provide a structured curriculum that aligns with the CompTIA A+ exam objectives. New Horizon’s CompTIA A+ course provides the background knowledge and skills you will require to be a successful A+ technician and will help you prepare to take the CompTIA A+ Core Series certification examinations (exam numbers 220-1101 and 220-1102).

Online Resources: Communities such as Reddit and the online CompTIA forums offer great and insightful discussions about IT concepts, professional experiences, and advice from others who plan to take or have already completed the CompTIA A+ exams.

Practice Tests: CompTIA offers official mock exams to help you familiarize yourself with the exam format and identify areas needing more attention. Completing practice tests reinforces the information you've studied, exposes you to different question formats, and can boost your confidence before completing the official exam.

The most important thing when preparing for these tests is to maintain consistency. Tailor your study plan to your learning preferences, establish a schedule, and assign regular study hours.

Registration and Taking the Exam

Each exam costs $246 and can be completed in person or online. Pearson OnVUE is a remote exam proctoring service that provides a secure and easy way to complete your CompTIA certification exam. When you are ready to take the exam, visit CompTIA’s website, set up an account, prepare your testing environment, and schedule your exams.

Certification candidates must agree with the CompTIA Candidate Agreement whether you take the exam online or in person. Beyond that, there are different requirements for online testing vs. in-person.

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Online A+ Exam

There are online testing policies and procedures related to system requirements, your exam workspace, and testing for candidates under 17. You will have to run a system test on the same computer and network you will use to take your exam. You must also take photos of yourself and your exam workspace to confirm it meets CompTIA's requirements. That includes moving all books and writing objects out of arm's reach, unplugging additional monitors and computers, and clearing your walls of any writing.

CompTIA A+ Testing Center

On the day of your exam, you should arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled exam time. You will need to complete the sign-in procedures, which require you to present two forms of identification. Please note that you cannot bring personal items into the testing room, including bags, books, notes, computers, tablets, smartphones and smartwatches.

Make sure to get a good night's sleep before taking the exam. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, and arrive or log on early so you have time to check in and get settled before the test. Use your time wisely and do your best to answer every question.

After the Exam

Once you finish the A+ exam, you will be asked to complete an optional exit survey of about 12 multiple-choice questions. You will then receive your test scores: Candidates need at least 675 out of 900 to pass the 220-1101 exam. To pass the 220-1102 exam, test takers need a minimum passing score of 700 out of 900.

CompTIA does not offer free re-tests or discounts on exam retakes, and candidates must pay the exam price each time they attempt the exam. There is no waiting period between the first and second attempt to pass the exam; only before the third or any subsequent attempt is there a mandatory waiting period of at least 14 calendar days from the date of the last attempt.

Achieving the A+ certification will open new career paths and make you eligible for additional IT certifications. Many choose to pursue more advanced CompTIA certifications to specialize in specific IT areas, such as:

  • CompTIA Network+ for networking knowledge, such as network infrastructure and protocols.
  • CompTIA Security+ for a deeper understanding of cybersecurity concepts, including network security, compliance, and the basics of cryptography.
  • CompTIA Linux+ for proficiency in Linux systems.

Career Opportunities and Benefits

Getting CompTIA A+ certified opens you up to a variety of IT jobs crucial to employers, which is why they highly value this certification. It enhances your employability by validating your foundational knowledge and skills in IT, and many entry-level IT positions, such as technical support specialist, help desk technician, or field service technician, often require candidates to be A+-certified.

Here are a few job positions held by those with the A+ certification and their median salaries based on data from ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor and Indeed:

  • End User Computing Technicians average salary of $107,319 a year
  • Field Service Technicians: average salary of $55,610 a year
  • Associate Network Engineers: average salary of $76,241 a year
  • Service Desk Analysts: average salary of $51,010 a year
  • Data Support Technicians: average salary of $48,911 a year
  • Technical Support Specialists: average salary of $53,469 a year

Conclusion

CompTIA has issued over 2 million IT certifications worldwide, and A+ is the gold standard for entry-level industry certifications. It can serve as a stepping stone for further career advancement, opening doors to new positions. CompTIA A+ provides a strong foundation for a successful and rewarding career, but it is just the starting point. You can combine it with additional certifications, experience, or education that can significantly improve your job prospects.

The right path for you depends on your interests, skills, and career goals, but one thing is for sure: by continuously updating your skills and staying informed about industry trends, you will gain valuable opportunities and insights and remain competitive in the ever-evolving IT landscape.

 

 

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