Friday, 22 August 2014

5 ways to prepare for your CompTIA A+ Exams you didn't consider

By Alex Bennett

Many an IT professional’s career has been built upon the solid foundation of knowledge that comes from achieving CompTIA’s A+ qualification. In fact, over 925,000 people around the world have achieved the A+ over the past 20 years.

Several major brands – like Dell, HP and Lenovo – require that their channel technicians are A+ certified in order to service their products.  It is also supported by government branches like the US Department of Defence.

Plus, the skills you’ll pick up from this certification are vendor neutral, making them infinitely useful across your entire career.

The A+ proves you have a good level of knowledge and troubleshooting skills needed to provide capable support to personal computers.

There are other ways to revise for the A+
Image courtesy of cohdra/morgueFile

Get A+ certified

In order to don your A+ badge with pride, you’ll have to pass two exams:

          CompTIA A+ Essentials, exam code 220-801
o   Which covers basic computer concepts, PC hardware, basic networking, soft skills and safety
         CompTIA A+ Practical Application, exam code 220-802
o   Which covers operating systems, security, mobile devices and troubleshooting

Each exam takes 90 minutes and you can expect to complete around 90 questions per test.

But, just because it’s an entry level certification, don’t think it’s a push-over. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is have misplaced confidence, if you don’t prepare for the exam, there’s a good chance you won’t pass.
So if you’re gearing up to take A+ or your 3 year A+ recertification is coming up – here are some ways to prepare you might not have considered:

      1. Dive into your desktop

The A+ assesses your knowledge of personal computer components like: motherboards, processors, memory, storage devices, power supplies, laptops and portable devices.

This focus on computer hardware gives you the perfect opportunity get your hands dirty. Revision doesn’t have to just involve stooping over a study book – exploring real hardware can be a valuable, effective and enjoyable method of studying for this section of the A+.

Chances are you probably own a desktop computer, or at least have one somewhere in your house. If not, ask around for an old computer (it doesn’t have to work, it just has to be fairly intact). Get yourself a screwdriver and start dismantling the machine – don’t go overboard though, if you don’t know how to reassemble the hardware - but still need to use the PC- don’t take it apart to begin with.

Here’s a quick guide on how to disassemble your PC.

If you can find an old dilapidated desktop computer or printer, dismantle it as much as you can. The more familiar you are with the inner-workings of computers, laptops and printers – the better prepared for the exam you’ll be.

Even if you can’t dismantle the whole computer, you’ll still be able to identify the components you know and research the ones you can’t recognise. It’s a fun diversion to typical revision and will definitely translate into a better exam score.

      2. Make friends with Professor Messer

Check out Professor Messer’s CompTIA A+ guide on YouTube, you won’t be disappointed. These quality, in-depth videos are an absolutely brilliant study resource.

Oh, and they’re all totally free. You won’t need to register either – everything is uploaded full-length on YouTube. You won’t have to give over any of your time or money.

Each video segment is around 20 minutes, enough time for a very in-depth lecture. Grab your notepad and a cup of coffee and settle in. It may take several viewings to really embed the stuff in your brain but once again, it’s a great, more passive alternative to poring over a textbook all day.

      3. Don’t trip up on the legacy questions

You’ll undoubtedly find some topics in the A+ exam harder than others. That being said, the legacy/older information is sometimes neglected and definitely could trip up students who aren’t prepared for it.

The CompTIA A+ does still cover outdated hardware. You could get a question on floppy disks (yes, really). It’s unbelievable but it could happen, don’t just gloss over these sections when revising – you never know which parts of the curriculum will show up in the exams.

      4. Know the question style

You can expect 3 distinct question types on the two exams:

Multiple choice with single answer – you will be required to select a single answer from a range of options (generally 4-5) by clicking a radio button.

Multiple choice with multiple answers – you’ll have to select a range of options from a given set to get the mark.

Fill in the blank - select the missing text to complete the sentence (essentially a multiple choice question in a different format).

      5. Check out Firebrand Learn

We’ve uploaded our entire A+ courseware on Firebrand Learn. It’s all totally free and you don’t even have to register to access it. If you’re looking for a comprehensive catalogue of everything you need to learn, this is your best bet.

Plus, as this courseware makes up part of Firebrand Training’s A+ syllabus – get trained with Firebrand  and you’ll be more than prepared to score an A+ on the A+ (sorry). 

About the Author:       
Alex writes for Firebrand Training on IT and certification related topics. He also serves as the in-house designer at Firebrand's Regent Street office.