Pass the CompTIA A+ 220-801 & 220-802 exams
Attention!!! The 220-801 & 220-802 exams retire on June 30th, 2016. The new exams are the 220-901 & 220-902. For more information on those, click here.
For videos, articles, and errata mentioned in the A+ Exam Cram book, see the A+ menu options above.
To obtain the A+ certification you must pass two exams. The latest A+ exams are called: 220-801 and 220-802. Here's a quick breakdown of the exam specifications.
The passing scores of 675 and 700 are graded on a scale of 100-900. While a bit unorthodox, these minimum passing scores can be roughly equated to answering 72% correct on the 220-801 exam, and 75% correct on the 220-802 exam. For many, the 220-802 exam has a higher level of difficulty, as there are more troubleshooting and scenario-oriented questions you will have to face, in addition to the higher passing score.
You will see two types of questions on each exam: multiple choice and performance-based. Multiple choice questions make up the bulk of the exams; these questions ask you to select one or more correct answers to a question. However, performance-based questions (new to the 800 series A+ exams) require that you solve a problem or perform a task, usually in a simulated computer environment. Be sure that you know how to perform hands-on tasks such as: build computers and hard drive arrays, navigate through Windows, configure networking in Windows and on SOHO routers, and be well-versed with the Command Prompt! See my videos at this link to see some typical hands-on tasks that you might be asked to perform. Pay special attention to the ones with 220-801 or 220-802 on the end of the video title. (See this link to CompTIA's website for more information about CompTIA performance-based questions.)
The content of the two exams is described by CompTIA in two different objectives documents. You can download the objectives (in English and in .PDF format) by clicking the following links:
Or, by clicking here and filling out the form (other languages available). Keep in mind that the CompTIA A+ objectives are subject to change without notice.
Video: How to go about obtaining the A+ Certification
Are you interested in learning in a more hands-on manner? Check out my A+ Troubleshooting Techniques LiveLessons. It offers over 10 hours of video instruction consisting solely of troubleshooting concepts!
A+ Exam costs and how to save money
The cost of the A+ exams shown in the previous table is for exams taken in the United States. (For a list of global prices, see this link). This fee is not paid directly to CompTIA however. You must register for, and schedule the exam with Pearson Vue. This organization administers the exams at a testing facility near you, so it is the one to be paid. You can register online or by phone. Be sure to have a credit card ready and your Social Security#. If you do not have a Social Security number and this is your first exam, the testing agency will assign you an examinee number. If you have not used Pearson Vue before, you will need to register at their website - it can take up to a day to receive confirmation of your account registration - then you can go ahead and register for your exam. On the day of your exam, remember to take two forms of ID (one with photo, both signed) to the testing center. For help on how to pass any exam, see my article at this link. Additional information on how to take the test from CompTIA's site can be found at this link.
One sure way to save yourself money in the long run is to not rush the exam. Only take the exam when you are fully ready. How will you know? You should be passing your practice exams with scores of 90% or higher. If your study guide only has one practice exam, consider purchasing a second study guide, or additional practice exams. You should also be able to define any key word that is listed in your study guide and the acronyms listed in the objectives. Create some kind of cheat sheet (which I show how to create in my books) from which to do last minute study. By doing these things, you give yourself a much better chance of passing. remember, if you fail a certification exam, you will have to pay for it and take it all over again!
Another simple way to save money is to purchase discounted exam vouchers. Generally, these can save you $10 per exam. To do this, purchase a voucher from a vendor such as GetCertified4Less, or other similar vendor. After payment, the voucher vendor e-mails you a voucher number. You then use this number when registering for the exam with Pearson Vue. The voucher is normally valid for one year. Once in a while you will also find more deeply discounted early-expiry vouchers that only last a couple of weeks, but offer great savings. Keep your eyes out for these.
Frequently Asked Questions
I've been teaching A+ courses for many years and have written much on the subject. I often get questions from students and readers about the best ways to prepare for the A+. Here are some of the most common questions and my answers and recommendations. Keep in mind that these are general recommendations that work for most people, but that some people will have special circumstances. If you have questions that are not covered here, or have questions about my books, feel free to contact me.
Q: Why get the CompTIA A+ certification?
A: The A+ certification is an excellent resume booster. If you are in the job hunt, adding this to your arsenal can be very beneficial when it comes to obtaining that job, and procuring a good salary. To state the obvious, credentials are important for IT job seekers. The organization you already work for might require the A+ now, or plan on doing so in the future. If your job search strategy includes obtaining other IT certifications, the A+ is a great place to start, and gives you a strong foundation for those other certs.
Q: What kind of experience and pre-requisites should I have before attempting the CompTIA A+ exams?
A: CompTIA recommends that a person have the equivalent knowledge of at least 6 to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field. However, many people take the exam with less experience. No other certifications are required as pre-requisites.
Q: Should I take a class on A+?
A: If you have not built a computer in the past, or do not have the recommended 500 hours of experience in the lab or in the field, I would normally recommend an instructor-led CompTIA A+ course. I'm talking about an on-site course where you can learn in a hands-on manner from a dedicated instructor in a classroom that has plenty of hardware available for troubleshooting. The training center should also have the software required for operating system installations (Windows 7, Vista, and XP). If you are brand new to computers, an introductory computer course is also recommended prior to taking the A+ class. A+ courses can be taken at county and community colleges, technical schools, and even some high schools. Click the search button below to find A+ training centers in your area.
Q: Should I set up a home lab? And if so, what equipment should I use?
A: A resounding yes! You should definitely have a home-lab. However, the computers in this lab should be separate from your everyday computer. There should be one computer that you can use for installing, configuring, and troubleshooting operating systems, and another computer used to breakdown and re-assemble hardware. To save money, consider e-bay, and computer refurbishers such as the Dell Outlet or a local computer recycler. (A quick Google search can aid you in your quest for more computer refurbishers).
Also consider using virtual machines so you can run Windows 7, Vista, and XP all at the same time, even if your network is limited to only two computers. There are several different types of virtual software that can be downloaded for free; for example, Virtual PC, Virtual PC 2007, or VirtualBox. For some basic information on how to use Microsoft Virtual PC, see this video. You should also have a small-office/home-office (SOHO) router to experiment with. Another smart option is to use a KVM switch. KVM stands for Keyboard-Video-Mouse; these devices allow you to share a monitor, keyboard, and mouse between multiple computers. Powered KVM switches are the best, but passive models are less expensive, for example the IOGear 2 Port KVM. Other manufacturers of KVM switches include StarTech and TRENDnet.
On the software side, you should note that Windows 7 is the most important, with Windows XP second, and then Windows Vista. If you can get your hands on Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate (preferred), you will have access to Windows XP Mode as well—two worlds for the price of one. And to get your hands on Vista, consider a cheap, older laptop that has Vista pre-installed, from e-bay or other means. You never know, it could be cheaper than buying the software itself! Otherwise, do your best to get access to the software you need. I know it can be difficult, but with a little searching around, I'll bet you can get your hands on what you require. You'll also need to work on iOS and Android, and understand the basics of both platforms. Look for older devices running a relatively new version of iOS and Android—or practice on friends and family devices. Most people already have a device running one of those OSes, it's just a matter of getting your hands on the other one. Be sure that the devices have the capability to access wireless networks.
While it is possible to pass the exams without this home lab, you won't fare very well in the actual IT field when the time comes. Learn from a hands-on perspective and your skill level will be higher than the other guy, which in turn will make your resume much more intriguing to prospective employers.
Q: What kind of, and how many study materials should I use?
A: The typical study guide is usually the best bet. I usually recommend that the reader study from two sources, in order to get the viewpoint of two different authors. This helps to increase your knowledge greatly. Of course, I recommend the A+ Exam Cram, and A+ Exam Cram Practice Questions, but feel free to use even a third source as well. If you are new to computers, the Exam Cram will probably not be enough. In this case, consider a more in-depth study guide such as the A+ Cert Guide. But again, if you are new to computers, you should strongly consider an A+ course at a school. Video training can also be beneficial, but most people use this only as a secondary method, and not as a primary training method.
Q: What do I get when I pass?
A: When you pass both exams, you will become CompTIA A+ Certified. At the testing center you will receive a printed score report after each exam you take. Hold onto these as proof that you passed. Afterward you can either download your certificate in PDF format from CompTIA (directions on how to do this are on your score report), or request a printed certificate (if one is not mailed to you within a week or two.) An example of my certificate is shown below. You can also setup a transcript for employers to view. They will be able to see what CompTIA certifications you passed, but not the scores.
Q: How long does the certification last for?
A: As of January 1st, 2011, the A+ certification is valid for 3 years from whenever you completed passing both exams. After 3 years, a person would need to re-certify by taking the new exams.
Personally, I take the exams often. The latest were the 220-801 and 220-802 in October of 2012. But it's an expensive venture. So, alternatively, a person could enroll in the CompTIA Continuing Education Program in order to acquire continuing education units (CEUs) which also requires a small annual fee. CEUs can be gathered by taking classes, sitting workshops, teaching classes, taking a higher level exam, and so on. See this link for more information on how this can be accomplished.
If you were certified before January 1st, 2011, your certification will remain valid for life. These rules also apply to the Network+ and Security+ exams.
Q: Can I take both exams on the same day?
A: You can, but I normally don't recommend it, although I would say that 1 out of 10 of my students and readers attempts to do so, with a fairly high passing rate. I normally recommend that you take the 220-801 first, and then study for at least another two weeks (perhaps much more) before taking the 220-802. Each exam is 90 minutes. Can you imagine being at the testing center for 3 hours total? For most people that's a daunting proposition. That's why I recommend taking one at a time. Also, the 220-802 is the more difficult of the two. You need to be thoroughly prepared for that exam.
Q: Can I take the exam in Spanish?
A: Yes. English is the primary language, but the exams can also be taken in German, Japanese, and Spanish.
Q: Can I mix the 700 and 800 series exams to get my A+?
A: No, you must take the 220-801 & 220-802. The older 220-701/220-702 exams were retired on August 31st, 2013. So if you passed the 220-701 exam previously, and never took the 220-702, then you will have to start over with the 800 series.
Q: Can I still take the bridge exam?
A: No, the bridge exam has been retired. In fact, CompTIA retired the bridge exams for each of the A+, Net+, and Sec+. This is because these exams have become 3-year renewables as of January 1st, 2011.
Q: What's next after the A+?
A: Generally, the next step for my students and readers
is to go for the CompTIA Network+ exam.
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