Note: There is a new version of the A+ exams. See this link for details. The 220-701 and 220-702 will be available until August 31st, 2013.
"The CompTIA A+ certification is often the first step in an IT professional's career. When you think 'A+', think computer hardware and software, and the installation, configuration, and troubleshooting of both. Anyone who wants to work as a PC technician for a living should strongly consider getting A+ certified."
To obtain the A+ certification you must pass two exams. The current A+ exams are called: 220-701 (Essentials) and 220-702 (Practical Application). 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 220-701 exam, and 75% correct on the 220-702 exam. Sound a bit low? Well, keep in mind that the 220-701 is the first test that many certification seekers encounter. While not a cakewalk, most examinees pass on the first try; the test is designed in such a way as to facilitate first time passing. However, the 220-702 exam has a higher level of difficulty, as there are more troubleshooting and scenario-oriented questions you will have to face.
The original 220-701 and 220-702 exams were released by CompTIA in 2009. As of 2011, these exams have been re-released as "Version 2" which includes some Windows 7 and IPv6 content in addition to the original 2009 content. The exams are still known as the "2009 Edition", but now as "Version 2". The content is described by CompTIA in two different objectives documents. You can download the Version 2 objectives (in .PDF format) by clicking the following links:
Or, by clicking here and filling out the form.
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 either Sylvan Prometric or Pearson Vue. These organizations administer the exams at a testing facility near you, so they are the ones 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. Be sure to take two forms of ID (one with photo, both signed) to the testing center on the day of your exam. For help on how to pass any exam, see my article 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 85% 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. You should also 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!
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+. The following details 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. Or, the organization you already work for might require the A+ now or plan on doing so in the future. If you plan on getting 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 has 500 hours of hands-on experience in the field or in the lab. 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. 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 XP, Vista, and 7). 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.
This lab should not include the computer you have for everyday use.
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. If you are short on money, consider
e-bay, and computer refurbishers such as Dell
Outlet or Yesterday's
Business Computers (a quick Google search will aid you in your quest
for more computer refurbishers). Also consider using virtual machines
so you can run Windows XP, Vista, and 7 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 2007. For information on how to use Virtual PC, see this
video. You should also have a small-office/home-office (SOHO) router
to experiment with. An older one from e-bay should work fine; you just
might not have the latest wireless settings, not too big of a deal for
the A+ exam. If you are looking for a decent, new SOHO router for a
good price, then I recommend the D-Link
DIR-655 Extreme N Gigabit Wireless Router. 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 USB Cable KVM Switch with Audio and Mic GCS72U (Black). Other
manufacturers of KVM switches include StarTech and TRENDnet.
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. I recommend the A+ Exam Cram and the A+ Cert Guide, but feel free to use even a third source! Video training can also be beneficial, but most people only use this as a secondary method, and not as the primary training method. Finally, it is possible to purchase extra practice exams, but this should only be done if the reader feels it is absolutely necessary, and is not doing well on the practice exams in the study guides, or, if the study guide does not offer enough practice exams. In the A+ Exam Cram I included over 650 questions because I realize that it's all about practice, practice, practice!!!
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 either taking the new exam, or by obtaining continuing education units (CEUs). 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. This also applies to the Network+ and Security+ exams.
Q: Can I still take the bridge exam?
A: No, the bridge exam has been retired. In fact, CompTIA is retiring 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: 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 220-701 first, and then study for at least another week before taking the 220-702. 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.
Q: Can I take the exam in Spanish?
A: Yes, in addition to English, the exams are administered in Spanish, German, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese. Keep in mind that you will need to pick the right language when you register for your exams.
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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