Friday, May 20, 2011

A look into the A+ exam

If you are someone who is interested in learning more about computers and want to make a career out of working with them, the CompTia A+ certification is a very good start. The A+ examination covers the foundation of working with computers, including the parts inside to understanding and troubleshooting the operating system.  I currently hold the certification for the 2006 version of the exam; that version has since been retired and now the vender-neutral organization is on the 2009 version.  

While the exam is a good choice for people who want to learn about computers and receive their first certification, if you are like me when I first started studying A+, it isn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the reasons that inspired me to create this blog. While everything I learned was essential, reading about it is incredibly DRY. Personal computer components, troubleshooting all the issues, understand the difference between the BIOS and CMOS; learning this stuff is not as fun as reading an XKCD cartoon. I put in many months studying for the exam and after receiving my certification I wanted to help people who might be in the same situation as me by making studying about computers easier to understand.

I recommend to not just study the exam, but to use practical hands-on application. A motherboard makes a lot more sense when you build your own computer. Later entries will detail my journey of building my first computer, and me installing a wireless router.  Building my own computer helped me appreciate the work my computer puts into running Sims 2, or letting me explain to people on the internet why they are wrong.

Here is the link to CompTia’s page on the A+ certification. You can see you have to pass two exams in order to receive your certificate.  220-701 is the Essentials exams, in which you must pass with a score of 675 or above; 220-701 is Practical Application and you need a 700 to pass that score. For my exam, CompTia organized the question into categories. When you finish your exam, you won’t know which question you missed, only the category that the missed question was in.

Starting in 2011, people taking the exam will have to retake it every 3 years in order to keep their A+ certification. While most organizations that issue certifications already have this rule in place, this is new for CompTia. Anyone who has taken the exam before January 2011 is essentially grandfathered in for permanent certification; however, I recommend keeping skills up to date because computer technology changes rapidly. I took the exam in 2009 and even the information that was in my guides published in 2006 was obsolete.  I am currently studying for the 2009 version of the exam, and I will post my progress along with flash cards, cram sheets, and anything else I can think of to help out.

I used a few sources while studying for my A+ exam. I used this book, which was helpful, and even better was Professor Messer. If reading books until you can’t keep your eyes open doesn’t sound as thrilling as it sounds, Professor Messer’s free videos are a nice change of pace. The videos are broken into small pieces, and he is an excellent teacher. Go check him out!

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