Ten Essential Questions About CompTIA A+

Ten Essential Questions About CompTIA A+
Beth Dumbauld

By Faithe Wempen

Considering adding CompTIA A+ Certification to your professional credentials? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about this essential certification for computer support professionals.

Why should I get CompTIA A+ certified?

CompTIA A+ is a certification for computer support and repair technicians. It is meant to measure competency with computer hardware and software equivalent to 9 to 12 months of on-the-job-experience as a computer support professional.

CompTIA A+ Certification shows employers that you have the skills and experience required for a variety of entry-level computer support positions such as Support Specialist, Field Service Technician, Desktop Support Analyst, and Help Desk Support.  Such positions pay at least $45K a year in most areas, and don’t always require a 4-year college degree.

CompTIA A+ certification can also be a good starting point for additional certification and training that can lead to more senior positions. After you complete your CompTIA A+ certification, you may wish to explore CompTIA Network+ training, for example, or a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification.

What exams must I take to become CompTIA A+ Certified?

To become A+ certified, you must pass two separate exams:

● CompTIA A+ 220-901 is the hardware-based exam. It covers desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices, and network hardware. It tests your understanding of selecting, installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting hardware components.
● CompTIA A+ 220-902 is the software-based exam. It covers several operating systems, including Windows, Android, iOS, Apple OS X, and Linux, although it is most heavily focused on Windows. It also covers cloud computing, security, professionalism, and customer service topics.

Do I need to take a class to prepare?

If you have worked everyday in the PC support field for years, working with a variety of devices and operating systems, you might already have the knowledge and experience you need to pass the exam on your own. A study guide book and a few online review questions may be all you need, though a prep course can be very helpful in mapping out what to expect in the exam.

If you aren’t already working in the field, however, an CompTIA A+ exam prep course is essential, because it can guide you through the experiences you should have, including recommending certain hands-on activities to try out. Someone with no previous experience may find it hard to read a 1000+ page reference book and understand what is most important to know. A prep course provides a map that can guide you through the preparation process.

Fortunately, there are low cost prep courses available online so you can prepare for your certification exam anywhere, anytime. If you want to save a lot of money on your CompTIA A+ prep course, check out high-quality CompTIA A+ Certification prep course available through StraighterLine. A highly respected and experienced online course provider, StraighterLine offers certification prep courses starting at $59 with a $99 a month membership.

What are the CompTIA A+ exams like?

A certification prep course is the best way to get a feel for what to expect when you take your CompTIA A+ exams. One of the major benefits of taking a prep course online is that you are able to access practice certification tests that will let you experience what it’s really like to take the exam.

Each exam lasts 90 minutes and asks you a minimum of 90 questions. Most test questions are multiple choice (single and multiple response) and drag-and-drop.  You might also have a few performance-based questions. These provide a simulated environment and test your ability to solve problems. If you have such questions, they will typically appear at the beginning of the exam. Click here to try a sample performance-based question.

A passing score on the 220-901 exam is 675 (out of a possible 900) and a passing score on the 220-902 exam is 700 (again, out of a possible 900).

You can’t take anything with you into the testing environment (no reference books, purses, backpacks, or phones, for example), but you can have some scratch paper and a pen or pencil.

How much does it cost to take the CompTIA A+ exams?

The prices vary depending on the country you are in, and whether you are getting a discount through a test prep company or voucher. The standard price in the United States is $211. Click here for prices in other countries.

Where do I go to take the exams?

Exams are administered at proctored testing facilities. While you can prep for the exams at home, you cannot take the actual certification exams from home. Use this search page to find the Pearson|VUE testing centers closest to you.

To schedule an exam, go here: https://certification.comptia.org/testing/schedule-exam

What if I don’t pass the first time?

The two exams are scored separately, so it is possible that you might pass one exam but not the other. You can re-take individual exams as many times as needed until you get a passing score. (A separate fee applies with each re-take.)

What equipment do I need to prepare for A+ certification?

At a minimum, you need Internet access and at least one Windows-based PC (desktop or laptop) running Windows 7 or later. That’s the bare minimum, though; you will miss out on some hands-on study opportunities if that’s all you have.  It is much easier to prepare for test questions about other components and operating systems if you have them to experiment with hands-on.

For the best study and practice experiences, you should ideally have access to all of the following:

● A digital multimeter
● An antistatic wrist strap and grounding mat
● A basic PC toolkit including several sizes of non-magnetized Phillips screwdrivers
● A desktop PC that you can take apart
● A laptop PC that you can take apart
● Access to the following Windows versions: Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1
● Access to the following other operating desktop systems: OS X and Linux
● Access to at least one iOS device (iPhone or iPad)
● Access to at least one Android device (tablet or phone)
● At least one printer or multi-function device (printers/scanner/copier/fax)
● At least one 802.11 wireless router

How can I study all those different operating systems if I only have one computer?

For the desktop operating systems, can use virtualization to create virtual computers within your main computer.  Using a virtualization application such as VirtualBox or Hyper-V, you can set up different operating system to run in separate windows on your Microsoft Windows desktop, and switch freely among them.  All you need for this is the virtualization software and copies of the operating systems you need to install.

● Virtualization software: VirtualBox is a free download from Oracle.  Hyper-V comes free with Windows.
● Operating systems: You can pick up copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 cheaply at online auction sites, and Ubuntu Linux is free.

For iOS and Android, these are popular enough that surely you have a friend or two with a tablet or smartphone you can borrow for a few days to familiarize yourself with the system.

For Mac OS X, there is unfortunately not a good way to get a virtual copy of it, as most virtualization applications don’t support it, and Apple doesn’t permit it to be installed on non-Apple hardware.  You may have to rely on a friend with a Mac desktop or laptop, or pick up a used, older Mac. You don’t need a fancy one for study purposes. You can also possibly skate by with just studying the names of the Mac utilities and commands listed in the exam objectives, and omit the hands-on Mac practice. Taking a prep certification course is a great way to assess if you have all the equipment you need and to get in the right kind of practice before taking the certification exam.

What isn’t covered in the current A+ certification exam?

Windows 10 is not covered in the current exam. Here’s why: the current A+ exams (the 900 series) were released in December 2015, after having been developed in the 12 months prior to that. Windows 10 was released in July 2015. It was not available when the bulk of the work on the 900 series exams was being done, so it was not included.

Just because Windows 10 is not on the current CompTIA A+ exams doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study it, though! You might not need it to pass the exams, but you will definitely need it in any job you get in the computer support field.

Interested in taking a certification prep course? Enroll in StraighterLine’s low-cost CompTIA A+ Certification prep course and prepare for your exam at an affordable cost!

About the author: Faithe Wempen, M.A., is a CompTIA A+ certified PC technician, a Microsoft Office Master Instructor, and the author of over 140 books on computer hardware and software, including CompTIA A+ Certification Study Guide, Ninth Edition, Mike Meyers’ CompTIA A+ Guide to Managing and Troubleshooting PCs Lab Manual, Fifth Edition, CompTIA A+ Certification Workbook for Dummies, and PC Maintenance: Preparing for A+ Certification.

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