IT is everywhere. The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), expansion of data capabilities and storage, and broad access to wireless services have pushed IT into virtually every aspect of our lives. From appliances and televisions to tablets and smartphones, people are more connected than ever.
As a result, the demand for professionals who understand, manage and troubleshoot technology behind the scenes has skyrocketed. In the United States alone, there were more than 260,000 job postings for open IT support positions during 2020.
If you’re interested in working in IT, the most recognized certification in this field is CompTIA’s A+ certification. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) created and maintains this certification, along with others that are globally recognized in the industry.
The A+ certification is the entry point into an IT career.
It is vendor-neutral and the starting point for both CompTIA’s infrastructure and cybersecurity pathways, which guide professionals through a series of certifications in the given areas.
Because the skills learned are applicable regardless of systems used, A+ is the ideal starting point.
The CompTIA A+ certification has been developed and refined by practicing IT experts for over 20 years. With an A+ certification, you’re confirm that you have the baseline skills to do the following:
- Configure, support and troubleshoot devices running on any major operating system.
- Support IT infrastructure and networks, including the application of best practices for data storage and management.
- Implement and follow methods of backup/recovery and incident response.
- Maintain security.
To earn the A+ certification, you must pass two exams, referred to as the Core 1 and Core 2 exams.
- The Core 1 exam covers mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing, and network troubleshooting.
- The Core 2 exam covers installing and configuring operating systems, expanded security, software troubleshooting and operational procedures.
These two A+ exams test theoretical concepts and confirm you are prepared for and can respond to the needs of your positions. They include performance-based questions (PBQs) that require you to apply the skills you have in simulated environments, further validating that you are prepared for the demands of your jobs.
Because A+ is a DoD-Approved 8570 Baseline Certification and meets DoD 8140/8570 training requirements, it benefits professionals who work for or plan to work for government agencies, like the U.S. Department of Defense.
Earning an A+ certification is not easy, but with adequate preparation, focused training and practice, it can be mastered and deliver rewarding results.
Here are five tips to help you prepare for and pass the CompTIA A+ exams:
Tip #1: Understand what’s on the A+ exams
To ensure you’re on the path to success, start by understanding what’s on the exams.
In addition to confirming that these are the right exams for your knowledge and experience level, becoming familiar with the topics covered will help you to understand what you know well, what areas need refreshing, and where you need the most help. You can download the full list of objectives for both exams from CompTIA here.
Each area of the exams is defined as a “domain.” Here is a list of the domains included in the A+ exams, as well as the percentage of each domain:
A+ CORE 1 EXAM
|1.0 Mobile Devices||14%|
|4.0 Virtualization and Cloud Computing||12%|
|5.0 Hardware and Network Troubleshooting||27%|
A+ CORE 2 EXAM
|1.0 Operating Systems||27%|
|3.0 Software Troubleshooting||26%|
|4.0 Hardware and Network Troubleshooting||23%|
Tip #2: Practice applying your skills and determine areas that you need to study further
At this point in your preparations, it helps to take a practice test. Going through a series of questions that mimic actual questions found on the A+ exams will help you gauge your own readiness. A review of your scores, both overall and within each domain, will show you what areas you know and what areas could use more review.
Taking practice tests will also allow you to feel more comfortable with exams. Understanding what to expect will increase your familiarity with the format and give you confidence.
As mentioned earlier, in addition to multiple-choice questions, the exam includes performance-based questions (PBQs) that test your ability to address technical issues in a simulated environment. These questions confirm your proficiency in applying the knowledge that you have learned.
Pro tip: Even when taking a practice exam, treat it like the real one. Develop an exam routine:
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Eat well
- Take it at the same time you’ll take the official exam
Remember: Nothing new on exam day!
Tip #3: Acquire the knowledge you need
Once you have identified the areas where you need additional review, it is time to acquire that knowledge. One of the best ways to do this is taking a formal certification prep course.
When choosing an A+ course make sure it’s through a CompTIA authorized training provider.
You’re working with a training company that’s been vetted and continually audited by CompTIA.
You’re learning from an expert instructor with experience in the field. They’re a great resource to leverage to understand the exam’s multiple-choice questions and for the more challenging performance-based questions.
You’re receiving the latest information, exam objectives, best practices, and approved courseware and labs.
Tip #4: Review, practice and schedule your exams
Once you have completed the course, take time to review the materials. Pay attention to those areas that were less familiar to you, because you cannot bring any reference materials into the exams. This makes it critical that you confident with the subjects.
Practice the concepts that you have learned until you feel comfortable. Review the key terms and go through all of the labs included with the prep course you completed. This will help you prepare as much as possible for both the multiple-choice and the performance-based questions.
Once you feel ready, it is time to schedule the exams. Pearson VUE administers the CompTIA A+ exams, which can be taken either in-person or online. You can register for the exams, as well as reschedule it should you have a conflict, on the Pearson VUE website.
The exams can be taken on the same day, one after the other or on different occasions. In order to earn the A+ certification, you must pass both of them.
Tip #5: Take the exams to earn your A+ certification
As you begin an exam, take a breath and remind yourself to read each question carefully. You do not want to answer a question incorrectly due to a reading error.
The A+ exams are timed. You will be allotted 90 minutes per exam. You can answer questions in the order you see fit, skipping and returning to any questions you choose if need be. You can begin with the questions you find easiest and then tackle the more difficult ones, or vice versa.
You can also change your responses, so if you have time left at the end, you should review your answers to make sure that they are correct. Once your time is up or you are confident that you are done, it is time to submit your responses and receive your results.
Your responses will be tabulated immediately. A score of 675 or higher (on a scale of 100-900) is needed to pass the Core 1 exam and a score of 700 or higher (on a scale of 100-900) is needed to pass the Core 2 exam.
After your exams are scored and you passed both, you will receive a confirmation of your accomplishment. Then, you can choose to add your certification to your LinkedIn profile, resume and receive a physical copy of your certificate.
If you do not pass one or both exams, you have the opportunity to take the exams again. If you pass one but not the other, you will only need to retake the exam that you did not pass.
In order to earn the A+ certification, you will need to pass the same version of both exams. The exams refresh every three years, but there is an overlap so that once a new version is released, the older version remains in market for at least six months.
If the version of the exam that you took retires before you pass both exams, you will need to retake and pass both exams under the new version. You cannot pass one version of one exam and another version of the other.
With connected devices, mobile computing, and the ubiquitous nature of the industry, qualified and credentialed IT professionals become more in demand as the skills gap continues to grow.
As an A+ certified professional, you have differentiated yourself in the market and earned a certification that proves your abilities. You have the hands-on practical skills to work in a foundational IT position, such as technical support and helpdesk, and have a strong baseline certification on which you can stack others. A+ is only the beginning.
Register for a CompTIA A+ Certification Prep Course
The CompTIA A+ Certification Prep Course offered by Global Knowledge will give you all of the tools and training that you need to prepare for and successfully master both the Core 1 and Core 2 exam.
Global Knowledge is an award-winning CompTIA Platinum Partner and our A+ prep course meets all of the criteria above and covers topics included in both of the A+ certification exams. It is available in virtual live-streaming and on-demand delivery formats. It’s also included in our GK Polaris Discovery unlimited training subscription.