The Definitive Guide to Preparing for the A+ Certification

The CompTIA A+ is one of the most widely-recognized basic certifications in IT and is a standard place to begin for those hoping to launch their careers in this field.

In order to earn the certification, however, you first have to pass the exam. How should you get ready? 

In this guide, we’ll help you understand your options and describe the pros and cons of each approach to A+ certification. We’ll begin with an overview of the exam so you have a clear idea of what you’re preparing for.

 

An Overview of the CompTIA A+ Certification Exam

One of the best places to begin a new career in IT is in tech support. These entry-level positions give you exposure to and foundational knowledge in all the main areas of IT, providing an excellent springboard to further specialization and career advancement. 

If you want a job in tech support, you’ll find that the CompTIA A+ is a key asset; It is the most commonly requested certification for jobs in tech support. There’s a good reason why: the exam is carefully developed by CompTIA in cooperation with industry experts to reflect the skills most needed in today’s jobs. 

It’s also the only credential recognized in the industry that includes performance-based testing to make sure candidates know how to put their knowledge to use in real-world scenarios. 

Here’s what you need to know about the exam:

 

What is on the A+ Certification Exam?

The exam consists of two parts called Core 1 and Core 2. Each of these parts contains up to 90 questions and lasts 90 minutes. The two parts cover different foundational domains of IT:

Core 1: Mobile devices, networking, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing, hardware, and network troubleshooting

Core 2: Operating systems, security, software troubleshooting, operational procedures

 

What about the types of questions? Some are multiple-choice. Here’s an example:

Which of the following symptoms is MOST likely a sign of ransomware?

A. Internet connectivity is lost.

B. Battery life is reduced.

C. Files on devices are inaccessible.

D. A large number of ads appear.

(The answer is ‘C’, by the way.)


Other questions are drag-and-drop. For these you might, for instance, need to drag procedural steps into the correct order or label a piece of hardware.

Finally, the exam includes performance-based questions that ask you to solve a problem in a simulated (but realistic) environment. 

 

How do you take the A+ certification exam?

When you’re ready, you register to take an exam on CompTIA Tech Career Academy's website. You can take the exam itself either in person at a Pearson VUE testing center or online

 

How difficult is the A+ certification exam?

The A+ exam isn’t the sort of test you can guess your way through and pass with little effort. It’s a serious examination meant to certify competence in the fundamentals of IT. If you take the time to properly prepare, however, a passing score is certainly achievable. 

To pass the Core 1 part of the exam, you’ll need to score at least 675; for Core 2, the needed score is 700. (Both of these are out of a scale of 900). The way the scoring works is more complex than this, but it might be helpful to put this in more familiar terms. A score of 675 is 75% and 700 is 78%.

 

How much does the A+ certification exam cost?

The current pricing for the exam is $246.

 

How to Prepare for the CompTIA A+ Certification Exam

Now that you know what you can expect on the exam, how can you prepare to be successful? 

One way you might prepare that we won’t discuss here is a college degree. Though this is certainly a valid way to acquire the training you need to pass the exam, chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re looking for a more accelerated path. (If you’re interested, we’ve written more elsewhere about a degree in IT.)

We’ll confine our discussion, then, to three options that are especially suited to those who are ready to get started in their career in IT quickly: self-study, boot camps, and more comprehensive training programs.

 

Self Study

What it is: The internet makes it possible to learn almost anything you can think of by taking advantage of resources like articles, videos, and self-paced courses. This route involves finding appropriate materials and mastering the content to prepare for the exam. CompTIA itself offers some study materials to help you get ready.

Pros: 

  • This is probably the least expensive way to prepare for the exam, though the best preparation materials aren’t free. 

Cons: 

  • The biggest drawback here is that while this is a good way to acquire knowledge, it isn’t as easy to find ways to practice skills, which is an important aspect of the test. It’s a bit like preparing for a cooking exam where you’ll be expected to prepare something by just reading cookbooks. 

  • Another potential issue is that you could end up relying on resources that aren’t accurate and don’t help you prepare as well for the actual test.

 

Boot Camps

What they are: You may have heard about coding boot camps, which are a popular way to quickly learn a programming language. You can also find boot camps to prepare you for the CompTIA A+ exam and they work the same way. They provide a very intense short-term (usually just a few days) course that covers the material that will be on the exam.

Pros:

  • If you’re looking for the quickest way to get ready to pass the A+ exam, this is probably it.

  • If you have a solid background in IT and just want to brush up for the exam, this can be a good way to do so efficiently.

Cons:

  • If you ever crammed for an exam in high school, you remember what happens to all that knowledge. It tends to disappear a week after the exam. If you want to actually use what you’re learning in your job, cramming maybe isn’t the best strategy.

  • Boot camps can cost a lot more than a self-paced course, which might not be a good investment given the limitation just noted. 

 

Comprehensive Training Program

What they are: In some ways, these can be similar to a boot camp. They offer focused training oriented around equipping you to pass the CompTIA A+ exam. The difference is that they are conducted over an extended period of time and give you more support throughout the learning process. Depending upon the program, they may also include things like help in finding a job.

Pros:

  • These give you the most thorough training that helps you both pass the exam and have confidence that you’ll be able to perform well in an actual job.

  • Depending upon the program, they can give you valuable additional support and resources beyond just helping you pass the exam.

Cons:

  • If you’re in a hurry, this won’t be your fastest option. While dramatically shorter than a college degree, training could last four months or more.

  • This route will likely require the biggest investment of the three, although it may not cost much more than some boot camps. 

 

Preparing for the A+ with CompTIA Tech Career Academy

As you’ve just seen, there are several ways to go about preparing to pass the A+ exam. Any one of them can work; to pick the one that makes the most sense for you you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons and also consider your own personality and learning style.

At CompTIA Career Tech Academy, we’ve created an online training program that fits in the last category. It includes live instruction with industry experts and plenty of hands-on practice for skills acquisition. It’s the perfect preparation for passing the exam. 

Unlike self-study or a typical boot camp, however, it gives you a lot more than just exam prep. The curriculum is designed to also hone soft skills like communication and problem-solving which are also in demand with employers

And, if you’re considering the A+ as a way to launch your career in tech, we provide you with robust career support from professional resume feedback to connections with potential employers. You’ll have everything you need to start with confidence.

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